On Sept. 15, the McGill Redmen (1-2) faced the Concordia Stingers (2-1) for the 50th annual Shaughnessy Cup. The Redmen gave their crosstown rivals a run for their money, but ultimately lost 33-26.
The first half saw limited offence from both sides. McGill struggled to move the ball across the field, sustaining only two drives of over 20 yards. Meanwhile, Concordia had more success in their end, but faltered in scoring range: The Stingers put up just three points on as many trips into Redmen territory. Much of McGill’s defensive strength came from its eight sacks, thanks to strong play up front and in the secondary.
“Whenever you can get sacks, that means you covered well in the back end, [because] the quarterback didn’t have anybody open, and vice versa,” Assistant Coach Joe Hagins said. “[If] you can get there [quickly, it] means you don’t have to cover as long.”
Despite both offences’ ineffectiveness, each side still racked up points. Soon after Concordia took a safety to open scoring, second-year defensive back Chris Mbiya blocked a field-goal attempt, scooped it up, and scampered 64 yards for a touchdown to end the first quarter up 9-0. Later, McGill recovered a fumbled punt return at the Concordia 40. The offence took it from there, moving the ball into the end zone in five plays, bookended by key receptions from second-year running back Daniel Adesegun.
The timely offensive spurt gave the Redmen a commanding 16-3 lead after the extra point, but McGill did not get to enjoy that lead a single play longer; Concordia took the ensuing kickoff to the house for a 107-yard touchdown. After forcing a McGill safety, the Stingers had closed the gap to 16-12 before halftime. That kickoff return proved to be the turning point in the game.
“I think if that return doesn’t happen, we make some plays,” Hagins said. “The defence had great momentum, and [on] offence, we were starting to get rolling, but they took that and just rode that high the rest of the first half, into the second half, until the end.”
With the new half came steadier offensive play from the Stingers, who finished three long drives with touchdowns. The Redmen’s defensive performance was noticeably different from one half to the other.
“First half, I think we did well,” fourth-year linebacker Kamba Katchelewa said. “We tried to put a lot of pressure on them and create confidence. The second half, we kind of slowed down and didn’t play to our standard, and it hurt us on the scoreboard.”
Although McGill scored just 10 points in the second half, the offence began to look more promising. The team’s best series took just three plays to drive 66 yards into the end zone.
“We could’ve done it all game long, but on this drive, everything was on point,” fifth-year receiver Remi Bertellin said.
Unfortunately for McGill, the offence had trouble holding its rhythm, and couldn’t sustain its lead or close the gap once Concordia pulled ahead in the fourth.
“We were on top, we just didn’t make that play to put the game away or make that play to put us in a position to put the game away,” Hagins said. “They made that play to keep it close and that play to overtake us.”
McGill will now turn its sights to a Sept. 23 matchup with the Université Laval Rouge et Or (3-0) at Stade Peps in Quebec City.
Moment of the game
Third-year receiver Jeremy Sauvageau paired a twisting, 34-yard grab with a subsequent 29-yard catch-and-run to set up fourth-year receiver Jacob Dwinnell for a toe-dragging touchdown in the back of the end zone.
“We played consistently, but didn’t make the plays we needed to make, and that was the difference today [….] We’re a really young group, so they made the plays, [and] we didn’t make the plays.” – Assistant Coach Joe Hagins on the team’s youth
McGill’s eight sacks came from seven different defensive contributors.