Football preparing for Western after near disaster

Gaels looking for strong showing on heels of tight win over Guelph

Pat Sheahan spoke to season ticket holders on Thursday ahead of Saturday's game against Western.
Pat Sheahan spoke to season ticket holders on Thursday ahead of Saturday's game against Western.

As Guelph’s kicker stepped on the field to attempt a game-winning 32-yard field goal, Queen’s running back Jake Puskas could hardly watch.

“Honestly, I wasn’t even watching. I closed my eyes,” Puskas said during a Thursday afternoon press conference. “I knew it was a pretty low chance he was going to miss.”

After leading 33-14 going into the final quarter, the Gaels found themselves up by a point with one minute to go—and a Guelph field goal away—from moving to a 2-3 record. 

But when Guelph’s kicker booted it wide to give Queen’s the win, Puskus could finally let out a sigh of relief.

“You just know you did everything you could do to get the team the win,” he said.

For head coach Pat Sheahan, the missed kick was a stroke of luck.

“I looked up closely and there was a shadow of a moose in between the ball and the goalpost,” Sheahan said.

Now with a 3-2 record, the Gaels are preparing to host the 4-0 Western Mustangs. The Mustangs, along with fourth-year quarterback Chris Merchant, won last year’s Vanier Cup and have shown few signs of slowing down so far this season. 

Sheahan, through 19 years of coaching Queen’s against Western, is aware what’s coming their way on Saturday.

“We can’t put in an 80 per cent effort against these guys,” Sheahan said. “One of the things over the years that’s characterized them is that they don’t give you a ball game.”

While the two have had very different success rates this season, both team’s overall statistics spotlight their strengths. Queen’s passing game has proven to be one of the strongest in the OUA—the Gaels have totalled 1,589 receiving yards to Western’s 889.

But what may be the difference this weekend’s game is Western’s OUA-best defense. Through four games, the Mustangs have allowed 39 points, leaving them with an average of 9.75 points-against per game. Meanwhile, the Gaels have allowed 146 points over their first five games.

A ray of hope for the Gaels is Western’s experience on the road this year. In their first away game against Carleton—a team the Gaels lost to by just three points earlier this season—the Mustangs narrowly won 26-23, and in overtime, no less.

Considering Western’s pedigree and current talent, Sheahan remains realistic heading into the Gaels’ third-last game of the season.

“We’re up against a great team. You gotta be in it,” Sheahan said. “It can’t be a game where we could’ve, should’ve, or would’ve. You gotta deliver against these great teams.”

Irrespective of whether the Gaels find success this weekend, Sheahan will be using the game as a gauge for where his team is at. After Saturday, they’ll have just two games left in their season—and a big push for the playoffs awaiting them.

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