Semi-final preview – Queen’s rematch

I am not going to try to recap the Queen’s-Guelph game from two weeks ago or the games from last year. If you don’t know something about the recent history between these two teams you can read about it here, here, here and here. And regardless of the history … this is a win-or-go-home playoff game.

So Guelph is heading into this game as the underdog for the fourth time in their last four games against Queen’s. Yet they won 2 of the 3 games already played, so I have complete faith in their ability to pull off an upset in the fourth game.

Why are the Gaels favoured? Well, they have a talented and very experienced team. In fact, the Gaels starters are predominately 4th and 5th year players. That includes several players who were starters in the Gaels 2009 Vanier Cup season. The Guelph roster is loaded with equally-talented players but the Gryphon starters are mostly in their 1st thru 3rd years of eligibility.

Matt Toppan leads Rob Farquharson

Matt Toppan leads Rob Farquharson

What will its take for Guelph to win? Most people point to a better performance from the Gryphon offense. That doesn’t mean they have to score 40 points. Putting together some nice drives that consume the clock and give the defense a breather, combined with few if any turnovers is all it would take, in my opinion, to have Guelph contesting the game right to the end. But that will require a better rushing/run blocking performance than Oct 19. One hundred yards may be enough but 58 yards won’t cut it.

Some of what Guelph needs to do on O is some of the middle range stuff between running the tailback and throwing it down the field. If Queen’s is going to key on Farq then Jazz has to pull the ball on the option and make them pay for it. I would love to see that not just be him running for a couple of first downs but also throwing a pass or two off the zone option. I really hope to see some successful screen passes to loosen up the Queen’s front.

DT Ian Marouf sacks Queen's QB

DT Ian Marouf sacks Queen’s QB

On the other side of the ball Guelph just needs to do what they did last time while eliminating a few of the big plays. The Guelph d-line did a great job of pressuring Billy McPhee – sacking him four times, putting big hits on him as he released the ball many more times and forcing the Queen’s o-line to take multiple holding penalties. Those things have usually been enough to throw Queen’s and McPhee off their game. But as Pat Sheahan said McPhee had “the best game of his career” two weeks ago. Keep the pressure on him and force him to have a career performance two games in a row.

This Gryphon team knows how to win. They just need to put it all together tomorrow. There is more to play for than two weeks ago with a second consecutive Yates Cup appearance on the line.

As Guelph alumnus John Koh pointed out in an email to me this afternoon, “… Guelph has done quite well in the playoffs after losing the regular season game to the same teams which beat them handily a week or two earlier.” Koh knows his Gryphon history as Guelph did just that numerous times in the 1980s and 1990s.

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