(Luke Orlando / McGill Tribune)

McGill offence silenced as season winds down

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The introductions for the McGill Redmen’s (3-4) homecoming game on Saturday had a different theme than previous matches this season. Instead of meeting the starting lineup for McGill, the audience bid adieu to all those graduating at the end of the year. For these players it was likely their last home game members of the Redmen. After a  28-3 loss at the hands of the Université de Montréal Carabins (5-2), however, festivities and celebrations were dampered.

McGill’s offence, which put up 29 points against eighth-ranked Bishop’s just two weeks ago, ground to a halt. In fact, it took until just under three minutes were left in the first half for the Redmen to even get a first down.

The most-called name for the Redmen was punter-kicker Samy Rassy. Though Rassy played well, as he has done for most of this season, it is nearly impossible for a team to get on the scoreboard —let alone win games­­­­— when the kicker is taking a third of the team’s snaps.

Struggles to move the ball led to poor field position throughout the half, and McGill ended up taking safeties twice in order to prevent strong positioning—and easier scores— for the Carabins.

Although the game was still within reach at halftime, McGill’s offence failed to improve in the second half. They mustered just 159 yards of total offence on the day, the vast majority of which came towards the end of the game when the outcome of the match was no longer in question.

Senior quarterback Jonathan Collin was brought in on the last drive of the third-quarter to replace starter Pierre-Luc Dussault, but the small spark the substitution provided was too little too late. Dussault and Collin have battled for the starting role all season, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented either from becoming the clear-cut choice.

If McGill can take one positive from the game, it is that their defence was for the most part solid. A corps that has been somewhat inconsistent so far this season tallied four sacks and forced two turnovers. Although they gave up 28 points, the number was still less than their season average for the year. That can be partially chalked up to the offence’s inability to stay on the field —McGill spent just under 20 minutes with the ball.

With Sherbrooke (2-5) losing to undefeated Laval (7-0) on Sunday, McGill still holds on to the fourth and final playoff spot. The loss to the Carabins is a huge blow to the Redmen’s playoff hopes. A win would have clinched a playoff spot and given them a chance to rest their starters, a number of whom are dealing with nagging injuries.

Instead, the Redmen will need to enter next week’s rematch against the Bishop’s Gaiters ready to play. McGill controls its own destiny – if the Redmen win the match, the team will move onto the post-season. A loss, however, coupled with a near-certain Sherbrooke win over last-place Concordia (0-7), knocks the team out of the playoff race.

Although McGill has far exceeded pre-season expectations in the wake of numerous winless seasons, missing out on the playoffs after this campaign would still prove  tobe a big disappointment. This Redmen squad has shown the ability to compete toe-to-toe with the top programs in the province. For players in their final year on the team, the task now is to make sure that next week’s match against the Gaiters is not their last in a McGill uniform.