Volume 94, Issue 18


Western hyped for Laurier

With open eyes beware

Western looking to host 2001 Vanier Cup

Western hyped for Laurier

By Joel Brown

Gazette Staff

Western's football team faces its toughest challenge this season as they travel to Waterloo to take on the Laurier Golden Hawks tomorrow.

It is expected that the outcome between the two top 10 ranked teams will help determine who should be favored to win the Yates Cup in the highly competitive Ontario University Athletics conference.

"We're coming off a big game [against York] and we have a great rivalry with Laurier," said Western quarterback and kicker Mike O'Brien. "We're definitely hyped."

Mustangs head coach, Larry Haylor, said while the game is important to his team, the end result will not necessarily determine which team is better. "If we win or if we lose, we don't want to read too much into it," he said.

Last week Laurier was trounced by McMaster, the top ranked team in the province, 47-15.

"We came out flat," said Laurier head coach, Rick Zmitch. "We lacked intensity, passion and aggressiveness. It's a homecoming game for us and if we can't get up for this I don't know what can."

Zmitch was less hesitant than Haylor to state the importance of this game to his team. "It's certainly a pivotal game, especially having lost to Mac last week," he said. "We have to rebound, especially with us not having beaten Western since 1996."

To be successful the Western defence will need to contain Laurier runningback Justin Praasmsa, the OUA's second-best rusher.

"They do a very nice job of feeding him the ball," Haylor said. "The problem is if we focus too much on him, they have all those other receiving weapons."

One of those being wide receiver Andre Talbot, who set an OUA record for 19 catches in a game early this season. "They get the ball to him every way," Haylor said.

Western's defence has a great opportunity this week to exploit the Golden Hawks' offensive line, as three of their regulars will not be playing this week. Linemen Alf Lebar and Dave Ciofi are both out with knee injuries, while offensive lineman Steve Skellf has been ruled academically ineligible for the rest of the season.

Expect the Western offence to keep close tabs on Laurier's dynamic duo, defensive ends Kojo Millington, who was one of two Canadians to play in the NCAA Shrine Bowl all-star game last year and All-Canadian Eric Schwab.

"They've got a really good pass rush," O'Brien said. "We're going to try to run the ball inside and hopefully we can take them completely outside of their game."

Zmitch said he is concerned his team will need to adjust to the multi-faceted game O'Brien brings to the field. "He's a double threat – he's a veteran with a good arm, he's quite an athlete," he said.

The McMaster coach also was concerned with O'Brien's kicking ability. "Field position will be key," he said. "It'll be important that we get one or two more first downs on every drive to compensate for his kicking."

O'Brien said he has been pleased with the improvement of the offensive line over the season. "They did really good on Saturday," he said. "It seems like every game I'm getting hit less and less. My Sundays are becoming a lot more enjoyable now because I'm not hurting as much."

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