Volume 94, Issue 40
Thursday, November 9, 2000
What you saw isn't what you got
Fairy tale endings don't aren't made of moments like these.
A sound beating at the hands of Laurier, filled with penalties caused by frustration and disappointment. Even guarded accusations of phone-tapping were thrown into the mix.
All of these things combining to make the Western Mustangs look like a bunch of losers, in every sense of the word.
But nothing can be further from the truth.
In reality, the 2000 edition of the University of Western Ontario's football team were for the most hardworking team, with discipline and an empty bag of excuses.
Twenty-five years of coaching shined through as Larry Haylor handled the team with his consistency, professionalism and plain togetherness. Despite all the ridicule the team received because of two squeezed out wins throughout the season, losses that should have been wins and accusations of being a two-trick pony because of it reliance on Mike O'Brien and Fabian Rayne, Haylor handled it.
One might look at O'Brien, Rayne and the athletically gifted linebacker Darryl Fabiani and wonder why Western didn't dominate this season. But basically it all came down to youth and inexperience.
It's hard to rest the hopes of Vanier Cup glory on the shoulders of players just trying to adjust to life as being on the game-day squad. Inexperienced teams like Toronto and Windsor proved knowledgeable players not just talent is require if the team is to win consistently.
After losing most of its offensive line, the playbook had to be turned back to page one. Western traditional dominating running game bowed to a more balanced attack in order to both take advantage of O'Brien and his receivers and give the offensive line an easier scheme to acquaint themselves.
Ultimately, the new offence was never able to carry this team all the way. At no point in the season did they ever seem like an unstoppable force.
In the end though, as much as Haylor might not want to admit it, winning is an expectation among Western football and its supporters. With every loss a little piece of the Mustang aura and prestige is lost. Not to mention football is the most prominent way the UWO name gets into the heads of people not locally, not even province-wide, but nationally.
But there are some positives that can be taken from this season.
Mike O'Brien had as good a season as anyone expected and solidified his role in professional football with his kicks that still have people's heads shaking in amazement.
Fellow co-captain and offensive lineman Mike Chuk was an invaluable leader to his inexperienced crew.
The defence proved the sum is more important than the individual parts, keeping the team in the hunt all season.
Finally not enough praise can go to Rayne, who despite not being Western's go-to-guy and not having a great season individually, shined through with class. His outspokenness, savvy and positive attitude was instrumental in giving Western the right attitude to complete many of their wins throughout the season.
At first glance next year does not look good. Many players will be lost at key positions, including quarterback and feature runningback. The Ontario University Athletics association will get only stronger as Ottawa joins in. Andre Talbot, Justin Praamsma, and Kojo Aidoo will once again get the chance to run roughshod over defences.
Then again, as Western's two early season comebacks illustrate, the Mustangs greatest asset is and always will be confidence.
Never underestimate the purple and white.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000