Back and forth battle ends in another defeat

'Stangs unable to acquire first victory despite 24 point rally

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Randy McAuley

Jon Purdy

In a game filled with turnovers and momentum shifts, Cory Watson’s fumble in the end zone off a missed Ottawa field goal late in the fourth quarter turned the tide of the game.

The Mustangs lost a hard fought battle to the Ottawa Gee Gees by a score of 35-30 on Saturday night at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

With the Mustangs up 24-22 and less than seven minutes to play, Ottawa’s attempt at regaining the lead appeared to be thwarted when kicker Ara Tchobanian’s attempt sailed wide right and into the hands of Watson, who tried to bring the ball out to the one-yard line to avoid conceding the single point and to give Western the ball back at the twenty.

While returning the kick, Watson was hit hard in the end zone and lost possession of the ball, which was recovered by Gee Gees lineman Frank Spera for a touchdown, giving Ottawa a 29-24 lead.

“We didn’t communicate with Cory what we wanted,” Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall said. “I think getting the ball out [to the one-yard line] was something Cory wanted to do, but in hindsight we should have told him to give up the point.”

The Gee Gees would add another field goal and stave off a late Western rally to hang on for the win, picking up their first ever victory in London and putting the ’Stangs to 0-3 for the season.

Things began inauspiciously for the Mustangs, as the team conceded a safety, field goal and two touchdowns to Ottawa by the 6:50 mark of the first quarter and were immediately down 19-0.

“We were caught off guard offensively by the speed of them,” Marshall said. “You watch film and scrimmage all week, but until you play live you don’t know how fast that Ottawa team is.

“Being put in such a hole, our defence wasn’t playing as aggressive as we needed to [at the start].”

While Western running back Randy McAuley scored a touchdown late in the first quarter to cut the Gee Gees lead to 19-7, the ’Stangs offence was unable to generate any points for much of the second quarter, but relied on strong play from the defence to keep them in the game.

With 13 seconds left in the first half and the Mustangs marching but slightly out of field goal range, Marshall successfully gambled on a third and 13 play, resulting in a 41-yard strike from quarterback Michael Faulds to receiver Dave Clayton to cut the deficit to 19-14 heading into halftime.

“We just called one of our basic routes,” Faulds said. “I saw the safety over on the right side, so I knew if Clayton beat his man he’d be open in the end zone.”

Besides strong defensive play, Western was also the beneficiary of some Ottawa mistakes, as the Gee Gees had two interceptions for touchdowns called back due to penalties on each return and only came away with a lone field goal from those two turnovers.

“Those [touchdowns] could have been the game,” Ottawa head coach Denis Piche said.

“In Western’s situation, let’s be honest: if we could have had those two touchdowns in the first half and with the score, it would have been a very different game.”

Western’s defence continued to play strong in the third quarter, forcing two Gee Gees turnovers and getting pressure on Ottawa quarterback Josh Sacobie.

A Derek Schiavone field goal and McAuley touchdown with less than six minutes left in the third quarter gave the Mustangs a 24-19 lead heading into the fourth quarter, where Ottawa would capitalize off a Faulds interception to cut the lead to 24-22 early on and take the lead for good following the Watson miscue.

Though down by 11, the Mustangs continued to battle late in the game, as Faulds connected with receiver Josh Starr with one second left in regulation to cut the deficit to 35-30. The subsequent two-point conversion attempt to receiver Mark Howard failed.

“I’m disappointed but I feel better now standing here at 0-3 than I did last week or the week before,” Marshall said.

“I think we played one of the best teams in the country and played them toe-to-toe … I am proud of our guys, they didn’t quit.”

The ’Stangs hope to acquire their first win of the season next week, when they travel to Guelph to take on a Gryphons squad that is coming off a 47-7 drubbing of the York Lions. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

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