Losing my NFL virginity

I saved my favorite for last. I’ve seen just about every sport there is live, but seeing a live NFL game has always seemed to elude me. Finally, about three months ago, I opened my birthday present from my family and found three pages worth of Google Maps directions leading to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo, N.Y.. Having memorized the Tennessee Titans schedule for months, I knew fully well they would be playing the Bills in week seven.

Sure, I could’ve gone to Toronto to see a Bills game at some point, but much like losing your virginity, the first time should feel special. I find it hard to imagine that the Rogers Centre could capture the atmosphere of a NFL game. It’s a lot closer to capturing the atmosphere of a library.

It was well worth the wait, as I got to see my Titans win on a last-minute touchdown drive, converting a fourth down play into a 15-yard touchdown pass from Matt Hasselbeck to Nate Washington. Chris Johnson revitalized his season with a 195-yard and two-touchdown day. It doesn’t get much more dramatic than a 35-34 final score, during a game where points and yards were easy to come by.

The journey to that destination was just as fun. Being that Ralph Wilson stadium is in a residential area, I can now say I’ve paid to park on someone’s lawn. The surrounding area was full of tailgating; food trucks and full of NFL merchandise stands. It’s probably about as exciting as it gets in Buffalo. The smell of grills everywhere and the anticipation building for a football game is one sweet feeling.

Decked out in Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers gear, I expected heckling, which I did receive, but luckily all in good fun. Fan violence has been a problem around NFL stadiums, but I must say the Bills fans in attendance were generally hospitable.

I guess, since Buffalo has been a losing team for so long, fans have forgotten how to trash-talk. To be fair, as a Titans fan, I don’t have much ammunition myself, but at least if I did have to use it, I did so wisely.

One suggestion I will make for Bills fans is to demand a removal of trough urinals. Seriously, fans, how do you put up with it? If it’s considered acceptable to urinate next to 10 guys in the United States, I guess that’s why I’m proud to be Canadian.

Some nice bonuses included seeing Marv Levy honored at halftime. Being an Alouettes fan, I was certainly able to appreciate the ceremony. Even my favorite referee Mike Carey was the game official. His authoritative signals and his gusto when making a call just adds something trivially exhilarating when watching a football game.

Things couldn’t have gone much better than they did; a dramatic, back-and-forth game with my team coming out on top in my first outing to an NFL game. With the Titans being 1-4 just a couple of weeks ago, I thought I’d be going to Buffalo sporting the brown paper bag of shame. A win against the Steelers gave me a glimmer of hope and their win in Orchard Park gave the joy of being a part of the triumphant minority of Titans fans in the stadium.

My advice to fellow NFL fans: If your favorite team plays within driving distance, go every chance you get.


Stingers football lose on homecoming day

It was a bitter homecoming game for the Stingers men’s football team, as they fell 38-0 to powerhouse Université de Montréal on Friday. The loss came three weeks after a 48-10 drubbing at CEPSUM. Concordia’s offense never got into a rhythm, as turnovers and constant pressure on quarterback Reid Quest spelled doom for an offence that looked shell-shocked as the game progressed.

“We got off to a decent start, but like last time, we managed to screw it up,” said Quest, who had a tough game, completing 14 of 26 passes for 168 yards and three interceptions. “As the quarterback I have to be the leader. I can’t keep giving the ball away like that. That’s my fault.”

Quest was replaced by backup Troy McCusker late in the final quarter with the game out of reach. McCusker completed three of five passes for 33 yards.

The Stingers’ first offensive possession was perhaps their best of the day, though it doesn’t say much. They marched down the field, showing some unity, but a sack forced a 45-yard field goal attempt, which fell short and wide of the uprights. It was as close as they would come to any points.

“You can’t really pin this loss on anyone,” said former Stingers quarterback and receiver Liam Mahoney, who provides colour commentary on Stingers broadcasts on TSN 690. “You certainly can’t blame the quarterback. It’s hard to make good reads and get the right timing down when there’s guys in your face on every play.”

The running game was a non-factor for the Stingers as they rushed 16 times for 69 yards.

“When you can’t run the ball effectively on first down, it makes life tougher for the passing game, operating at second and long,” explained Mahoney. “This was also one of the best defences in the country.”

On their second possession, Quest’s pass was tipped and intercepted by the Carabins’ Antoine Pruneau. The Carabins made Concordia pay right away, with Alexandre Nadeau-Piuze throwing a 44-yard bomb to Ali Ndao down to the Stingers’ 26-yard line. Two plays later, Nadeau-Piuze capped off the drive with a Quarterback sneak from the one to give Montreal all the points they needed to seal the win.

Montreal added a 15-yard Charles Bauer field goal and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ali Ndao, who was the game’s leading receiver with five catches for 96 yards.

The Carabins put the game away in the third quarter, scoring an additional 21 points. Tailback Rotrand Sené wore down Concordia’s defence, scoring a pair of touchdowns on the ground. He had back-to-back majors of five and 24 yards. He rushed for 118 yards on 14 carries, contributing to Montréal’s 221-yard total.

Concordia’s home field advantage was taken away, as Montréal’s dominance took Concordia supporters out of the game early. The game held a total attendance of 2,087, with a hefty chunk being U de M supporters. It goes without saying, they were on the rowdier side.

Concordia now sits at 2-3 and their schedule doesn’t get any easier with Sherbrooke, McGill and Laval waiting for them down the road.


The Stingers gear up for game time on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 1 p.m. against Sherbrooke.


A major defeat for Stingers by Carabins

A 48-10 score says it all. There aren’t many positives to take from such a lopsided loss. The Stingers were dominated on all sides of the ball, be it on the offense, defence or special teams. The Université de Montréal Carabins won the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

While Concordia was still in the game going into the fourth quarter – only trailing by 10 – the Carabins scored 28 unanswered points in the fourth to put the Stingers away and move on to 2-0, leaving Concordia with a record of 1-1.

Quarterback Reid Quest went 15-for-23 in passing attempts for 186 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was sacked 10 times, which prevented Concordia’s offence from finding a rhythm. They also fumbled five times, losing two of them.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” said Quest. “A lot of mental errors stalled our drives. They’re a great team and they capitalized on [that].”

Montreal went to the running game early, as running back Rotrand Sené helped the Carabins take advantage of great field position, leading a 42-yard drive. It was capped with a 3-yard touchdown pass by Alexandre Nadeau-Piuze to Mikhail Davidson.

Nadeau-Piuze fumbled deep in Concordia territory on the next possession, but the Stingers went two-and-out on the ensuing drive. Montreal then blocked Keegan Treloar’s punt, but fumbled the ball at the goal line, giving Concordia a touchback and a new set of downs. The Stingers then threw an interception, once again giving Montreal a chance at Concordia’s 23-yard line.

The Carabins went up two scores after Nadeau-Piuze took it in himself on a nine-yard touchdown run.

Concordia had trouble advancing the ball early, but a facemask penalty helped them advance the ball after Quest was yanked by the helmet on a sack. He then threw his best pass of the day, finding Jamal Henry for a 53-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead in half.

The Stingers had chances to inch closer, but they kicked only one field goal on four tries, leaving nine points off the board. Two were missed by kicker Keegan Treloar and one was blocked. In the end, nine points turned out to be miniscule when looking at the final deficit.

Montreal ended the first half with a 23-yard chip shot by Charles Bauer bringing the halftime score to 17-7. The two teams traded field goals in the third quarter before Montreal ran away with the game. Concordia’s defence was looking worn down by the time the fourth quarter came along. They forced five fumbles, recovering four which kept the Stingers in the game, but they couldn’t keep it up for all four quarters.

“It’s all a matter of execution,” said safety Nathan Taylor. “We just let it get away from us in the last 15 minutes. When we look back and watch the game tape, we’re going to be very disappointed.”

Montreal won in all phases of the game and owned the line of scrimmage for most of the game. It’s always the most important battle in a football game and the Carabins were the better team and well-deserving of the victory.


The Stingers will look to recover this Saturday at 12 p.m. against St. Francis Xavier.


Stingers look to reach next level

In the last few seasons, the Concordia Stingers appeared to be treading water. The rebuilding process has had them stand pat with back-to-back 4-5 seasons in 2010 and 2011, following a 3-5 season in 2009. Although, their 4-5 record last year was enough for a playoff spot, they were bounced 33-7 by the Laval Rouge et Or.

Not everything has come together for Concordia. The defence was the strongest unit for the team, as players like Max Caron, Kris Robertson and Nathan Taylor stepped up for the Stingers. Caron led the CIS with 78.5 tackles and led the nation in solo tackles. He added five interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, to that lead. Last year, he was awarded the Presidents’ Trophy as the outstanding defensive player in the CIS.

Kris Robertson continuously made great plays on defense and was a constant spark returning kicks. He averaged 24.4 yards per return and scored two touchdowns on special teams. Robertson said he feels the veteran Stingers need to lead the way in order for the team to not only make the playoffs again, but to enjoy success in the post-season.

“This year we have all the necessary tools to do big things,” he explained. “It’s on us vets to make sure we get there. We just need to be unified and I believe the sky is the limit.”

Safety Nathan Taylor said that while it’s the offence’s job to score points, it’s the defence’s job to make it easier and set things up.

“We need to make more plays and create more turnovers on defence,” said Taylor. “We need to help the offence get good field position whenever possible.”

The units will have to help each other, with the defence getting quick stops and the offence needing to keep the ball moving.

Quarterback Reid Quest took over mid-season for Terrance Morsink in 2011. He now enters the season as the full-fledged starter, and as usual, things will have to start with the quarterback.

“We need to sustain drives, get first downs and wear down opposing defences,” Quest said. “If we can do that, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

For Concordia to truly have a chance at success and get past the first round, they’ll need to overcome the tougher teams in the conference. They lost to Laval and Sherbrooke twice, and 36-1 against the Montréal Carabins last season. While it’s a near-impossibility to beat the Rouge et Or, as they’ve proven year after year, the Stingers at least need to overcome the other two teams that finished above them in 2011. After all, getting to the playoffs won’t mean much if they’ll be easily beat in the first round.

The Stingers have not won a playoff game in four years, and they’ll no doubt want to change that this season. Failure to do so only means that they haven’t progressed since last season. At the very least, they’ll have to be more competitive with the tougher teams of the QUFL.


Laval eliminates Stingers

The Laval Rouge et Or will head to the provincial finals after dismantling the Concordia Stingers 33-7 in Sainte-Foy on Saturday. Laval will host the Montréal Carabins this coming Saturday for the Dunsmore Cup, while the Stingers will be left to reflect on their season.

“I don’t think that our players played poorly,” said Concordia coach Gerry McGrath. “I think we’re a young team and our players were just overwhelmed from playing in an atmosphere like that. They go from playing in front of 1,000 people every week to 12,000 [at Laval].”

The Rouge et Or got it going early as quarterback Bruno Prud’homme completed passes of 22 and 33 yards to receiver Seydou Junior Haidara, setting up a 34-yard field goal by Boris Bede.

After a two-and-out from Concordia, Laval quickly marched down the field with a seven-play, 74-yard drive in less than four minutes, culminating in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Prud’homme to Guillaume Rioux.

Laval added two more field goals and a team safety before the end of the first quarter, to take a 18-0 lead. After the first, Concordia only had three yards of offence. Playing Laval is hard enough and being down 18 after one quarter is mission impossible.

To make matters worse, the Rouge et Or didn’t slow down in the second. On their first possession of the quarter, Prud’homme found Adam Thibault on a 63-yard pass to get inside the Stingers’ five-yard line. Sebastien Levesque finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to bring the score to 25-0. Laval added a field goal in the last minute of the half to go into the break up 28-0.

Laval tacked on five points in the third quarter after a 41-yard Bede field goal and a team safety. Bede was five-for-five on field goals. Up 33-0, Laval pulled its starters, and began resting up for their showdown against the Carabins.

The high point for Concordia was breaking Laval’s shutout in the final minute of the game. Kris Robertson returned a punt 59 yards to the Laval 11-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Reid Quest found Matt Scheurwater for a 13-yard touchdown pass with 33 seconds left. That was hardly any consolation, though, after a difficult afternoon.

“It was a tough loss,” said Robertson. “It just came down to execution. We didn’t execute on everything we should have. Laval is a good team and you need to have a perfect game to beat them. We just didn’t have a perfect game.”

Quest finished the game 20-of-31 with 237 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Many of Concordia’s yards came when the game was out of reach. Credit has to go to Laval, though, as they have been the perennial powerhouse of Quebec for the last decade.

“That’s a great team,” said McGrath. “I think as our team matures and grows, we’ll be able to compete with them. I know we’ll be better. I know the season just ended, but I already can’t wait for next year.”



Offensive outburst thrusts Stingers into playoffs

On the day when the Stingers needed their A-game the most, it was there. 

Needing a win, or a Bishop’s loss to Laval, Concordia left nothing to chance last Saturday at Molson Stadium, rolling over the McGill Redmen 58-30, and securing themselves a spot in the playoffs. In clinching the game, Concordia also won its ninth-straight Shaughnessy Cup match. The annual football showdown between Concordia and McGill has been taking place since 1969.

The Stingers were given a good fight by the Redmen in the first half, as they led by only three points heading into the second half, but 28 unanswered points in the third quarter sealed it for Concordia.

Concordia is now heading into the RSEQ playoffs as the fourth seed. They’ll travel to Quebec City next week to take on the Laval Rouge et Or.

Laval has already beaten Concordia twice this season, 36-8 and 37-4 in the two meetings. Both games were tough losses where the Stingers failed to score a touchdown in either meetings.

“The first time I think we played them really tough,” said Stingers coach Gerry McGrath. “The second game was our only bad game of the year. We just played terribly up there, and we’ve got a lot of work to do this week to prepare.”

As for the win over McGill, things started quickly for Concordia thanks to strong play on special teams from Kris Robertson.

The halfback has been impressive all season, and after a two-and-out from McGill on the opening drive, Robertson returned a punt 45 yards to the Redmen’s 35.

Raul Thompson scored on the very next play on a 35-yard run for the score. The Stingers and Redmen battled in the first half, with McGill looking to avoid a winless season.

McGill’s Austin Anderson kicked a 43-yard field goal in the final seconds of the half to cut the score to 20-17.

The Redmen had no answer for Concordia in the second half, as the Stingers moved the ball methodically with a short passing game. Concordia started the onslaught with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Sanchez Deschamps. On the next drive, they got the score quickly with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Michael Donnelly who caught the short screen pass and rumbled his way through and around the McGill defence to the end zone.

On McGill’s ensuing drive, linebacker Max Caron intercepted a pass in the red zone to stop the Redmen’s threat. Concordia turned that into more points, as Reid Quest found Kris Bastien for a 40-yard touchdown pass. On the ensuing kickoff, McGill fumbled, giving the Stingers the ball at the McGill 25-yard line. Once again, Concordia capitalized as Quest hit Edem Nyamadi for a five-yard touchdown pass. Quest finished the game with 23 completions on 31 attempts, with 356 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

Caron made history in the second half, by breaking the RSEQ single season record for tackles, finishing the season with 78.5. In addition to that, he got his fifth interception of the season in the fourth quarter, and returned it 96 yards for the score.

Caron’s two interceptions brought his season total to five. He finished the season leading the CIS in tackles, solo tackles (67) and interceptions, making him the hands-on favourite to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.

“I just try to come out strong every week,” said Caron. “I’m blessed to have such a great unit around me. I’m fortunate enough to make the plays I did, but the guys around me have been a tremendous help.”

McGrath agrees that Caron deserves the award, but not just for his numbers. “He’s just had a phenomenal year, but what doesn’t show up on his stat sheet is how great of a leader he is.”

McGill added some points late when the game was out of hand, blocking a punt for a score and a late touchdown pass by Ryne Bondy to Michael Chitayat. Bondy broke the school’s single game record for pass attempts with 65.

Now Concordia will look for the huge upset on the road this Saturday. The odds are stacked against them. Laval may beat Concordia nine times out of 10, but all it takes is one win in football.


Concordia takes on Laval in Quebec City on Nov. 5 at 1 p.m. in the RSEQ semi-finals.


Exit mobile version