It was only fitting that the two greatest quarterbacks in Canadian university football history would meet for the last time in a championship game. It was also fitting that Michael Faulds and Dan Brannagan led their respective offenses in what was a shootout on the football field. In the end, it was Faulds’ team and left knee that came up short in a two minute comeback attempt as the Queen’s Gaels won their first Yates Cup championship in 31 years.
The game started well for the Mustangs. After Darryl Wheeler missed a 15-yard field goal, Queen’s was called for roughing the kicker which gave Western a fresh set of downs. They took advantage on the fresh lease on life when John Leckie ran in from one yard out for the major. Less than two minutes later, the Gaels tied it up when Danny Brannagan hit Devan Sheahan over the top with a big 67-yard passing play for the score.
The second quarter started with a Western scoring play. The first play of the second frame was a 29-yard Wheeler field goal. The Gaels answered back with seven of their own. Brannagan made the big toss to Chris Ioannides for the major. While the play may have gained 22 yards in the stats column, the ball was in the air for about 40 as Ioannides was tucked away on his own in the back of the endzone. Past the mid-point of the quarter, the Mustangs capped off an 83 yard scoring drive with Leckie’s second 1-yard TD run of the game to take the lead back. However, on their next possession, Faulds was picked off and Queen’s made him pay. On the first play of their drive, Brannagan found Sheahan from 18 yards out for their second scoring hook-up of the day. The Mustangs managed their own turnover late in the half off a Mike Spence fumble recovery but that went for naught when Faulds was sacked in the endzone for a safety. A Dan Village field goal close the first half. After the first 30 minutes, it was 26-17 for the home town Gaels.
The second half got off to a quick start for Western. A 72-yard march down field in three minutes was capped when John Leckie ran in his third major of the game from one yard out. The Gaels were able to score on their next drive but it was only a field goal off the foot of Dan Village. Western took a little over a minute to notch their next score. Faulds found Jesse Bellamy for a 59-yard TD strike but Wheeler missed the extra point attempt giving the Mustangs a 30-29 lead. But like so many other times during the game, Queen’s answered right back. A two-play, 96 yard drive was capped off by a 57-yard pass from Brannagan to Scott Valberg. The ‘Stangs got the last word on the quarter with a 14-yard field goal from Wheeler to cut the Queen’s lead to 36-33 heading into the final fifteen.
After Dan Village rattled the uprights from 44 yards out, Darryl Wheeler split the posts from 19 yards to tie the game at the mid-point of the final frame. A fourth Wheeler field goal, this one from the nine-yard line, gave Western again by three points. In response, Brannagan led an efficient six play drive that was capped off by a 16-yard toss to Valberg with three minutes to go.
The teams would trade two and outs before Western went on it’s last gasp for victory. From his own 25 yard line, Faulds led the Mustangs down field on a series of big passes. However, in the final minute, Faulds went down as he threw as pass down the sidelines. Faulds’ left knee was barely holding together over the last four weeks and it picked the worst time to pack it in on him. Donnie Marshall went in for the injured Faulds and kept the drive going. Faulds trying hobbling on the field a few times but just couldn’t do it. After begging Coach Greg Marshall to be let back in the game, he came in on 3rd and 20 from the Queen’s 32 yard line with 0:18 left on the clock. Faulds hopped back, stepped out of the way of a Queen’s defender and lobbed the ball downfield. In a moment that broke hearts worldwide, Faulds’ pass fell between Zach Bull and Mike Hegarty which handed the win to the Queen’s Gaels.
For his efforts, Dan Brannagan was named the MVP of the game. He was 27/47 for 515 yards and 5 TDs.
The Yates Cup win was the 23rd for Queen’s in the 102 years that the oldest trophy in North American football has been played for. It was also the first win for Queen’s since 1978 ending their 31 year draft.
While Brannagan and Queen’s may have been the winners of the big game, everyone, Gaels fan, Mustangs fan, or otherwise, was impressed by Mike Faulds. Faulds earned the respect of everyone in attendance and watching at home when he hobbled on to the field for one last throw. In one of the most incredible football games ever played, the sight of Faulds limping on to the field for the final play of his career will be the lasting image that everyone takes away from the 102nd Yates Cup. Kudos for that last play and the last five years, Mike. Kudos and kudos again.