Mustangs choke Yeomen's turkey
MAYBE IF I HOLD MY LEG UP LONG ENOUGH I CAN PLAY QUARTERBACK. Mike O'Brien, punter and back-up quarterback, relieved a struggling Oliver Curri in Saturday's game against York and helped lead his club to a Thanksgiving victory over the fourth-ranked Yeomen.
By John Intini
The Western Mustangs got hungry a little early this weekend and kicked the stuffing out of the York Yeomen, thanks in part to the foot of rookie placekicker Jeff Proctor, who booted four field goals in a 27-21 victory over the nation's fourth-ranked club.
Proctor, in his first start of the season, replaced Garrick MacBride, who missed a couple of key field goals in last week's Homecoming contest.
"I don't think Jeff's performance was that big of a surprise," Mustang head coach Larry Haylor said. "I guess you could say it was a pleasant surprise just based on the fact it was such a pressure-packed game.
"It was great to see Jeff get out there and kick so well in a game that we knew would swing to the team with the best kicking."
Proctor, a first-year social science student, admitted there were a few butterflies in his stomach before the game but once he got to kicking they seemed to quickly vanish.
"Obviously I was a bit nervous before the game," Proctor said. "But after my first couple of kicks I was pretty relaxed and felt really comfortable out there."
The Mustangs came into the game at 4-1, tied with the upstart Yeomen for second in the OUA behind undefeated Guelph. Western needed to pick up a win to not only take sole possession of second but to keep pace with the Gryphons who had already won earlier in the week.
"York was a bit better than we expected," Haylor said, "but it seems all of the teams we go up against seem to be really ready and with York in front of a hometown crowd they played us tough."
Going into half-time, the Mustangs were experiencing problems with their quarterback situation, but quickly resolved any worries with a little shake-up. Oliver Curri, who has been the team's field general since the opening day, ran into trouble with the York secondary which was responsible for intercepting a couple of his passes. Haylor felt the first interception was a bit of a tough break since he felt a pass interference call was missed resulting in the Yeoman's first major.
"Oliver played a pretty solid first quarter but unfortunately seemed to be tentative in the second half and we needed a bit of a shake-up," he said.
Replacing Curri in the second half was back-up quarterback and punter Mike O'Brien who to this point has seen limited playing time based on Curri's success. O'Brien quickly stepped up completing his first nine passes and finishing the day 10 of 12 for 144 yards and putting an interesting dish on Haylor's Thanksgiving plate.
"The whole point of bringing Mike in was to change the tempo a bit and when he went out in the second half completing his first nine passes he did just that for us," Haylor said. "The number-one spot is certainly something that will have to be worked out this week regarding both quarterback and placekicker which is only a bonus to the team."
Haylor said in preparing for the game, the team's focus was on a very potent York air attack led by receiver Andre Batson, who was returning this week after a mild concussion he suffered against Guelph. The result was only 99 yards tallied through the air by York quarterback Fabio Brusco, who was only able to compete seven of 20 passes.
"You can't put all the blame on the quarterback," Yeomen head coach Tom Arnott said. "It is a team thing and our team made some mistakes. He wasn't the one who missed a block that put pressure on him or the one that made the hold on his touchdown pass to Batson."
The holding call in the third quarter that quickly ended Batson's celebration in the end zone can be clearly marked as the turning point of the game. Batson himself, also compiled some questionable numbers, collecting 50 yards on only three receptions.
The Mustangs will now prepare for Guelph next weekend a showdown between the top two teams in the country.
Game time in Guelph is 2 p.m. on Saturday.