Football prepares to face Golden Hawks

Gaels haven’t beaten Laurier since October 11, 2003

Queen’s defensive back Addison Rich gets turned on his head in last year’s match-up against Laurier on September 29, 2007. The Gaels lost 23-4. They face Laurier again this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Richardson Stadium.
Queen’s defensive back Addison Rich gets turned on his head in last year’s match-up against Laurier on September 29, 2007. The Gaels lost 23-4. They face Laurier again this Saturday at 1 p.m. at Richardson Stadium.
Journal File Photo

On the heels of their 41-30 triumph over the Guelph Gryphons last week, the men’s football team will face the Laurier Golden Hawks Saturday at 1 p.m. at Richardson Stadium. Laurier edged out a 15-13 victory over Guelph in their first game two weeks ago, but fell 31-20 to the Western Mustangs last week.

Queen’s quarterback Dan Brannagan, who currently leads all CIS players with 725 passing yards, said the Golden Hawks won’t be easy opponents.

“They’re historically a tough team,” he said. “We haven’t beaten them in a while.”

Laurier beat the Gaels 23-4 last season and 45-0 in 2005. The last time the Gaels beat the Golden Hawks was October 11, 2003, when Hec Creighton winner Tommy Denison was still Queen’s starting quarterback. The teams didn’t play in 2004 or 2006. Queen’s is now ranked fifth nationally, the first time the Gaels have cracked the top five since Denison was quarterback.

Brannagan said the history between the teams means the Gaels are in for a tough battle.

“It really stresses the importance that this is a team that’s seemed to have had our number for a couple of years, so we definitely have to go out there and execute and make sure we know what we’re doing out there,” he said.

Head coach Pat Sheahan said Laurier poses a multitude of challenges for Queen’s.

“They’re very athletic on defence,” he said. “They have some guys that can run around and make things happen and they have an outstanding recruiting class this year.”

Sheahan said the Gaels will focus on improving their defence, which conceded 462 passing yards and 169 rushing yards against Guelph.

“We’re certainly going to have to tighten up defensively,” he said.

Sheahan said he thinks his defensive corps is up to the challenge, citing lack of preparation time as part of their struggles last weekend.

“Our defence has got a reputation for being very stingy as the season goes on, and I fully suspect that they’re going to rebound from this past weekend,” he said. “With a full week of practice and a proper or normal week of preparation, I think they’ll do a much better job.” Sheahan said he also wants to focus on long, sustained offensive drives.

“One of the things we want to do is hold onto the ball a little more,” he said. “With good football teams, the more chances you give them and the more times they get out there, they can make some things happen, so hopefully we’ll be able to play a bit more ball control.”

Laurier will likely start backup quarterback Luke Thompson, who played all of last week’s game against Western after Ian Noble was hurt in the previous game. But Sheahan said he doesn’t think Thompson will be an easy target for his defence.

“I don’t think he can be intimidated,” Sheahan said. “He’s a real competitor. He can take off and run and he plays a very physical style.”

Queen’s running back Mike Giffin will be key to the Gaels’ offensive strategy Saturday. Giffin rushed for 214 yards and one touchdown on 26 carries against Guelph, with the longest measuring 25 yards. He also caught a short pass in the fourth quarter and took it 78 yards for another touchdown, giving him 292 all-purpose yards on the day.

Giffin said last year’s poor offensive performance against Laurier will motivate the Gaels to get revenge Saturday.

“It was an awful performance, both running and passing,” he said. “We just really have got to step it up this year.”

Giffin said he thinks the Gaels’ experience will help, as Laurier has a lot of younger players this year.

“Whenever you have some guys that are a little bit older, a little bit wiser, there’s always an advantage there for sure.”

Giffin said he’s hoping for a better student turnout this time around. In the Gaels’ home opener Sept. 1, most of the students who showed up left at halftime. Giffin said it took the wind out of his sails.

“It’s always demoralizing for me,” he said. “Why come to a game if you’re only going to stay until halftime? I just don’t understand it. … It’s pretty disappointing as an athlete to have your fans leave halfway through a game.”

Giffin said he knows the local fans will turn up Saturday, but he isn’t sure about the students.

“I know we’ll get a good crowd from the local fans for sure,” he said. “There’s a big fan base in Kingston. As far as students go, who knows? We’ll probably get 3,000, and by halftime, maybe 20.”

Giffin said a good crowd can make a big difference.

“It really pumps you up,” he said. “The more people you have watching, the better you want to play.”

Past Gaels championship teams, including the 1968 and 1978 Vanier Cup champions, will be honoured at the game, at 1 p.m. Saturday at Richardson Stadium. At the game, Queen’s Athletics will also honour Kingston military families by wearing red in support of the Canadian Forces.

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