Shown in this file photo, Bradley Daye, who was turned down by every university football team in the region except Mount Allison, was recently named one of the nation’s top cornerbacks.
While it may have been merely a "nothing" game, few people enjoy losing even a pre-season exhibition contest but this is exactly what happened on Saturday in Halifax when the Mounties dropped a 32-5 matchup to the St. Mary's Huskies.
Keeping proper statistics and following the play became difficult due to the fact each team dressed everybody but the water boy. This, in effect, was to provide the coaches with an opportunity to assess their talent, especially the many newcomers. But with this number coming in and out, there was often a sense of confusion, especially on offense, and the Mounties never did get any consistent attack underway. At times there was a lack of imagination but it is difficult to run highly intricate plays with many players having limited understanding of the playbook.
The Huskies took advantage of a lack of offense by the visitors, which left them in precarious field position time and again to roll up a 12-0 bulge in the opening quarter.
The Mounties showed some spark in the second session as they kicked a field goal and forced the winners to give up a safety, but the Huskies added 10 of their own and another 10 in the final chapter to a pair by the Mounties while the teams failed to notch even a single point in the third quarter.
It proved to be a fairly good day for the winners as they now know they have two quality quarterbacks, something they lacked a season ago. Bob Rossong, a Halifax boy recently transferred from MacMaster, showed plenty of skills, while Jack Creighton returned from a spinal fracture to demonstrate he still has the tools to get the job done. They also trotted out a pair of power running backs who tore through the tough Mounties’ line for good gains.
On the other side, coach Kelly Jeffrey used his proven performers to limited playing time.
Rookie Dakota Brush was one of the top newcomers as he had 54 yards receiving, but some of the other highly-touted rookies were kept in reserve.
Veteran Nick Lauder led the ground game with 69 yards, while All-Conference Jordan Botel saw limited action to account for 31. Meanwhile the multi-talented Donovan Saunders – an All-Conference selection as both corner and punt returner – added another dimension when he came in to kick a 23-yard field goal, seemingly the heir-apparent to the position.
As usual, defensive linemen Jacob LeBlanc and Quinn Everett received plaudits for their efforts but, generally, there was little opportunity for the fine returnees to put on a show for the surprisingly large turnout of fans.
Statistically, the Huskies reeled off 440 yards of offense to 199 by the Mounties and led in most categories, including penalties as they were hit with 19 for 172 yards to 89 for the losers. Each team had a pair of picks and each lost a fumble, but the Mounties came up with five big sacks to make things interesting.
Safety Kwame Adjei led the Mounties with 5.5 tackles, while a rookie back had five.
"Saint Mary's looked good," said Jeffrey. "I thought they were sharp. I was happy with our special teams but I would have liked to have a little more rhythm from our number one offense. Our defense bent a little but never did break."
With a few more days of practice this week the team hopes to be fit and ready to launch its drive in the Atlantic Universities Football Conference (AUFC) when they visit the St. Francis Xavier X-Men for an unusual Saturday night affair, slated to kickoff at 7 o'clock under the lights. The two teams have enjoyed some memorable battles and this year is expected to be little different.
Last week the X-Men put up a valiant struggle in a 19-15 loss to highly-favoured Acadia Axemen.
It's expected some fresh new faces will be unveiled as the Mounties have rebuilt its receiving corps and this was highlighted as Dakota Brush was the prime recipient of a few tosses. He is expected to team up with another newcomer who has had two years of junior experience with Calgary.
Jeffrey was reasonably comfortable with the play of his defensive unit as they refused to give up any huge plays and showed up as the strength of the team. Even though reports out of the camp indicated the offense would be a well-oiled machine this season, it failed to demonstrate much, continuing to stick with formations and plays well scouted and known by opposing camps.
The late Gus MacFarlane enjoyed periods of great success as coach in the 1950s and ’60s and much of this was due to his ability to introduce new wrinkles to the game – like spreading the field, direct snaps, fake punts, on-side kicks – the type of moves designed to keep the opposition honest and on their heels, having little idea of what would come next. In recent years the Mounties have become predictable, discarding any trick plays in favour of playing it "straight up”.
Perhaps the time has come to provide long suffering fans with a few fancy moves, adding some spice as well as a few Ws.