FOOTBALL: Connell golden against Vert et Or

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Before Matt Connell, no McGill quarterback had ever thrown for 400 yards in a game. On Saturday, the senior pivot surpassed the quadruple-century mark for the fourth time in his career and the second time this season. Connell powered the offence to 410 yards through the air and four touchdowns, as the Redmen took two crucial points from Sherbrooke with a 33-14 win. In the process, Connell set McGill single-season passing records for completions (151), attempts (246) and yards (1954), with two games left to play.

In front of a crowd of 1,662 at Molson Stadium, Connell was explosive, throwing two touchdowns apiece to receivers Greg Hethrington and Erik Galas. Hethrington led all receivers on the day with 11 receptions for 184 yards, while Galas had 72 yards on six catches.

“We realized that for us every game is a playoff. We had to win this one and the next two,” Galas said. “So we knew it was do or die and we pulled together as a team.”

The Redmen also gained positive yardage on the ground for the first time since week three, gaining 82 yards through the ground attack. 2004 all-conference running back Michael Samman led the way for McGill, picking up 44 yards on eight carries.

“It’s in our own hands,” said Head Coach Chuck McMann. “If we win our last two games we’re in the playoffs,”

The Redmen dedicated the win to former captain Strachan Hartley who is battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Redmen dominate in second quarter

Both teams were slow out of the gate, failing to put any points on the board after the first 15 minutes. Redmen kicker Robert Eeuwes bounced a 38-yard field goal off the crossbar for his first miss of the year. Connell also started gingerly, throwing an interception and picking up a slight injury forcing him to miss a series.

In the second quarter however, McGill came alive. Following a blocked Sherbrooke punt, Eeuwes converted a 20-yard field goal to give his team a 3-0 lead. After a two-and-out by Sherbrooke, the Redmen increased their lead to 10 after a 47-yard bomb from Connell to Galas with 8:53 left in the half.

“We got it done,” Connell said. “The receivers played well and made some good catches at key times.”

Sherbrooke hit back with a six- yard touchdown run by Benoit Boulanger right after the three-minute warning. However, the Redmen managed to respond before halftime with an impressive 70-yard drive, capped off by a 13-yard toss from Connell to Hetherington that sent McGill into the half with a 17-7 lead.

McGill keeps it up for a full 60

The Redmen were able to break their habit of falling apart in the second half, adding nine points while keeping Sherbrooke off the board in the third quarter.

In the final frame, the Red ‘n’ White, yet again, played with fire. With less than four minutes remaining they elected to continue passing rather than run out the clock on the ground. The result was an interception by Ludovic Kashindi, vaulting Sherbrooke back in the game. The McGill defence, however, came up big and kept the Vert et Or from capitalizing on the mistake.

The Redmen would add one more touchdown on a three-yard pass from Connell to Galas with 35 seconds left, making the final tally 33-14.

“I think we finally played 60 minutes,” said Hethrington, who now leads the QUFL in touchdowns (5) and receiving yards (581). “We had a little bit of a scare in the beginning of the fourth quarter, but I think what we achieved in this game was playing well the whole game.”

McGill travels to Antigonish, Nova Scotia this weekend to take on St. Francis Xavier before returning home to challenge Bishop’s in the final game of the season. They now find themselves tied with Sherbrooke at 2-4 fourth place in the QUFL. With only one playoff spot still up for grabs, the Redmen will likely have to run the table to make the post-season.