Volume 92, Issue 45

Tuesday, November 24, 1998

sweet as it comes


Mustangs' Vanier dreams end

©Dipesh Mistry/Gazette

THE END OF THE ROAD. Above, Scott Crawley [24] failed to hold onto the ball. Meanwhile, Doug Rozon [23, below left] ran circles around the Western defence leaving them stunned, including defensive lineman Andy Dobaczewski [56, below right].

By Ian Ross

Gazette Staff

SASKATOON – Talent will put points on the board but it's strategy which wins football games.

On a mild Saturday afternoon in Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Huskies made that perfectly clear, upsetting Western by a 33-17 tally at the CIAU semifinal Churchill Bowl this past weekend.

By game's end, the Mustangs were left only with stunned looks on their faces and a few tears in their eyes as a result of the sudden end to their undefeated season.

"It really was quite a chess match over the course of the game," said Western defensive co-ordinator Bob LaRose. "Particularly with a well coached team [and] in how they dealt with things. It was really punch and counter punch."

The Saskatchewan gameplan was simple and successful. The Mustangs expected the pass to start the game, so the Huskies went to the run. As a result the game's most valuable player, running back Doug Rozon, sprinted with little trouble for 196 yards in the first half. To make matters worse for the Mustangs, when they adjusted their defence to the run, the Huskies moved to the pass.

Rozon, the all-time leading rusher at Saskatchewan, explained how Western Canadian varsity football teams have traditionally developed much more balanced offensive schemes, which created a glaring problem for the Mustangs.

"When Reid can throw the ball, it opens up our running game. When we run, it opens up our throwing game. It just makes life a lot easier," he said.

Struggling to adapt to an effective defence, the Ontario champions also failed to find a niche on the offence. The Huskies presented the first defensive line that Western's men in the trenches could not contain. Centre Aaron Sussex, a freshman when the two teams last met in the Vanier Cup in 1994, was shocked by the challenge that his linemates faced on every play.

"I thought their linebackers on defence were very athletic and quick. All the credit to them – they beat us," he said, still fighting back the tears. The loss marked the last game for the fifth-year centre.

Unable to create holes for the running backs, Western's trademark ground attack was stifled. Running back Scott Crawley had only 16 yards on seven carries, while fullback Fabian Rayne rumbled for 151 yards, most of those coming on two carries.

"The coaches have been telling us all week that their defence is experienced," said Western quarterback Mike O'Brien. "Five of them are in fifth year. They played against Western before and lost so I think a little of this was revenge."

To compensate, O'Brien was forced to go to the air more often than he has the entire season, making 12 of 22 passes for 195 yards. Head coach Larry Haylor had only compliments for his young quarterback, but Huskie offensive tackle Kevin Lefsrud pointed out the fatal flaw in the passing plan.

"When you force a team to pass that hasn't passed all season, it slows down your offence," he said.

The Mustangs struggled to outmaneuver their opponent, but still managed to pull off several key defensive plays which kept the game close until late in the fourth quarter. Yet their patented come-from-behind victory was not to be, as the final nail in the coffin came with less than two minutes remaining in the game. This was when Huskie defensive halfback Kurtis Albus recovered a fumble by Jim Meldrum. Saskatchewan then capitalized on the mistake by driving their offence down the field and scoring on a one yard run by Jaret Rennie.

"I think they are a little bit better than us. That's the simple answer to the game," offered Haylor, as his reasoning for the upset.

With the victory, the Huskies will move on to the national championship Vanier Cup game on Saturday at the SkyDome in Toronto. They will face the Concordia Stingers who defeated the Acadia Axeman 25-24 on a last-minute field goal by all-Canadian kicker Dave Miller-Johnson. Kick-off in Toronto is scheduled for 1 p.m..

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

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