Simply Outplayed

Stingers Pummeled in Home Opener

Photo by Erin Sparks
Photo by Erin Sparks

Lying facedown on the field, third-year Stingers quarterback Reid Quest is in pain.

He’s just been sacked for the eighth time in a little over three quarters of play. As the mass of blue and white disperses from around him, he slowly gets up and limps off the field for the last time of the afternoon.

The nightmare was over.

“Physically today we just got outmanned,” said Stingers head coach Gerry McGrath. “Our issue was the line of scrimmage; our offensive line had a hard time matching up against their defensive line.”

That was the case from start to finish in last Saturday’s home opener versus the Université de Montréal Carabins, with Quest sacked on just the sixth play of the game to put an end to a strong opening drive that had seen Concordia gain two back-to-back first downs.

It proved to be the start of a long afternoon for Quest and the Stingers.

Constantly pressured, Quest and the rest of the Concordia offence never really had a chance to get their game going up against the nationally fifth-ranked Carabins. Aside from allowing a short field goal towards the end of the third quarter, Montreal completely shut down the Stingers attack, holding them to a mere 101 net yards of offence.

Unfortunately for the Stingers, they were unable to return the favour on the other side of the ball.

The Carabins offence dominated the line of scrimmage, giving All-Star running back Rotrand Sené all the space he needed to get the first down virtually every time he received the handoff. Sené ended up torching Concordia’s defence for 182 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries to lead the Carabins to an easy 48-3 win.

It’s far from the result the Stingers were expecting.

Following a difficult 2-7 2012 season, which notably saw the Stingers forfeit two wins due to fielding an ineligible player, the Stingers football team was hoping to turn the page and show they can compete with the top teams in the country.

Humiliated twice by the Carabins last season, 48-10 in Week 2 and 38-0 later in the season, the Stingers started last Saturday’s game on the right foot, giving their fans hope for a better ending.

But that hope didn’t even last until halftime.

The two teams started the game off with a battle of field position, each punting on their first two drives. On the game’s fifth drive, the Carabins finally scored the first points of the day when the Stingers conceded a safety after a Quest sack pinned them deep in their own territory.

That’s when everything fell apart.

“[Quest is] the best quarterback you can ask for in Canada, we just have to be able to help him a lot more.” –Kris Bastien, Stingers Receiver

On the ensuing free kick, Montreal kick returner Manuel Crisi-Lauzon fielded the ball at his own 12-yard line and headed straight upfield, where a sea of maroon and gold was waiting to bring him down.

But just as he was about to be tackled, Crisi-Lauzon handed the ball off to teammate Antoine Pruneau, who left his blocking position to the left of Crisi-Lauzon to grab the ball and run in the opposite direction.

The play left the Stingers special teams befuddled, as Pruneau made one cut before bolting downfield, leaving would-be tacklers in the dust en route to an 89-yard kick return touchdown and a 9-0 Carabins lead.

After that, it was the Rotrand Sené show.

The fifth-year Carabins running back took his first carry of the game 58 yards before scoring on a three-yard run two plays later to give UdeM a 16-0 lead. After the Carabins forced a second Stingers safety on the ensuing drive, Sené found the endzone again, on a 17-yard run this time.

After Concordia gave up yet another safety, the Stingers found themselves trailing 25-0 at halftime.

“We had a lot of guys [for whom] these were their first CIS snaps—they got nervous out there and it showed,” said Stingers defensive coordinator Luc Pelland. “We made some mistakes at the wrong time and gave them big plays.”

The Stingers nonetheless tightened up on defence to start the second half, giving up only eight points in a third quarter that saw them score their only points of the game—a 33-yard Keegan Treloar field goal.

Down 32-3 to start the fourth, McGrath kept Quest in the game for just one more drive before sitting his starting quarterback. He finished 15-of-26 for just 121 yards and two interceptions on the day.

“[Quest] came out in the fourth [quarter] because he was banged up,” said Stingers All-Star receiver Kris Bastien, who finished the game with only four catches for 45 yards. “We wanted to keep him [healthy for next week] and the game was already out of hand.

“To me, he’s the best quarterback you can ask for in Canada,” Bastien continued. “We just have to be able to help him a lot more.”

Doing so starts with better offensive line play. But that might take a while considering seven of the eight linemen on the roster are rookies or in their second year with the team.

The growing pains were certainly evident against the Carabins, as not only did the Stingers allow eight sacks and numerous other hurries, but also gave little room for rookie running back Jamall Hamilton-Hyman on the ground. He finished with just 28 rushing yards on 10 carries.

“We have a lot of young players that are new to the experience [of today’s game],” said All-Canadian Stinger linebacker Max Caron. “They are going to learn from that, grow from that, and become better players.

“Moving forward we’re just going to keep building, become a better team and shoot for the playoffs.”

For Bastien, there are no ifs ands or buts about it.

“[The Carabins are] a good team,” he said. “We’re gonna have to be prepared next time when we catch them in the playoffs.”

The Stingers will look to rebound next week, when they travel across town on Sept. 6 to take on the McGill Redmen at Percival Molson Stadium in the annual Shaughnessy Cup. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m.