It's now or never for Waterloo
By Alex Chiang
Tomorrow's football game between Western and Waterloo may have lost some of its luster with the preseason favourite Warriors dropping their last two games, but nonetheless, there will be enough talent on the field to produce a gridiron classic.
Waterloo started the season as the nation's number-one ranked collegiate team and showed they were worthy of the top honour in their first two games beating Laurier 24-1 and Windsor 36-15.
Everything seemed to be place for the black and gold, until the third week of the season when York paid them a visit.
The Yeomen, led by the efforts of all-star receiver Andre Batson, upset the Warriors 28-24 at University Stadium. The loss cost Waterloo the nation's top spot, as the team fell to third behind Ottawa and Western.
The bigger shock came last week, when the Warriors continued their poor play against the previously winless University of Toronto Varisty Blues, losing to Toronto 21-15.
Now the Warriors find themselves at a mediocre 2-2 record, fourth in the Ontario University Athletics division and ranked eighth in the national standings.
"We're just trying to hang on right now," Warrior head coach Dave "Tuffy" Knight said. "If I knew what was wrong, I would tell you."
If anyone can get a team out of a downward spiral Knight will. Knight is the all-time winningest Canadian university coach with a 149-79-6 record.
One player performing consistently for Knight has been OUA all-star running back Jarrett Smith, who leads the division in rushing yards with 656, including four touchdowns. Smith has run for at least 100 yards each game and thus, it's no secret the Warriors' forte is placing the ball in their running back's hands.
"I think the best thing to do against their run would be to use an eight-man front, but our defence is flexible and will give them different looks," Mustang head coach Larry Haylor said.
On paper though, Waterloo's passing game falls well short of their ground game, with a pass completion rate of only 37.8 per cent.
The Mustangs have also had their fair share of problems as they struggled offensively last week against Windsor in a narrow 23-22 win.
"We have to be more physical, aggressive and consistent," Haylor said. "Last week we failed to get into any offensive rhythm and although our defence played well, because of our inability to sustain any offence, the defence tired down."
Mustang quarterback Oliver Curri has not thrown the ball often, but has six touchdown tosses for 575 yards and a completion rate of 53.9 per cent.
To Curri's chagrin, his favourite target receiver, Dan Disley, will miss Saturday's game due to a knee injury sustained against Windsor. Disley is currently second in the province in receiving yards with 263 and four touchdowns.
Overcoming Waterloo's tough defence will be difficult without Disley, but the return of Western's other receiving threat, Ryan Hazzard, should help.
"Waterloo's defence is tough and has been for years," Haylor said. "Our success will hinge on our ability to balance the run and pass and be consistent with them.
The last time these two teams met was in the fifth week of last season when the Warriors beat Western 6-1 for the first time in 26 years.
"They outplayed us last year. Vengeance is only a short-term adrenaline rush. They'll have a sense of confidence because of last year and we'll have to present a counter measure for that."
With Waterloo's season potentially on the line, the Warriors should be expected to play the Mustangs with added incentives.
"Someone told me they were a wounded bear," Haylor said. "If they lose Saturday, they'll be putting not only their ranking in peril, but their playoff spot as well."
The Homecoming game kicks off 2 p.m. tomorrow at J.W. Little Stadium.