Volume 91, Issue 21

Thursday, October 2, 1997



The Edge: Chicken Curri

Sleeping has been pretty good in Western-land so far. But look out Mustangs, Freddy and Chuckie are here.

The sting of last year's painful 6-1 set-back to Waterloo is still a fresh wound for most Mustang fans. Going into the game last year, Western was at the top of the division and undefeated at 4-0 – the same record the team has heading into this year's Homecoming clash. Yet there are more parallels that can be drawn.

Team morale was at an all-time high last year in support of their quarterback Jordan Haylor, similar to that for current starter Oliver Curri. The defence was one of the top in the nation with Derek Krete and Patrice Denis leading the way and with Krete back this year, the defence is still one of the strongest in the country.

Many people may remember, however, execution was the missing factor causing the loss to Waterloo. Unfortunately, as the last couple of games have shown, consistent offensive execution – most notably from the passing game – has been missing in the Mustang repertoire this year. The current undefeated record is certainly not indicative that Western is unbeatable, considering the lack of talent of their opponents so far. And if the narrow 23-22 win over a dismal Windsor squad this past weekend is any indication of the team's ability, the Mustang faithful better tighten their saddles for what could quickly turn into a .500 season.

Western's key to winning has been on the strength of the running game, led by running backs Mike Laszlo and Craig Higgins. Unfortunately, as the Mustangs are about to find out, the ground game is not going to be as successful over the next few weeks. Gone are the Saturday afternoons of 150 yards and four touchdowns for Western backs, who have been getting the call on about 75 per cent of the offensive selections this year. Instead, Curri will have to take to the air, something he has not had to worry about yet this year due to the success of the run. Curri's passing ability has yet to be seen since head coach Larry Haylor has completely controlled his puppet quarterback, pulling all the strings from the sideline and not letting Curri have any reign on the offence.

In the game against Windsor last weekend, Curri showed that under a little pressure, he, like the younger Haylor, will likely choke – completing only eight of 20 passes against a weak secondary. Unless Curri can improve Western's passing game, which compliments the run, the better secondaries will eat his passes like a pack of starving wolves.

Although they've lost their last two games, Waterloo is still a formidable force. Experience is the key to the Warriors club and the team will not only be playing with anger over consecutive losses to first Guelph and then to a weak Toronto, but be looking to re-visit last year's upset. After Homecoming, the Mustangs will have to contend with two currently undefeated clubs (York and Guelph) and McMaster.

The game on Saturday will be Oliver Curri's first real test. With a big crowd and a tough opponent, Curri will have to step up his pass game in order to show Mustang fans and coaching that he deserves to be number one. In all fairness, Western has been blessed over the years with brilliant quarterbacks, including Jamie Bone or more recently, Warren Goldie and it is not fair to compare Curri to the best. However, so far this season he has yet to prove he is a confident passer. All the Mustangs need to get them to the Vanier Cup is an average arm and Curri will learn as quickly as the young Haylor did last season – CIAU football is not as easy as the early-season blow-outs might make it appear. Pleasant dreams Mr. Curri.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997