Must-win game

Playoff situation murky with road loss

The Gaels and Gryphons met in Queen’s second Homecoming game last season. Quarterback Billy McPhee threw for 294 yards, as the Gaels claimed a first-round playoff bye.
The Gaels and Gryphons met in Queen’s second Homecoming game last season. Quarterback Billy McPhee threw for 294 yards, as the Gaels claimed a first-round playoff bye.

When Queen’s football faces a familiar foe on the road tomorrow, it’ll be with their playoff chances at stake.

A loss tomorrow to the Guelph Gryphons would bring the Gaels’ record to 0-4 on the year, making a playoff run a difficult task.

Head coach Pat Sheahan said a loss tomorrow, while costly, wouldn’t be enough to guarantee missing the playoffs.

“I don’t think we’re out if we lose this weekend, but I do feel now you get involved in mathematical equations,” he said. “That’s not where you want to be down the stretch.”

Though the Gaels have struggled this season — in part due to forfeiting a victory over the Windsor Lancers after fielding an ineligible player — Sheahan said the team is confident they can beat Guelph and the McMaster Marauders on Sept. 27.

The contest serves as a grudge match between the Gaels and Gryphons, who have met four times over the past two years. The teams have split victories, with the home team winning each time.

The biggest focus for the Gaels is shutting down the Gryphons’ offence. Queen’s has allowed 600 yards a game on the defensive end this year, second-most among all OUA teams.

Sheahan said the defence needs to stay strong throughout the whole game and avoid breakdowns, something they’ve struggled with this season.

“We’ve played extraordinary at times,” he said. “But there has been a few explosions. A two- or three-minute lapse where, bing bang boom, the other team moves the football. There’s no real explanation for it other than our team has just lost focus.”

Guelph quarterback Jazz Lindsey has struggled this year, completing less than 50 per cent of his passes. A ball-hawking Gaels defence will look to create turnovers on any mistakes he makes.

Lindsey serves a dual threat, with his quickness posing a potential problem for the Gaels’ defence.

“You need to be athletic when you’re getting after him,” Sheahan said. “You can’t be out there chasing him with guys that are not capable of changing direction and getting the read on.”

Offensively, Queen’s will have to avoid the short-yardage struggles that plagued them in their 43-12 loss to the Western Mustangs last Saturday. The Gaels had three different opportunities to score inside Western’s five-yard line, but only came away with 10 points on those drives.

The Gryphons’ stingy run defence will be tested by running back Jesse Andrews, who returns after missing two games due to injury. His role as the feature back means Jonah Pataki will get fewer touches in the game, but will have the chance to rest between carries.

“When [Andrews] is healthy, when he’s going at full throttle, he’s another weapon,” Sheahan said. “He takes a little bit of the pressure off the other ball carriers that we have and makes them more effective because they won’t have to run 25 or 30 [times] a game. Pataki, if he’s making 10 or 12 carries a game, he’s going to make 10 or 12 good football plays.”

With their playoff future on the line, the Gaels will look to gut out a win. After the past four meetings with Guelph, Sheahan has expectations about how the game will turn out.

“We have had some great games against them over the past couple of years, depending on one’s point of view of greatness,” he said. “They’ve certainly been entertaining games.”

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