Football comes short of upset against Western

Gaels let 12-point lead slip away in fourth quarter against top-ranked Canadian team

Quarterback Nate Hobbs threw for 361 yards on Saturday afternoon.
Quarterback Nate Hobbs threw for 361 yards on Saturday afternoon.

Ahead of the football team’s Saturday game against the Western Mustangs, head coach Pat Sheahan wasn’t expecting a win. 

He said the game would gauge where his team stands as the regular season nears its end and they push for a spot in the playoffs.

While this weekend was a loss, the Gaels proved one thing: they can compete with anyone in the country. Queen’s fell to the nationally-ranked first Western 26-23 in a game where they lead by as many as 12 points.

“It was a great football game,” Sheahan said. “We played hard until the end.”

Going into the weekend, Western was riding a 16-game winning streak. The team won last year’s Vanier Cup, not having lost a game since the 2016 Yates Cup against Laurier. 

Queen’s hasn’t beat Western since 2012, but the first half of play made it clear the game wouldn’t be one-sided. After 30 minutes, the Mustangs only led 11-10. 

Before the Gaels headed into the locker room at halftime, fans saw Sheahan give his team a rousing pep talk, sparking excitement in the crowd at Richardson Stadium.

The third quarter was the Gaels’ best 15 minutes of the game. To start, the Gaels tacked on a safety for two points and a field goal for three. In the meantime, Western would only be able to muster a single point.

Midway through the quarter, wide receiver Chris Osei-Kusi picked up a 41-yard pass from quarterback Nate Hobbs. Soon after, Hobbs would power through Western’s defensive line on a third down to bring Queen’s up 18-11.

In the closing frame, Western showed their combination of experience and talent. They scored their first touchdown since the first quarter and, four minutes later, had their first lead of the game following a touchdown and two-point conversion. Meanwhile, the Gaels’ offence was silenced in the last eight minutes of the game.

Sheahan said he saw the game for what it was: a tight game his team could’ve won.

“We were right there, step for step with them,” he said. “You either do or you don’t. We didn’t do it today. We were good enough to beat them, we just needed to play a little sharper.”

“We just needed to finish.”

Hobbs had a mixed performance for the Gaels on Saturday. Despite throwing for a stellar 361 yards—outmatching opposing quarterback Christ Merchant, who threw f280—he had a 50 per cent completion rate and was sacked twice. Merchant, meanwhile, had a 61 per cent completion rate.

“It’s tough. The whole week, it was like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re playing the national champions,’ but we really tried to focus on ourselves there and it paid off on our part for a while,” Hobbs said.

“It was a few [missed] assignments and bad breaks. That’s how you lose football games, unfortunately.”

This week will be an oddity for the Gaels, who play McMaster in Hamilton on Friday with an 11 a.m. kick off time. With a short week and five days to practice and prepare, Hobbs said the Gaels will be need to bounce back quickly in order to put up a strong showing. 

The Gaels have a 3-3 record and just two games left in their season, meaning they’ll need to win at least one of their final two games to make the playoffs. They play their final regular season game on Oct. 20, hosting the UOttawa Gee-Gees for homecoming.

Hobbs said the Gaels are aware time is of the essence.

“We’re running out of time. We got to hurry up,” he said of the Gaels clinching a playoff spot.

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