Burlington’s Brannagan leading the Gaels in OUA

Top spot in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) football is up for grabs Saturday (Sept.27) as the No. 2-ranked Western Mustangs (4-0) visit the No. 4- ranked Queen’s Gaels (4-0) live on University Rush on The Score.

The first half of the 2008 season mimics last year for Queen’s with a 4-0 start. That streak ended at four as they
dropped one to Laurier 23-4 in the fifth game of 2007. Laurier proved to be no threat this year as the Gaels blew past the Hawks 41-7. Queen’s also boasts a 35-11 win over McMaster and a 41-30 defeat of Guelph. Queen’s also rolled to a 58-14 win over the Toronto Varsity Blues last Saturday in Toronto.

Dan Brannagan (Burlington) threw for 241 yards, completing 13 of 22. With the three touchdown completions, Brannagan now sits second in the nation with 11, one behind Joshua Sacobie (Fredericton, N.B.) from the Ottawa Gee-Gees, and one ahead of Western’s Michael Faulds (Eden Mills, Ont).

Mike Giffin (Kingston) broke the 200-yard rushing barrier for the second time this season posting a career-high 215 yards while recording three touchdowns. With it, he extended his consecutive game rushing streak of 100 yards or more to 14 regular season games. It marks only the second time Giffin has pushed over the 200-yard mark in his four-year career.

Scott Valberg (Kingston) hauled in two stellar passes from Brannagan, bringing both into the end zone. Tim Poffley (Kingston) added the last touchdown of the game off a catch from second-year backup Jansen Shrubb (Toronto).

Defensively, David Rooney (Kingston) had seven tackles, while Joshua Sultana (Etobicoke) and Thaine Carter (Nanaimo, B.C.) added six apiece.

The last time Western began a season with four straight wins was 2005. The Mustangs went 5-0, falling to Laurier 32-17 in the sixth game. This year Western has snuck by Ottawa 35-31, took Laurier 31-20, left Waterloo in the dust 49-3, and most recently shut out York 71-0.

As Western head coach, and former McMaster heach, Greg Marshall banked his 50th CIS/CIAU regular season career win, the Mustangs proved they mean business.

Western was led on offence by quarterback Faulds, who completed 26 of 35 passes for 370 yards. He got the Mustangs off to a great start in the first quarter by throwing two touchdowns, one to John Leckie (Georgetown) and the other to Nick Pasic (London). Running back Leckie rushed for another.

In the second quarter, Faulds threw a pair of touchdown passes to Pasic and York conceded a safety to give the Mustangs a huge 37-0 lead at the half.

The second half played out in similar fashion as the Mustangs continued to push back the Lions. York conceded two safeties, and Pasic and Leckie each added another touchdown in the third quarter. Eric Wilson (LaSalle, Ont.) added a rushing touchdown to start the fourth, and York conceded a safety.

The Mustangs shone defensively as Corey Watson (London, Ont.) picked off an errant York pass with less than a minute left in the game and returned it 48 yards for the score. Andrew Bain (Sarnia, Ont.) had four tackles and one sack while another four tackles were contributed by Corey McNair (London, Ont.).

“Certainly this will be a good test, because we’re going to have to defend both the pass and the run,” said Marshall about facing Queen’s.

Since 2001, Queen’s has a record of 4-2 over Western. When they met last year in the first week of the season the Gaels soared by Western 26-20 in overtime. When the two teams met again in the OUA Quarter-Final, Western took the decision 27-19, ending the season for Queen’s. The Mustangs overcame a 0-4 start to capture their first Yates Cup title since 1998.

Both teams were victorious the last time they played on University Rush, but only one team can walk away from this weekend undefeated. Join play-by-play announcer Tim Micallef, new analyst and former CFL great Mike Morreale and sideline reporter D.J Bennett this Saturday, Sept. 27 to see who will sit all alone on top of the OUA standings. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.