Volume 92, Issue 45
Tuesday, November 24, 1998
sweet as it comes
Western must learn from mistakes
The Western Mustangs will not be returning to the Vanier Cup. At least not this season.
After dominating Ontario teams for two and a half months, the Mustangs met their maker in Saskatoon. It took only three hours for the team to discover they are not the top team in the country, no matter what the national polls have said all season.
In a complex game of football, the reasoning for the upset became visibly apparent as the game wore on. The style of play in the Western Canadian conference is more balanced and thus much more dangerous.
At times during the game against Western, Saskatchewan had five receivers lined up near the line of scrimmage ready to pull down a pass. Their quarterback, Ryan Reid, has been groomed to find his open receivers and that is exactly what he did all day long.
Other times, the Huskies used their great running game. Doug Rozon is the all-time leading rusher at Saskatchewan and had no problem picking up the slack when Western concentrated their defence on the arm of Reid. In such an important game, no team can allow an individual to run nearly 200 yards in the first half alone and still expect to come out the victors.
The Huskies simply had too many weapons to turn to. Western was certainly unprepared for it no matter what the coaches tried to spin to the media at the end of the game.
Ironically, this is not the first time Western has been caught scrambling to adjust in mid-game. The Ontario semifinal tilt between McMaster and the 'Stangs nearly proved disastrous when Mac presented an even platter of pass and run.
Nor will this be the last time Western will fall victim to a more professional approach and find their Vanier Cup hopes dashed before they even have a chance to take one step on the SkyDome's artificial turf. That is unless head coach Larry Haylor and the rest of the coaches adapt with the changing times and combat a winning offensive strategy with their own.
At present, Western is a one-dimensional running team. Running back Scott Crawley and fullback Fabian Rayne provided most of the fireworks all season.
This approach is no longer acceptable. The West has taken the lead and Mac is the first in Ontario to convert over. Now Western must do the same.
The timing for such a move may be perfect. Quarterback Mike O'Brien has a precision cannon for an arm and throughout this season has matured into his position.
Adding more work for receivers, such as Dan Disley and Raymond Krumme, to Western's traditional running game will create a more potent and dangerous offensive attack and a more probable return to the national championships.
History does not lie on this approach. Since Western drank from the Vanier Cup in 1994, every champion has been from the Canada West division Calgary in 1995, Saskatchewan in 1996 and British Columbia in 1997. All of these teams have one thing in common a balanced attack.
It is hard to look forward to next season with the wounds of Saturday still open and painful, but it is necessary. Both the coaches and players must learn from their weaknesses to excel next season. What Haylor has to do is evolve his system to match up against the increasing number of teams turning to a balanced offensive system.
When such a move is made, maybe then the Mustangs will once again reign as the undisputed champions of Canadian varsity football.
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