Volume 91, Issue 33

Tuesday, October 28, 1997




A Sweet smell

He may not have won Saturday's battle with Western, but Mustang-turned-Marauder football coach Greg Marshall brought something much bigger back to Hamilton – a football program.

Entering McMaster's dressing room after they tied the top-ranked team in the country seemed more like Mac had just won a national championship rather than finished their season with a dismal 2-5-1 record. But the cheers weren't for the game – a sloppy turnover-ridden, mistake-filled shoot-out – instead, they were for a much-improved McMaster season and, most of all, they were for the coach who made it happen.

Players in the room who had been through campaigns like last year, in which Mac went 0-8, giving up 218 points while scoring only 35, spent their last moments in a Marauder uniform finally knowing what it felt like to believe in their program.

Last year McMaster thought the solution would be to hire someone with experience – something ex-Hamilton Ti-Cat coach Al Bruno had plenty of. But as the veteran Bruno would find out, inspiring university football players is about more than just having a good reputation.

Marshall and McMaster are a match made in heaven. The organization needed a motivating coach – someone with a positive outlook, patience and most importantly, a drive to win. Marshall, a big man with an omnipresent glow of confidence, seems to fit perfectly behind the wheel of Mac's bus.

The 35-35 draw on Saturday was the result of three important factors: Marshall, a Mustang for 12 years, knew as much about Western as any opposing coach possibly could; and secondly, the Mustangs didn't execute very well. But what really made the difference was something nobody has seen from a McMaster team in a long time – confidence. A never-say-die attitude they inherited from Marshall's coaching system helped them defeat Windsor with only nine seconds remaining, and it nearly gave them a stunning upset over Western.

"Past coaches always told us they thought we could win," departing defensive end Manoj Mehta said. "Coach Marshall told us he knew we could win."

And as the veteran packed away his equipment for the final time, it was easy to sense his fulfillment of McMaster's closing performance. The sacrifice of five seasons had been climaxed by a spirited comeback, leaving Mehta extremely happy for Marshall and the direction of his team.

"All the years I've been here, I think coach Marshall is the one who has turned this program 180 degrees. He has changed the whole attitude of the team," Mehta said.

Marshall said he doesn't expect the team to win every game, he only expects his players to go hard and do their best – words are music to McMaster's ears around recruiting time. Amidst congratulatory hugs and handshakes from his old team, Marshall still looked at the tie from a rebuilding point-of-view: "It takes time to build, but we're getting better each game. This game was good for our program and will help attract more players from high school."

For Marshall, completing the job of rebuilding will revolve around quarterback Ben Chapdelain – maybe the happiest rookie in the CIAU. At only 19 and full of talent, the Montreal native was immediately given the starting job. And as he and his team grow under the positive teachings of their equally-enthusiastic head coach, it is only a matter of time before McMaster is a contender – finally bringing a sweet smell (of victory) to Hamilton.

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

Copyright The Gazette 1997