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Volume 91, Issue 35

Friday, October 31, 1997

flesh and bones


SPORTS
 

Taking care of the football key to avoiding another upset


©TomBaumgartner/Gazette
SOMEBODY'S GONNA' GO DOWN. Guelph quarterback Nathan Body gets rid of the ball before Mustang defensive lineman Graham Ebert [39] can get close enough to make him eat turf.


By Alex Chiang
Gazette Staff

Cutting down on turnovers should be the key for the Mustang pig-skinners this weekend if they hope to take one step further in fulfilling their playoff aspirations of winning a Vanier Cup championship.

Both last week's 35-35 tie versus McMaster and the 20-13 Homecoming loss to Waterloo were characterized by Western's inability to hold on to the ball, which was costly in both games.

"We work really hard on ball carriage but in a game of collision, a guy will get hit hard sometimes and the ball will go free," Mustang head coach Larry Haylor said. "All we can do is deal with the mechanics and make sure the mental focus is there."

Last season, the Gryphons upset the Mustangs in the first round of the playoffs by a score of 18-9. That day, Jordan Haylor threw four interceptions in his final appearance as Western's quarterback. The miscues hurt dearly and Guelph would go on to win the Yates Cup before falling to the eventual Vanier Cup champion Saskatchewan Huskies in the CIAU semifinals.

The question is whether the Mustangs have learned from their past mistakes and can avoid a repeat of last season's early post-season exit.

"On a good day we can play with anyone in the conference and in the country," Haylor said. "Now it's a sudden-death format which brings added stress to the game. If we play well we can go all the way."

Haylor also commented that Guelph is as talented as Waterloo or York, so he holds no preference as to which team he'd rather be playing tomorrow.

"Of the top four teams in the division, there's not a good pick and no one can't play well and win," Haylor said. "Guelph plays tremendous offence and defence, but they've thrown some interceptions and had some fumbles which have hurt them."

Gryphon coach Dan McNally said he and his coaching staff have not shaken things up at the Guelph camp and are just looking to execute their offensive and defensive schemes.

"We have to gain some positive yardage on first down so that we don't put ourselves in situations where their [defensive] ends can't tee off on our quarterback," McNally said. "Defensively, we have to shut down their run on first down."

A big reason for Western's regular season win over Guelph was because the defence put constant pressure on first-team OUA all-star quarterback Nathan Body. Body had a stellar regular season with a 52.4 passing percentage while racking up 1758 total yards.

"Nathan's struggled a little bit lately but it's only because the whole offence has had sub-par performances," said Wally Gabler, who was ironically the Gryphon pivot in last year's playoff game versus Western and is now Guelph's quarterback coach. "It's typical to the position. When you're winning you get too much credit, but when you lose you get too much of the blame."

The mid-season shuffle at quarterback for the Mustangs hasn't left Haylor hesitant about who will begin the playoffs. "Mike O'Brien will start Saturday," he said. "Whether that will change is unlikely but the coaching staff does hold that right."

Guelph will enter Saturday's game with a completely healthy roster, while Western's is in fairly good shape. Defensive back Todd MacKay, who dislocated his shoulder in the 34-8 trouncing of the then-No.1 Gryphons two weeks ago, is expected to play. Bernie Tessier, who is nursing a collarbone and shoulder injury, is listed as questionable, as is Graham Ebert who has a sore neck.

Tomorrow's kick-off is 1 p.m. at J.W. Little Stadium.


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

Copyright © The Gazette 1997