The situation on Saturday afternoon was simple for the Concordia Stingers: win and you’re in.
Unfortunately for the Stingers, they squandered the opportunity to clinch the final RSEQ playoff berth, losing to the UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al Carabins 36-1.
Concordia would have also been guaranteed a playoff berth if McGill upset Bishop’s in their game. McGill, though, couldn’t hold on, and allowed Bishop’s to score a winning touchdown with just 23 seconds left in the game. Concordia and Bishop’s now have identical 3-5 records.
Despite the deadlock, Concordia’s circumstances are much more desirable heading in to next week.
The Stingers not only hold the tiebreaker over Bishop’s, but also get to face the winless McGill Redmen, while Bishop’s must play on the road against the nationally ranked Laval Rouge et Or, who crushed Bishop’s in the teams previous meeting.
Still, the Stingers are hoping to control their own destiny.
“I think [Bishop’s] have got one foot on the grave and one on the banana peel,” said Stingers head coach Gerry McGrath. “We definitely have an advantage on them, but we’re not going to leave it to Laval to eliminate them. We’re going to play our butts off next week.”
The Stingers are confident they can beat an inferior opponent like McGill. It has been games like Saturday’s, though, that demonstrate how far the Stingers are from competing with the big dogs in the perennially competitive RSEQ.
Saturday was a tale of missed opportunities and youthful mistakes that made it impossible for Concordia to compete against such admirable foes as the Carabins.
Max Caron intercepted a pass early in the first quarter inside Carabins territory, providing Concordia with a golden opportunity to put points on the board and gain some momentum early in the game.
Keegan Treloar would eventually miss a 32-yard field goal, one of his three misses on the day. Concordia came away with nothing and wasted chances became the recurring theme of the afternoon.
“This was a tough one to explain,” said Stingers quarterback Reid Quest. “The defence held up, the offence moved the ball, but we just couldn’t capitalize when we needed to.”
Shortly after the missed field goal, Montreal would drive 64 yards in just over two and half minutes, capping the drive with an eight-yard touchdown run by quarterback Alexandre Nadeau-Piuze.
Concordia was back inside enemy territory again early in the second quarter, and once again threw their opportunity into the wind.
With the ball on the Carabins 30-yard line quarterback, Reid Quest fumbled the snap. Concordia recovered the ball, but not before it was knocked, kicked and juggled 20 yards backwards to mid-field. The Stingers went from looking at a first-and-10 to a second-and-30. The drive ended with no points and plenty of frustration.
“That’s the million dollar question,” said Quest, when asked why the Stingers offence seemed to stall anytime they were in scoring position.
Trailing 12-1 late in the second quarter, a breakdown in coverage allowed Montreal to pull ahead further.
Nadeau-Piuze hooked up with a wide open Alexandre Fortier-LabontÃ© for a 55-yard touchdown pass. Nadeau-Piuze finished with 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Despite the missed field goal, fumble and deep touchdown pass, coach McGrath believed the real turning point of the game was early in the third quarter when Montreal put together a 68-yard drive that finished with a field goal, putting the Stingers down 22-1.
“I think the touchdown before the half hurt, but I think their long drive [in the third quarter] was the biggest turning point,” he said. “You can get over [a miscommunication on defence], but for them to come out like that when we were rejuvenated after the half took some wind out of us.”
Montreal orchestrated another long drive later in the quarter, this time finishing in the endzone, extinguishing any flicker of hope Concordia may have had.
Concordia must now head back to the drawing board as they head up the mountain to face McGill next week in the biggest game of the season.
Coach McGrath confirmed that Quest will start behind centre for the Stingers next week. In his rookie season Quest has been inconsistent, though not terrible, as he has been able to hold his own in his first CIS season. Quest completed 22 of 41 passes, for 263 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions against Montreal.
Concordia won the last meeting against McGill 39-16 on Oct. 8.
Concordia plays at McGill on Saturday, Oct. 29. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.