Men's football split opening games of season

Queen’s defeat York in season opener, lose to Laurier

Quarterback Nate Hobbs currently has a 58.7 per cent pass completion rate.
Credit: 
Photo by Jason Scourse

Three weeks into their season, it’s been a tale of two tapes for the Queen’s football team.

A quarter way through their 2018-19 campaign, the Gaels hold a split record and starting lineup that’s continuing to adapt to the significant losses of graduating players.

In their first duel with the York Lions on Aug. 26, Queen’s took 22 points in the fourth quarter to edge out their opponent 42-21 in Toronto.

This past Sunday told a different story. The Gaels were unable to sustain their momentum in the home opener, losing to the fourth nationally-ranked Laurier Golden Hawks 44-18.

For head coach Pat Sheahan, his team’s split record indicates they’re currently undergoing a "process of a few weeks." But this, he added, doesn’t mean the Gaels won’t be able to compete with the best the OUA has to offer.

Against Laurier, for instance, Sheahan said he saw two teams in very different stages of their evolution.

"Basically, in a nutshell, we’re not ready to compete at that level," Sheahan, who is in his 19th year heading the Queen’s football program, told The Journal earlier this week. "We’ve got some new guys in new roles and unfortunately it takes just a bit of time to acclimatize."

At the close of the 2017-18 campaign, the Gaels bid farewell to 10 players on the defensive end and seven more on offense. The transition has, according to Sheahan, gone as smooth as he could’ve asked for—and it will only improve as the team’s chemistry improves.

"Unfortunately it takes just a bit of time to acclimatize … everyone’s just melding together," he said.

Even in light of a considerable roster overhaul, Queen’s have managed to string together a formidable start to their season—especially relative to their previous campaign.

The Gaels were a mistake-laden group in the first half of last season, losing their first four games in successive weeks. In their 2017-18 opener, Queen’s gave up a touchdown with 18 seconds remaining to lose 22-17; in their second, they gave up a field-length punt return touchdown with a minute remaining to lose 14 - 13.

But this fall, the Gaels look sharper, cooler under pressure, and without as many unforced errors.

Against York, Queen’s saw their veteran core pull through late in the game after being up by just five points to open the fourth quarter.

Fifth-year quarterback Nate Hobbs and third-year running back Jake Puskas both recorded touchdowns in the closing frame.

Against Laurier—despite being outmatched against their first nationally-ranked team this season—the Gaels held onto the ball well under the pressure of an experienced opposing
defensive line.

Most notable of Queen’s improved play this season has been their ability to limit turnovers.

The Gaels have yet to commit a fumble or turn the ball over on downs in both their opening games. Last season, the team suffered the third most fumbles lost (13-6) and interceptions (10) in the OUA. But on the flipside, Queen’s opponents have been equally strong at holding onto the ball.

"We probably haven’t been as sure-handed in getting turnovers," Sheahan said, citing the significant losses to their defensive front this year. "We’re just very young all over the defence."

Meanwhile, on offense, Hobbs is looking to shake some final bits of rust off after a breakout campaign last year.

The quarterback held an overall 58.7 per cent completion percentage on average against York and Laurier compared to his 64.5 per cent average on the pass last season.

Sheahan said he isn’t too worried about Hobbs’ performance and thinks his completion percentage will improve with a simple formula.

"It’s game reps that he needs," Sheahan said. "He needs game reps against quality opponents."

This Saturday, the Gaels will look to improve their record at home when they host the University of Toronto Varsity Blues this Saturday at Richardson Field.

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