Golden Gaels Photos
Queen's Golden Gaellery by Jeff Chan
Queen's at Toronto 20071020
GOLDEN RECEIVER: BAGG CATCHES NINE PASSES FOR 341 YARDS
By Claude Scilley, Kingston Whig-Standard
It was, Rob Bagg insisted, no big deal. At least, not so much for him. "Danny Brannagan had a great game. His placement of the ball was great," Bagg said, first deferring to his quarterback when analysing the second-greatest receiving game in the history of Canadian intercollegiate football. Bagg caught nine passes for 341 yards Saturday, as the Queen's Golden Gaels closed their regular Ontario University Athletics football season with a 54-24 win over the Toronto Blues.
Bagg was gracious afterwards. "All of my catches were because the [offensive] line gave Danny a lot of time," he said, "and when you've got [Mike] Giffin running really hard it gets easier, too. A lot of my success was due to the fact that they were heavy loaded on the run and it opened up the air. "I didn't really do anything special, like the other guys," Bagg continued. "I just caught the balls." Well, yes, but then he ran a long way with them. With touchdown catches of 89, 90 and 70 yards Bagg had a spectacular day. Oddly, probably his best catch, a one-handed grab while he reached back early in the fourth quarter, went for no gain. In that spirit of peculiarity, Bagg's day, the second-best all-time in Canada, isn't even a school record. James MacLean set the national standard, 377 yards, at Guelph in 2001.
Gaels coach Pat Sheahan said Bagg's busy day - his nine catches were also a career best - was largely dictated by the way Toronto was playing. "Their game strategy was to limit what we did on the ground," Sheahan said. "To do that they had to leave Rob in single coverage. Often, the safety was up there guarding against the run and they left the unsuspecting defensive back with all he could handle. Rob got up the field a number of times. "Let's say the middle of the field was fairly accessible to him." Bagg's three long touchdowns came on passes up the middle, a play that has been open many times this year but one on which the Gaels have seldom capitalized. "I was very pleased with the quality of throws we made," Sheahan said. "We've struggled with that hole throw where we've had the receiver wide open and it was either behind him, over his head, in front of him, whatever. "This time they looked like well executed precision throws and catches. Those were big-league plays."
Bagg was hurt three weeks ago against Laurier and missed half of that game and the Ottawa game the following week. Against Waterloo last week he caught three passes and Sheahan said it was good to see the fifth-year receiver hit his stride again. "[Against Waterloo] he looked like a guy who'd been out a couple of weeks. There's a good lesson in it for everybody, that no player can afford to miss the better part of two games and come out and play with a razor's edge."
Sheahan characterized Saturday's performance as the best by Brannagan this year, and the best by the offence as a whole. Queen's had 696 yards of total offence, the most in a game since the Gaels had 742 yards against Western in the Yates Cup semifinal game, Nov. 2, 2002. "There are probably arguments based on who the opponent was but 700 yards of offence is still a pretty good day, regardless of who you're playing against," he said. "I still think there is lots of room for this offence to continue to get better. There's a lot of unused potential in the offence and it behooves us to get even more out of them in the weeks ahead."
Bagg said there are pros and cons to having the last-place team as your springboard into the playoffs. "Last year, playing Western, they're a good team and we got some momentum going but we were a different team last year. We needed that momentum. "The team that we have this year, being able to get some guys out early probably wasn't the worst thing. The fact that we could sharpen up some things, work on some things, I don't think it's bad at all to play Toronto. As they showed at the end of the game, they've got a lot of potential. They're not the Toronto of four years ago."
Queen's: Finishes the season 6-2, the best record since 2003; Rob Bagg and Mike Giffin score three TDs each, Marty Gordon scores the other and Dan Village converts all seven.
Toronto: TDs by Andrew Gillis, David Hamilton and Kris Newman; Joe Valtellini converts each one and kicks a 31-yard FG.
The game: Queen's jumps to a 14-0 lead but it's 16-7 with less than three minutes to play in the first half when Danny Brannagan completes a 90-yard TD pass to Bagg; Varsity's sag is palpable - it's 32-7 by halftime and 40-7 before Blues score again.
The streak: Toronto's record losing streak is 49 games and counting. Rob Bagg: Second-best receiving day in Canadian university history, 341 yards.
Mike Giffin: 138 yards rushing, his eighth game of 100 yards or more this year; he finished the year with 96 points, 16 touchdowns and 1,502 all-purpose yards, all new school records.
Danny Brannagan: Completes 14 of 22 passes for a career-best 440 yards, with four TDs.
However: A defence that went into the game having allowed the fewest points in the conference allowed the lowly Blues to score 24, the most by anyone against Queen's all season and the most in a game by Varsity this year.
Next: Sudden-death quarter-final vs. Western, Saturday, October 27 at Richardson Stadium.
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