The Redmen have struggled to put together a full 60 minutes of football this season, in recent weeks having held the lead at halftime against top-ranked Laval and keeping the score close at the break against Université de Montréal.
Last Saturday, the story was no different. The Redmen were trounced 41-13 by arch-rival Concordia in the Shrine Bowl after trailing the sixth-ranked Stingers by just six points at the half.
Quarterback Matt Connell was 17 of 35 for 269 yards with one touchdown and one interception as McGill’s air attack kept the Redmen in the game for the first half.
“I thought it was looking good and we would come back and win this but all of a sudden we just shut down again like we have in a few other games,” Connell said.
The Stingers also took advantage of another problem that has vexed McGill this season: its inability to stop the run. Concordia’s 366 rushing yards propelled the Stingers to pull away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Redmen 18-0 in the period. Running back Andre Hamilton led the ground attack with 221 yards and three touchdowns.
Redmen hold their own in the first half
The Red ‘n’ White opened the game strong, with a 77-yard drive early in the first quarter. However, the offence was unable to find pay dirt, stalling on the Concordia three yard line and forcing McGill to settle for a field goal by Robert Eeuwes to go up 3-0. It would be its only lead of the game.
Concordia would respond with a drive culminating in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Scott Syvret to Nicholas Saikaly. They would go to score again via a 30-yard touchdown run by Hamilton with 13:17 remaining in the second quarter. The Stingers were then gifted two more points on McGill’s next drive, when the Redmen elected to take a safety rather than give their opponents good field position-the first of three two-point surrenders by the Red ‘n’ White.
However, McGill roared back right before half time, producing a five-play, 74-yard drive ending in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Connell to wide receiver Charles-Antoine Sinotte.
“We had a pretty good passing day but we have to improve on the little things if we want to win,” Sinotte said.
The score was the freshman’s third on the season and cut the deficit to 16-10.
Hamilton leads the Stingers to victory
McGill was again fastest off the block in the second half. Eeuwes hit a 42-yard field goal with 7:15 left in the third quarter to bring the Redmen within three. The field goal matched Eeuwes’ career long and improved his season total to eight field goals in as many attempts.
That would be the closest McGill would get, however, as the Stingers racked up 23 unanswered points, as the McGill defence seemed to tire.
“We had a hard time finishing the game and you can tell by the final score they just ran all over us,” said defensive back Anthony Lucka, who enjoyed his second straight game with an interception on Saturday.
Hamilton added two more touchdowns for the Stingers, scampering in from three yards out late in the third quarter and rumbling for an impressive 69-yard dash two minutes into the fourth. Saikaly would also add a second touchdown catch, this time from pivot Robert Mackay with 8:37 remaining in the game. The Stingers then scored four more points on safeties given up by McGill.
Next week the Redmen return home to Molson Stadium to take on the Vert et Or of Université de Sherbrooke. If the Redmen can manage to play a full 60 minutes they should be able to compete with the Vert et Or.