Thoughts on beating Queen’s at Homecoming

HC OLsI’ve probably had more feedback from Gryphon fans in the last 24 hours than after any game since the 2012 OUA Semi-Final miracle comeback win over this same Gaels team. It isn’t that Guelph hasn’t won a Homecoming Game before. And not that we haven’t scored 60+ points on several occasions in the last half dozen years. It’s just you don’t expect to do it against a program that has been as successful recently as the Golden Gaels.

I don’t agree with some who are writing off the playoff chances of the Gaels. The last second, come-from-behind, Hail Mary victory of Carleton over Ottawa changes OUA playoff calculations in my estimation. I think adding the Ravens to the playoff mix increases the likelihood of a jam-up in the standings of 4-4 and/or 3-5 teams. UofT only has to pull off one upset in games against Ottawa or Carlton to further complicate things.

Anyways back to yesterday’s big win:

♦  Randy Dimitroff and I ran into some coaches when we met for breakfast this morning. I have to give credit to DC Kevin MacNeill. He didn’t crack a smile no matter how much praise or congratulation we offered. MacNeill’s responses were entirely business-like … we made mistakes, we have things to correct, I’m glad we have a bye week to get things fixed.

Coach Brian Cluff (centre) with #90 Reza Shayani, #52 Cam Walker, #99 Djordje Gavrilovic, #96 Donnie Egerter, #95 Dan Horta & #93 Charlie Taggart

Coach Brian Cluff (centre) with #90 Reza Shayani, #52 Cam Walker, #99 Djordje Gavrilovic, #96 Donnie Egerter, #95 Dan Horta & #93 Charlie Taggart

♦ One coach who had a huge smile on his face post-game was DL Coach Brian Cluff. He was obviously very proud of his d-linemen. And, deservedly so. They had completely shutdown the Queen’s run game and also recorded ten sacks. That must be some sort of Holy Grail for DL coaches. It is quite an accomplishment given that of the six DLs who played in the game only Cam Walker is a returning starter, and Donnie Egerter is the only other one who dressed for the Gryphons last year. Four games into the season Cluff has turned this group into an impressive unit. Different from last year’s group but definitely impressive.

♦ I had a chance to speak with freshman Charlie Taggart‘s parents after the game. They were obviously thrilled with how their son’s season has gone so far. According to them Gryphon coaches had been very up front telling Charlie that he would have a chance to compete for a position but likely wouldn’t play in year one. Taggart played well against Montreal in the preseason and has started the past 3 OUA games. I asked MacNeill if he was surprised by Taggart’s strong start. His answer, “not really” because Taggart probably attended more of the voluntary workout and training sessions this summer than any other newcomer. He displayed a great work ethic and desire to compete. Perhaps the real surprise was that the Taggarts told me that even though they live across the street from McMaster and Charlie attended nearby Westdale Secondary School, Marauder recruiters or coaches never once contacted him. Not even a single phone call or handshake. Gryphon recruiters had been after Taggart for the better part of three years, led by Mike Aloisio. Gryphon Hall of Famer Mark Brown was one of Taggart’s coaches at Westdale.

♦ The defense played almost the entire game in a 4-man front. The 3-4 used against McMaster in the opener has largely been shelved. And why not? The defense has improved in every game since the opener. And that certainly also applies to the offense, at least since the middle of the UofT game. Most of the improvement has occurred at the line of scrimmage on both units. The serious doubts about the ability of our O-Line to create holes and push opponents backwards in short yardage and goal-line situations have largely evaporated. Yesterday coaches didn’t hesitate to run the ball on a 3rd & 2. That would have been a foolhardy gamble in Week 1 or 2.

♦ If QB Jazz Lindsey can consistently perform the way he has the past two games then the Gryphons’ hopes for 2014 appear a lot brighter. Several people inside and outside the program have said things have really come together for him, in terms of the game slowing down and his understanding of what he is seeing. Besides throwing for six TDs while not throwing a pick in his 62 attempts the past 2 weeks, Lindsey has also run for 103 yards and 3 TDs.

♦ Lots of people took notice of one unusual change to the routine in Alumni Stadium on Saturday – the Gryphons bench was on the east side of the stadium and the visiting Gaels were situated right in front of the sold out grandstand. It wasn’t until hours after the game that I heard the explanation … the new Queen’s uniforms have a large Q on the front in place of the usual numbers which would make it virtually impossible for the Gryphons spotter in the booth to identify what Gaels players were entering the game. By putting the Gaels on the near sideline Guelph spotters could always identify the Queen’s players entering the game by the numbers on their backs.

♦ One Gryphon coach not on the sideline this week was Neil Lumsden. He was busy in Montreal being inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night. Lumsden is being “inducted into the CFHOF for their accomplishments in the Canadian university game”. You can find the details in this CIS article.

♦ The pregame tailgate party started before 10 a.m. and drew a very large crowd. It included the largest contingent of football alumni I recall seeing. Players from the 1950s to 2014 grads were present, with a particularly large contingent from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s. Some photos [mostly by Lou Toppan] from the tailgate and stadium crowd:

 

 

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