September 15, 2011
It hasn't been a good week for the McMaster Marauders. They were widely seen as one of the preseason favourites in Ontario and went into last weekend's clash against the Western Mustangs as the third-ranked CIS team in the country (according to the FRC-CIS Top 10), but were obliterated 48-21 by the second-ranked Mustangs. Things have since gotten even worse for them, thanks to Thursday's news that starting quarterback Kyle Quinlan—one of McMaster's top players, a preseason favourite for the Hec Crighton Trophy as CIS MVP and someone who's even been suggested as the next potential Canadian CFL quarterback thanks to his stint at the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' training camp this summer—has been suspended by the team following an incident outside a campus bar that's left him facing multiple assault charges, including assaulting a police officer.
Without Quinlan (seen above in playoff action against Western last November) in the lineup, this weekend's clash on the road against Windsor gets much more difficult. The Marauders are still ranked seventh in the country this week, but the Lancers are ranked 10th after their surprising 41-40 upset of Laurier last weekend. Given their resurgence this year, they wouldn't have looked like an easy road opponent even if McMaster was at full strength. Minus Quinlan, it gets much more difficult.
The only backup quarterback who's thrown even a single pass for the Marauders this year is Marshall Ferguson, who went three-for-five for 30 yards in mop-up duty against Western. He's a second-year player out of Kingston, Ontario's Frontenac Secondary, and he did get some playing time as a backup last season, completing 26 of 41 passes (63.4 per cent) for 259 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions, so he has some experience at the CIS level. That's not exactly a huge sample size, though, and you know McMaster would probably be much more comfortable with their fourth-year veteran quarterback under centre.
It's unclear how long Quinlan's going to be suspended for, but these charges are certainly serious. If he's out for a while, that could significantly hurt McMaster's title aspirations; sure, they weren't able to come close against Western last week despite a reasonably solid performance from Quinlan (21 for 35 for 307 yards, 60 per cent completion rate, two touchdowns and one interception), but the Marauders would seem to be much better off with him than without him.
McMaster's schedule does get easier after this weekend, with a road date against Guelph and then home games against Toronto and Waterloo before their big Oct. 15 road game against Laurier, so it's not likely they're going to fall all the way to the OUA basement even if Quinlan's gone for a while. Still, Quinlan's suspension adds further uncertainty to the Marauders' lineup, and it raises additional questions about if they'll really be able to contend this season. It's rough when you lose a star player despite not playing a game.
This doesn't bode well for Quinlan, either, as any significant stretch of time missed will probably be enough to doom his chances of winning the Hec Crighton, in addition to perhaps throwing off his rhythm if and when he's able to return. The circumstances he's missing time under will certainly raise red flags for some CFL teams as well. These are just charges at the moment, so we'll see how it plays out, but things don't sound good for either Quinlan or McMaster right now.