Queen’s has set the stage for a pivotal matchup with the Guelph Gryphons tomorrow.
Last Saturday, the Gaels defeated the Windsor Lancers 24-7, improving to 5-1 and keeping pace with Guelph in the OUA standings.
A win tomorrow would clinch second place in the conference, along with a playoff bye and home-field advantage in the OUA semi-final.
“The bye is good. You have a practice week that’s a little more forgiving — you’re concentrating on improving yourself more than anything else,” said head coach Pat Sheahan. “You get the extra week’s rest [and] an opportunity to tinker with your system a little bit.”
The Gryphons, ranked seventh in the CIS national rankings, have won five games in a row, including a 42-39 nail-biter over the Western Mustangs last weekend.
“At this time of year, you have to get better,” Sheahan said. “Other teams are getting better, and it’s going to be more competitive down the stretch.”
Queen’s improved to fourth in the CIS rankings with last Saturday’s win. Their success is largely due to a sterling defence, which put forth its best performance of the season against Windsor.
The Lancers netted 255 yards of total offense, but just 57 in the first half. Save for one fourth-quarter touchdown drive, Queen’s held their opponents off the scoreboard entirely.
“Our defence is, in my opinion, the best in the league,” said Gaels quarterback Billy McPhee. “They’ve been the [unit] to get us some wins.”
Windsor quarterback Austin Kennedy was held to 210 passing yards on 18 completions. Just three of his passes went to Jordan Brescacin, the CIS’ leading receiver.
Defensive end Cory Dyer keyed the lockdown performance with 4.5 sacks — one behind Queen’s all-time single game record, set by Dee Sterling in 2008. Lineman Derek Wiggan and linebacker Sam Sabourin recorded a sack apiece.
“I don’t think anyone can compete with [our defence], with the tools they have,” McPhee said.
The Gaels’ offense benefitted from a similarly balanced charge. Running back Ryan Granberg rushed for 193 yards, his highest total of the season, while receivers Giovanni Aprile and Justin Chapdelaine caught touchdown passes in the second half.
The late outburst compensated for yet another lackluster offensive start. The Gaels led just 8-0 at halftime, failing to muster any tangible production besides a conceded safety and two field goals from kicker Dillon Wamsley.
Queen’s offense hasn’t scored a first-half touchdown since Sept. 15, when the Gaels defeated Western 18-11.
“It all comes back to starting off and being more efficient early on,” McPhee said. “Everybody’s hungry to come out and score early and often.”
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