Volume 92, Issue 35

Thursday, November 5, 1998

a little bit louder now


No doubting number one

Make some room in the Thames Hall trophy case, the Vanier Cup is coming home.

It has been four years since the highly coveted grail of Canadian university football has graced the shelf at Thames Hall, but on Nov. 28 things are going to change.

Sure, the road may not be paved with gold. The Mustangs are four wins away, with some formidable competion standing in the way of a national title. Not to worry Western fans, the hard part is over. The Mustang's toughest opponent has been themselves this year and with scandals and hit-and-runs behind them, the team can put complete focus on football. The rest of the league should be warned.

McMaster has played Western tough this year, but the club is too green when it comes to playoff experience. Maurauder head coach Greg Marshall has done a great job with the program, but sometimes nice guys do finish last.

As for Waterloo, they got the message loud and clear at Homecoming and a return to J.W. Little Stadium in two weeks time will only bring back memories of the haunting 44-20 drubbing they received in early October.

If Laurier is lucky enough to squeak by the Warriors, Western will clearly show them they are the weakest of the four Ontario University Athletics playoff teams.

When looking to the west or east, the unknown plays a factor, but no team has the balanced attack the Mustangs possess.

The Stangs have been labelled the CIAU bad boys for their off-field activities, but it is the club's ability to look adversity in the eyes and then run over it which makes the dream of a Vanier championship so vivid.

As pressure increased from outside sources, head coach Larry Haylor and his band of Mustangs stuck together like crazy glue. Their perfect 8-0 regular season record and top Canadian ranking proved to all critics the CIAU's version of the 1970s Philadelphia Flyers was the toughest club in the business. The Western Mustangs are both chin and jock straps above the rest of the league .

Nothing can beat a good running game in the cold weather. When the temperature starts to dip and the cold north winds swirl in J.W. Little Stadium, Mike O'Brien will be able to turn to a ground game.

Led by Fabian Rayne and his 15 regular season touchdowns, Scott Crawley and his 1,000 yard season and Craig Higgins in short yardage situations, the running game is unstoppable. Mix in O'Brien and his solid receiving corps and the Western Mustangs complete the most balanced offensive attack in the country.

It can be argued the playoffs are a brand new season and Western has to prove themselves, which is true. However, it is also important to remember this club is the same team which played last week and the seven preceding that. The Mustangs are for real.

Being the top ranked club in the nation will just add pressure to their opponents, because they are the better team and everybody knows it. All Western has to do is take their game to the park each Saturday.

In an interview last week, Higgins said the key to the club's success is the team concept, there is no real superstar which other teams can key in on. That's the beauty of it. When one gets cold, there are four or five in waiting. Nobody else has that luxury.

The stampede begins on Saturday.

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

Copyright The Gazette 1998