Mustangs still searching for first victory: Fundamentals key to win

Inability to capitalize hurting team

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western's football sideline

Jonas Hrebeniuk

LOOKING TO EMERGE FROM THE SHADOWS OF DEFEAT. The men’s football team hopes to turn around their season with a victory over the Ottawa Gee Gees on Saturday. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

It’s been a long time since the Western Mustangs football team has started their season off like this.

Richard Nixon was the President of the United States, the Beatles had just announced their break-up, and the Vancouver Canucks had just joined the NHL. Thirty-seven years have passed since the ’Stangs opened up the year with an 0-2 record. To make matters worse, their upcoming schedule isn’t very inviting.

The ’Stangs face last year’s Yates Cup champs, the Ottawa Gee Gees, tomorrow at TD Waterhouse Stadium. The Gee Gees have a perfect record so far this season.

After traveling to Guelph in week four, Western hosts the Windsor Lancers, who are led by running back Daryl Stephenson. Stephenson is only 289 rushing yards shy of breaking the Ontario University Athletics all-time record of 4,138, set by former McMaster Marauder Jesse Lumsden.

The Mustangs are talented enough to beat these teams, but there are a few things that have contributed to their slow start.

Western spoiled many opportunities to win its first two games against Queen’s and McMaster. In both matches, Western failed to hold onto early leads and consequently came up short, despite above average offensive and defensive efforts.

Looking at the offensive stats, it’s unbelievable to think that a team posting such big numbers can’t pull out a win.

Faulds is second in the OUA in passing yards with 613, Randy McAuley is second in the OUA for rushing yards with 285 and Jesse Bellamy, who has been Faulds’ main target this season, is second in the OUA in receiving yards.

What keeps Western’s offence from being one of the best in the country is their offensive line. Pivot Faulds has been sacked seven times in two games: more than any other quarterback in the league. The lack of pass protection has caused Western to lose a lot of hard-fought yardage, making it more difficult to convert first downs.

On the defensive side, the ’Stangs are trying out a new formation this year. They switched from last year’s 3-4 defence to a 4-3 scheme. The new, improved 4-3 formation seems to be working for Western’s defensive unit.

A tight Mustang defence caused McMaster to cough up the ball six times on Saturday, and forced Mac quarterback Adam Archibald to throw two interceptions.

However, not once did the Mustangs convert a turnover into points. Capitalizing on defensive turnovers is something Western must do to increase their leads instead of squandering them.

But when the defence falls, they fall hard " big yardage plays seem to be their kryptonite.

Western gave up a 101-yard scoring play when Marauder Mike Bradwell bustled past a stunned Mustangs defence.

Western’s special teams follow the same trend. They gave up a couple of huge running plays to Queen’s running back Rob Bagg two weeks ago, which put the Gaels in scoring position each time.

If the Mustangs want to bounce back, they must stop giving up big plays, strengthen their O-line, and capitalize on opportunities provided by the defence.

Otherwise, Western’s chances at making the postseason are the same as Nixon’s re-election chances in 2007.

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