Cimankinda scored the Gees’ lone touchdown
The University of Ottawa’s football team was back in action on Thursday night at TD Place Stadium. Coming off a bye week, the Gees were looking to make it three wins in a row, after defeating York and Carleton in their last two games. Standing in their way were the undefeated and Ontario University Athletics (OUA) leading Queen’s Golden Gaels.
Earlier this season, the Gees were defeated by the Gaels in Kingston 30-7, less than a week following the tragic passing of Francis Perron. On Thursday night, the 2-2 Gees looked to avenge the early season loss to move over .500 for the first time this season.
Another slow start
A consistent storyline this season for the U of O’s football team has been struggles in the first quarter. Coming into action on Thursday night, the Gees were outscored 6 to 14 and had yet to score first in a game this season.
The Gaels, wearing their shiny yellow jerseys, exacerbated these struggles opening the score on their first drive. The drive started with a nice return to midfield by Noah Brooks. Under pressure on a second down, Queen’s quarterback James Keenan moved the chains himself before hitting receiver Ajay Chol a couple of plays later for a 39-yard pass. Failing to break through the Gees defense on his first two tries, Gaels running back Rasheed Tucker was able to break through on his third attempt to score the opening touchdown.
The extra point was good and just like that, it was 7-0 Queen’s.
On their third drive, the Golden Gaels continued to take advantage of the Gees opening quarter struggles. Following a fumble by Gee-Gees running back J.P Cimankinda and two costly penalties, Keenan completed a 16 yard pass to receiver Sakhia Kwemo to get to the Ottawa 25 yard line. However, two incomplete passes by Keenan would force the Gaels to kick for a field goal — one veteran kicker Nick Liberatore easily kicked.
“I felt like we started okay, and we had a penalty on that first drive and kept the drive alive — that made a difference … We didn’t have great field position. I think it’s just circumstances,” said Gee-Gees head coach Marcel Bellefeuille, on his team’s start.
Despite being down early, the Gees were not out, sporting their home garnets, the offense got cooking on their third drive. Quarterback Ben Maracle opened the drive handing the ball to Cimankinda, who pushed through the Queens line for a nine-yard gain. Then Maracle sneaked himself a yard for the first down, before hitting receivers Rodney Estimé and Nicholas Gendron for two five yard passes. On the next play, Cimankinda punched a hole for a 14-yard gain. Maracle then threw a short pass to receiver Johnathan Fournier who ran 24 yards hurdling — à la Josh Allen — a Queen’s defender. Following two plays on the ground to get in the red zone, Maracle handed the ball to Cimankinda, who found a hole into the endzone.
Campbell Fair kicked the extra point and with that, the Gees were within three early in the second quarter. 10-7 Queen’s University.
Trading a safety for a field goal
After the completion of the Gee’s successful drive early in the quarter, both teams had an unsuccessful drive. Queens was forced to punt on a third down. As for Ottawa, in spite of getting into field goal range, Fair was unable to put it between the uprights.
On their next drive, Queen’s seemed like they were going to be able to drive downfield after a couple of nice rushes by Tucker. Gee-Gees defensive back Chris Ciguineau, however, had other plans knocking down a deep pass from Keenan to force a third down.
But, Maracle and the offense weren’t able to capitalize following an overshot by the quarterback and a drop by a receiver.
Queens were also unable to do much on their next drives — solid defensive pressure kept the Gaels deep in their end, so much so that they were forced to concede a safety.
Following the safety, the Gees offense struggled again, with Maracle undershooting this time a receiver, then failing to move the chains with a short pass to Gendron. This forced Ottawa to punt with a little over a minute left to the half — something you don’t want to do in football.
And this predicament was illustrated when Queens was able to take advantage of the Gees defense and rush down the field getting into field goal range. This gave Liberatore a chance to do his magic.
Tada: 13-9 Queens going into the half.
When it rains, it pours
During halftime, it started raining. This was bad news for the Gees as rainy conditions tend to favour defense in football. But quickly the Gees were able to get strong field positioning thanks to a 44 yard pass to receiver Tristin Park from Maracle. But after two rushes that led to a combined six-yard gain, the Gees had to summon Fair for a field goal. This time he didn’t miss.
Then the rain stopped, but Queen’s offense decided it was time to pour on the Gees defense and punish errors made by Ottawa.
It all started when Cimankinda fumbled the ball deep in his own territory. Keenan and Tucker took turns rushing the ball and eventually Tucker reached the Gees endzone. The ensuing kick was good, and just like that, a cold shower was thrown on the Ottawa squad.
“We had the momentum at that point of the game and we had just made some big runs with J-P (Cimankinda) …. the turnovers created a big gap [in scoring] on the scoreboard and time ran out at the end,” said Gendron.
Maracle was the next Gee-Gee to make a mistake, throwing the ball right into Queen’s defensive back Ashton Miller-Melancon’s hands for an interception deep in Ottawa territory. Three plays later Liberatore was out on the field to kick a field goal.
23-12 for the men in yellow.
The onslaught continued, when 18 seconds later Maracle fumbled the ball and Queen’s Nolan Bedard recovered the ball. After a seven-yard pass to Sam Charway from Keenan, he handed the ball twice to Tucker who on the second try made it into the Gees endzone.
30-12 Queens, and that was the final score.
Following the game, coach Bellefeuille had this to say about his team’s performance.
“I felt we were playing the way we wanted to play [all the way] into the third quarter. Early into [the] third quarter we were running the football, we were defending the run, we were playing [a] good physical game — we were playing mistake-free and it was 13-12.”
“Unfortunately at that point, we started clumping and turning the football over and taking penalties … we talk about these things all the time, but you know, we’ve got to make the corrections on the field,” said the coach.
The Gee-Gees will be back at TD Place Stadium on Oct. 28 to take on the Carleton Ravens in their season finale.