Perfect through four

Sterling defence has Gaels in the running for Ontario title

The Gaels defeated Western 18-11 when they met in Kingston last September.
The Gaels defeated Western 18-11 when they met in Kingston last September.
Queen’s defeated Western 43-39 to win the 2009 Yates Cup in Kingston.
Queen’s defeated Western 43-39 to win the 2009 Yates Cup in Kingston.
Queen’s leads the OUA with 24 takeaways, and sits tied for first with 10 interceptions.
Queen’s leads the OUA with 24 takeaways, and sits tied for first with 10 interceptions.

It’s said defence wins championships, but a little offensive consistency doesn’t hurt either.

Halfway into the OUA regular season, one thing is clear about the Queen’s Gaels — they have a game-changing defence that can carry the team to victory should the offence falter. A prime example is Queen’s 31-24 victory over the McMaster Marauders on Sept. 2, a game that featured two pick-six touchdowns from the defence.

The Gaels’ defensive backs are masters of high-impact plays. The defence is currently tied for first in the OUA in touchdowns allowed and interceptions, while a miniscule 6.44 yards allowed per pass speaks volumes to other teams’ respect for their secondary.

Although the Gaels sit tied for second in the OUA at 4-0, it remains to be seen when their offence will reach its potential. A lack of consistent offensive pressure has allowed opponents to stick around late into games that should have long been over.

Come playoffs, letting a team hang around can mean an early end to the season.

Head coach Pat Sheahan has stressed that the only piece missing from his team is offensive consistency, which is an easier fix than lack of talent.

Boasting one of the deepest receiving corps in the country, including deep threat Giovanni Aprile, the dependable Justin Chapdelaine and towering Scott Macdonell, quarterback Billy McPhee has endless options to target.

McPhee’s deep ball is second to none, and he has the accuracy to make short-to-medium yardage throws as well. His only real knock has been a tendency to throw far too many interceptions, a problem he’s mostly solved this year, tossing just two picks to his seven touchdown passes.

The offence’s bread and butter has been long, explosive plays, which have occurred in every game and don’t appear to be going anywhere. The Gaels downed the pesky Windsor Lancers 49-34 on Sept. 7 with touchdowns of passes of 52, 40 and 35 yards.

Moving forward, however, Sheahan wants them to focus on long, sustained drives that will improve time of possession and keep his defence well-rested.

The long-bomb plays must become the Gaels’ icing on the cake, not their go-to method of scoring points.

To stop opposing defences from teeing off on the Gaels’ skilled passing attack, a lot of pressure has been put on Queen’s multi-pronged rushing attack.

Fifth-year running back Ryan Granberg was somewhat stuck in the mud until last Saturday’s victory over Ottawa, coming in halfway through the game and demoralizing the Gee-Gees with non-stop positive gains.

The Gaels’ standout back in 2013 has been third-year Jesse Andrews, a power runner who gains consistent and hard-fought yardage on every carry.

Queen’s most difficult test in their quest for perfection will come tomorrow in London against their archrival, the Western Mustangs. Marking Western’s 100th Homecoming, the Mustangs are looking for revenge after Queen’s defence shut them down in an 18-11 victory at Richardson Stadium last season.

This is a different Mustangs team. Second-year quarterback Will Finch has taken the OUA by storm, passing for an impressive 1884 yards and 15 touchdowns in just five games.

Laurier held Western to “only” 45 points last weekend, their lowest total of the season, but the Gaels defence poses a new threat. With first place in the OUA on the line, look to see a low-scoring, physical contest that’ll likely be decided by one or two plays.

Fireworks always fly when gold plays purple, and expect this matchup to be no different. If Queen’s can overcome the Mustangs, there will be little standing between them and home-field advantage, all the way to the Yates Cup.

Three Downs

TOP PROSPECTS

Between Queen’s and Western, the four top OUA prospects for the 2014 CFL draft will be taking part in the game. Western linebacker Beau Landry was the sixth-ranked prospect, while the Gaels’ Andrew Lue, Sam Sabourin and Derek Wiggan were all named to the CFL Scouting Bureau’s top 15 list.

HIGH HISTORY

Western and Queen’s currently sit second and third in the CIS top 10 rankings. Before now, the highest the two teams have been ranked before meeting was in 2008, when the Gaels and Mustangs ranked fourth and second, respectively. Queen’s prevailed 43-16 in that contest.

YATES IMPLICATIONS

With the Gaels, Mustangs and Guelph Gryphons tied atop the OUA standings, this game will have a major impact on Queen’s playoff chances. Since Guelph and Western don’t play each other this season, the Gaels must win this game if they want a chance to host the Yates Cup.

Quoted

Pat Sheahan on...

WESTERN'S ATTACK

“They’ve got a tremendous offence. It’s highly productive, and seems to be almost scoring at will. They’ve got lots of weapons — it’s a big challenge for our defence.”

THE NEED TO SCORE

“If at the end of this game, the only thing we’re talking about is the Queen’s defence, then it probably wasn’t a successful afternoon.”

HITTING THE ROAD

“It’s their 100th Homecoming — they’ve brought in extra seats ... Those environments are fun to play in. It should be a great college football atmosphere.”

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