Volume 91, Issue 11

Tuesday, September 16, 1997



Running away at home

Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
AFTER FOOTBALL SEASON I'M TRYING OUT FOR RIVERDANCE. Mustang running back Craig Higgins was fleet at foot scoring four touchdowns in a 40-17 Western romp on Saturday.

By Alex Chiang
Gazette Staff

On Saturday, Craig Higgins engraved himself into the psyche of the Laurier Golden Hawks' defence as he became a nightmare that they couldn't awake from.

Higgins, a 6'3", 240-pound running back who has remained relatively quiet in his first two years, was a tour-de-force – accounting for four touchdowns in a 40-17 Western victory.

A third-year Mustang, Higgins had accumulated a mere 316 yards in his first two seasons, but on Saturday he gained 156 yards, almost half of his university career yardage in a single game.

"I'd never scored before in the [OUA] so I would've been happy with just one touchdown, let alone four," Higgins said. "The offensive line was terrific, they created huge holes and I just had to run through them."

With Higgins' strong performance in mind, Western's roster has a slew of talented running backs that include Mike Laszlo, Jason McKibbon, Scott Crawley and Fabian Rayne which causes head coach Larry Haylor to face the dilemma of deciding which back to use.

"We've got a number of good people at running back and by using different players, it doesn't allow the defence to sit on any one person" Haylor said. "The more people we use, the more difficult it is to defend us. It's good to have dimension."

Throughout the game, it appeared that Laurier was more worried about Mike Laszlo, who was Western's primary rusher and touchdown leader last season. As a result, they were vulnerable up the middle, the area where Higgins excels.

"Laurier was trying to defend the outside run and our off-tackle game," Haylor said. "But even though we loaded up inside today, I think we still have the capacity to go outside."

The wealth of talent the Mustangs possess at running back are complemented by the team's strong offensive line led by second team OUAA all-star Mike Abou-Mechrek.

"Laurier didn't make the proper adjustment for our trap play, so we just kept running it," he said. "We've got the best offensive line around. Person to person, we have a lot of talent."

Many people expected the young and inexperienced Laurier squad to bow quickly and without much of a fight, but the Hawks proved more resilient than expected and trailed Western by only two points at half-time.

Laurier head coach Rick Zmich felt that his coaching staff had recognized Western's ability to attack from both land and air and had prepared his defence for both. However, he was disappointed in the way his offence struggled in the second half.

"We prepared for the run and the pass and we certainly knew that Western is very good at both," he said. "I think we saw signs of an inexperienced offense in the second half."

Turnovers by Scott Crawley, and quarterback Oliver Curri, were one area that Haylor wants to improve on.

"I was disappointed with the way we gave the ball away," he said. "That's something we were guilty of doing late last year and this year we've made an effort to try to take care of the ball more."

The Mustangs will host the University of Toronto Varsity Blues this Saturday at 2 p.m.

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

Copyright The Gazette 1997