They say good things come to those who wait. But fortunately for OUA football fans, it was a short wait to see a rematch of the 2013 Yates Cup when Queen's and Western renew one of the best rivalries in Canadian university sports in this week's OUA.tv Marquee Matchup.
The two teams carry very different vibes heading into Week 3, though both will be focused on picking up a crucial win early in the season.
The Queen's Gaels gave up 21 unanswered fourth quarter points in Week 2 at home against the Ottawa Gee-Gees, as they watched a 14-point lead with 10 minutes left turn into a heart-breaking 37-30 loss. Salt was rubbed in the wounds on Tuesday when the Gaels, previously ranked ninth in CIS, were dropped from the top-10 rankings in place of the Gee-Gees.
The Gaels misfortunes continued later in the week when it was announced on Wednesday that they would have to forfeit a Week 1 win against Windsor due to the use of an ineligible player.
"Certainly the events of the past couple days weren't the most welcomed, but we had a really good night of practice yesterday, and we've been supporting our teammate and making sure he knows he's still welcome and very much a part of what we're trying to do here," said Queen's head coach Pat Sheahan.
Now sitting at 0-2, Queen's could not have asked for a tougher opponent as it attempts to refocus and get back in the OUA playoff race.
"There's a pretty formidable foe rolling in here in about 48 hours, so we need to be physically, emotionally and psychologically ready to stand up to them. I expect by Friday it will be all about the football game and not about the events of this week," said Sheahan.
The Mustangs are ranked number three in CIS and opened their season with a 61-0 road win against the York Lions. Western also dominated Queen's in the teams' two meetings last season, beating the Gaels 50-31 in the regular season and followed up winning the Yates Cup in similar fashion 51-22. The win helped avenge Western's 2009 Yates Cup loss to Queen's – the year the Gaels won the Vanier Cup.
A key difference this year, however, is the game will be played at Richardson Stadium in Kingston on a natural grass field; both of Western's wins last year came at home, and Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall knows his team will need to make a slight adjustment.
"It's the only stadium left in OUA that has natural grass so it's not an easy transition, and we're going to have to prepare for that," said Marshall. "We've been practicing part of the week on a grass field just to ensure we get our footing down and have the proper footwear so that isn't an issue this weekend."
Despite being picked by many to repeat as Yates Cup champs, Coach Marshall knows that teams build confidence by winning, not reading preseason forecasts.
"If we are going to reach our potential, we have to improve with every practice and every game. What people say and project about your team doesn't really impact the team; what's important and what helps our team is building our own confidence and playing well," he said.
The matchup also features two of the best quarterbacks in OUA. Western's Will Finch picked up where he left off last season, throwing for 253 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions on 21/25 of passing against York.
Queen's fifth-year pivot Billy McPhee continues to lead a revamped offence, throwing for 577 yards, five touchdowns, and one interception is his team's first two games.
The history and tradition between these two schools is immense, and any time they meet carries significant weight, so make sure you tune in to OUA.tv this Saturday at 1 p.m. for the Week 3 Marquee Matchup, as well as all the other action from around OUA! The game also airs locally on TVCogeco Kingston and CFRC 101.9 FM.
Marquee Matchup By the Numbers
53 – The combined Yates Cups championships won by the two schools. Western is trying to defend the title this year, while Queen's most recently captured the throne in 2009 en route to winning a national championship.
8-5 – Queen's record against Western in regular season games since rejoining OUA in 2000.
2-2 – The teams' record in their four playoff meetings since 2000, including the 2013 Yates Cup (won by Western) and the 2009 Yates Cup (Queen's).
10.6 – Yards per carry by Mustangs running back Garret Sandivo in the team's season opening win against York. Sandivo missed significant time in 2013 after leading the country in rushing in 2012. Queen's will have to find a way to limit Sandivo's productivity if it hopes to upset Western.
288 - Yards per game passing by Queen's quarterback Billy McPhee through his first two games in 2014. He currently ranks third in OUA behind Ottawa's Derek Wendel and Windsor's Austin Kennedy.