For the first time since 1992 the Queen's Golden Gaels (don't forget the Golden) are Vanier Cup Champions after they defeated the University of Calgary Dinos (Dinosaurs was too long for Albertans) 33-31 in front of over 18,000 fans at PEPS Stadium in Laval. This win avenges the Golden Gaels' 31-21 loss in the 1983 Vanier Cup to the Dinos.
The game started with technical difficulties thanks to the incompetence of someone at TSN that couldn't be bothered to make sure that the transmission was ready for game-time or on an early fake field goal (seriously, it cut out just as the pass was made) that led to a terrible pass interference call or on Queen's reply. By the time the issues were resolved I assume that one more person was on the way to the unemployment line and the game was tied 7-7.
Then came what could have been a massive turning point if the Dinos had won. Their quarterback, Hec Creighton winner Erik Glavic, scrambled and was finally caught. However, he lost the ball on his way down and Frank Pankewich ran it back for a touchdown. Party time right? Of course not. Somehow, despite playing in a league with no video review and not a single official blew the play dead as an incomplete pass the refs huddled up and called: incomplete pass and no touchdown.
A team made up of lesser mortals might have crumbled but...well, I guess they kind of did. The Queen's offence was veered from ineffective to completely lost and the defence was comprehensively picked apart by a Dinos squad that had the wind at their backs. To say that it was spirit crushing might have been an understatement as Calgary used the advantage to rack up an 18-0 advantage in the quarter and a 25-7 lead at halftime. Good thing the players couldn't see our body language as the trio of Queen's alums cursed the refs (they also called a couple of borderline personal fouls, made very generous ball spots, and wiped out a massive Jimmy Allin return on a phantom penalty) and wondered if the Gaels could exploit the wind enough in the third quarter.
Now, I don't know if Head Coach Pat Sheahan planned on pulling a rope-a-dope on the Dinos but after a first half that saw a frustrating amount of running the Gaels came out throwing. QB Danny Branagan found the coach's son Devan for a 60 yard TD strike before adding a safety and a field goal. On the other side of the ball the defence blocked a field goal - actually, the kicker managed to hit his own lineman that had been driven back - and Matt Vickers intercepted a pass in the end zone to keep the Dinos' at bay. However, heading into the wind during the fourth quarter it didn't appear that they had done enough. Little did we know!
A couple of great drives featuring a perfect balance of strong running by Gordon and Therrion and some clutch receptions by the experienced receiving corps got the Gaels up 33-25. Scott Valberg caught the pass that finally gave Queen's a lead that they wouldn't relinquish and Matty Gordon scrambled into the end zone to add the winning marker. Things weren't safe as the Dinos did score once more but while the Queen's receivers were making catches while getting drilled the Calgary receiver that had the two-point conversion in his hands dropped it when he hit the ground.
Calgary was actually driving with 4 minutes left before Ben D'Andrea and Chris Smith combined to jack up a Dinos' receiver (who cares who the chump was) and forced a fumble. They then hilariously stood around for two seconds as I screamed at the television before they turned around and scooped up the ball. From then on it was the 4th and 5th year players the helped seal the win. In addition to the receivers' bravery the offensive and defensive lines overcame difficult first halves to make their mark on the game. Neate Sager had written that the Golden Gaels' line play was one of the major factors in their success this year but the entire team's experience and poise allowed them to methodically march down the field converting third downs to wind down the clock and return the Vanier Cup to Kingston.
I always try to keep an eye on the Queen's football results and during my time there we had a hell of a team helmed by Tommy Dennison who came up short. It's been a pleasure watching the team compete in three thrilling games this past month and a hearty congratulations goes out to every player that helped provide some great memories for students and alums during a rocky stretch of school-student/alum relations. This team is going to suffer some massive losses as 20 of the 25 starters have just completed their eligibility but they've left us all a lifetime of memories.