Twelve Mustang turnovers, fourteen Queen’s points in 24 seconds, and a gaggle of engineers, this year’s Homecoming football game was one to be remembered. The Queen’s Gaels, wearing antler decals on the back of their helmets in memory of Hal ‘Moose’ McCarney, defeated the Western Mustangs 43-16 on Saturday, to the delight of the sellout crowd at Richardson Stadium.
The game got off to a slow start, as both teams were trying to adjust to the challenge of playing on a rain-soaked field. Neither offense could get anything going, most passes were off-target or dropped, and neither running back could make any headway against the strong defensive corps.
Then came the first mistake of the game, as Mustangs long-snapper Conor Elliott snapped the ball over the head of punter Daryl Wheeler, causing a safety and putting Queen’s in the lead. With just under five minutes remaining in the first quarter, Elliot missed another snap, causing a scramble and an eventual fumble, which Queen’s recovered on the Western 10 yard line. This led to Queen’s running back Mike Giffin’s first touchdown of the game, a one yard hop over the Western defensive line.
Turnovers continued to be the story of the game in the second quarter, as Western’s offense was knocking on the door, and looking to bring the 9-1 scoreline closer, but Queen’s Alex DePrato intercepted Western quarterback Michael Faulds’ pass at the Queen’s goal line and returned it for 95 yards, giving Queen’s gorgeous field position for their second touchdown, courtesy of Giffin on a 3 yard run, giving the Gaels a 16-1 lead. Another Western fumble, created by Osie Ukwuoma and recovered by T.J. Leeper, gave Queen’s offense the ball on the Western four yard line. This led to Queen’s third touchdown of the game, scored on a 6 yard pass from quarterback Danny Brannagan to tight-end Chris Ionnides, sending the teams off at halftime with the Gaels in the lead 23-1.
Western’s offense finally started to click in the second half, as a 10 play, 104 yard drive was capped off by a John Leckie two yard run, but the Mustangs failed to complete their two-point conversion, bringing the score to 23-07.
In the fourth quarter, after Leckie had scored his second touchdown of the game to bring the game to 23-14, Western’s offense was continuing to pressure the Gael’ defense, but on third and inches they couldn’t convert for a first down, giving Queen’s the ball on the Tricolour 33. The offense went on a 77 yard drive to score another touchdown, with Brannagan completing an 11 yard pass to slot back Scott Stinson.
Immediately after that touchdown, a Western fumble off the kickoff gave the Gaels’ offense the ball back in the Western half, and they made no mistakes as Dan Village cleared a field goal, then less than a minute later converted another to give Queen’s a commanding 36-14 lead.
Finally, in the last minute of play, Gaels’ Peter Boshyk intercepted another pass from Faulds, and after a 41 yard return, the offense took over with Giffin scored a 29 yard run, capping off a three touchdown game which was also his first regular season game of under 100 rushing yards since 2005.
Queen’s football head coach Pat Sheahan acknowledged the achievements of the defense in helping his team beat the Mustangs.
“Unbelievable defense today,” he said. “[The Mustangs] have a prolific offense and their kids caught the ball today, they were completing some passes. Our kids knew they weren’t going to shut them down, they caught the ball and moved the ball with ease.”
As for the turnovers, Sheahan said that felt they caused the momentum shift in the game, and gifted the Gaels points.
“The DePrato interception there where it’s 9-1, in my mind, that’s the TSN turning point,” he said. “All of those turnovers we had today had a major impact. Almost every one had ramifications and consequences to it. It was interesting how many of our tallies came off their turnovers.”
DePrato said that his interception was a result of luck, but changed the flow of the game.
“Everyone got pretty amped up afterwards,” he said. “Right place at the right time, but yeah, definite momentum changer.”
Jimmy Allin, who ended the game with one interception, 22 rushing yards and 50 return yards said that the offense gave Queen’s the advantage early in the game while the offense was sorting itself out.
“Our defense was out there a lot for the first half, but our offense is just way too good to be held down all day.”
Western head coach Greg Marshall said that the turnovers were what cost his team the game.
“That pick was big,” he said. “It could’ve been 9-8, all of a sudden it was 23-1. … There was a direct relationship [between the number of turnovers and the final score]. We put our defense in bad situations. Give Queen’s credit, they forced those turnovers.”