Bisons dominate both sides of the ball in Mitchell Bowl win

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western men's football

Jon Purdy

WALKING AWAY FROM THE GAME. Receiver Dave Clayton is one of several fifth-year Western Mustangs football players who played their last game for the Purple and Silver at the Mitchell Bowl in Winnipeg this past weekend. Western dropped the contest to the Manitoba Bisons 52-20.

Riding the momentum of a seven game win streak " including a Yates Cup victory last weekend " Western’s football team earned a ticket to Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg on Saturday to play against the number three ranked Manitoba Bisons in the Mitchell Bowl.

The powerful and experienced Bisons squad ended the Mustangs’ Cinderella run, as they stampeded over the visitors 52-20, ending not only Western’s hopes at a Vanier Cup berth, but its season as well.

Despite the sub-zero temperatures, the Bisons were on fire. A stellar rushing offence led by all-star backs Karim Lowen and Matt Henry combined for 144 yards. A strong offence was buttressed by the Bisons’ lethal defensive front, which caused Western quarterback Michael Faulds to throw three interceptions and get sacked four times.

Manitoba got its first score off Brady Brown’s 26-yard blocked punt return, but Western stayed tough after Manitoba conceded a safety and Derek Schiavone booted a 28-yard field goal to keep within two points.

The ’Stangs battled their way deep into the Bisons’ red zone, looking for their first score of the game.

A blown play caused Faulds to throw a pick to Bisons defensive end Jim Jeavons who returned the interception 99 yards for a major and further extended Manitoba’s lead.

After the costly interception, the Purple and Silver never recovered. Western head coach Greg Marshall regretted calling the play.

“It wasn’t a very good call on my part. I wish I would have called something different,” he said. “I take the blame for that one. It’s too bad because it resulted in disaster for us.”

The Bisons did their homework on Western and knew exactly how to break their opponents down.

“A couple plays before, [Western] had done the same thing, so we went back to the sidelines and made adjustments and decided that I would [cover the out pattern],” Jeavons said.

“Luckily as I jumped it [Justin] Shaw got a hand on [the ball]. It was just gravy after that " it was just catching it and taking it to the house.”

Things went from bad to worse for Western in the second half as Manitoba added three more scores to its lead, making it virtually impossible for the Mustangs to battle back.

Western men's football

Despite Western’s struggles, Faulds connected with his receivers all game, tossing for an impressive 387 yards.

The Western pivot was a major concern for Bisons head coach Brian Dobie heading into Saturday’s match-up. Even though Faulds posted some big numbers, the Bisons shut down Western’s offence when it mattered most.

“We always believe in our defence and we knew our defence was certainly capable of shutting [Western] down,” Dobie said.

“Michael Faulds is a very good quarterback and he’s a fighter ... but our guys came in very prepared for him and were very respectful of him and what he can do in leading that offence.”

Costly turnovers, special teams gaffes and Western’s inability to convert on second down also contributed to the team’s demise.

However, to make it as far as it did " within one win of battling for the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship " Western can still walk away from its season with a lot to be proud of.

“This season was full of a lot of positives. We really turned it around, and we were lucky enough to be Yates Cup champions,” Mustangs running back Randy McAuley said.

“But it’s always disappointing when you don’t bring home your end goal. We wanted to be at the Vanier Cup next week and now that’s not going to happen. It’s very disappointing, but we fought hard.”

McAuley ran for 62 yards on nine carries and chipped in a touchdown. The fifth-year back has rushed for his last yards in the Purple and Silver.

McAuley had an outstanding career with Western, becoming the school’s all-time rushing leader and finishing 2007 with 1,079 total yards.

Western men's football

The Mitchell Bowl was the last game for several other ’Stangs as well. Dave Clayton, Tom Dolezel, Nick Kordic, Corey McNair, and Scott Nason will all be hanging up their Purple and Silver jerseys.

Marshall admits even though he’ll be able to replace the talent, their individual characteristics and experience are irreplaceable.

“You never can replace the personalities,” he said. “We will replace the people on the field. Someone will step up and be the next Randy McAuley. Someone will come in and plug up the middle and be the next Tom Dolezel and Nick Kordic. But we will never replace the characters, and the leadership they bring to our football team.

“It’s always the most difficult part because for me and the younger players " we’re back here. We always have that to look forward to. So it’s difficult to let go and say goodbye to the kids that have given so much to our football program.”

Even though the graduating seniors won’t be back next year, Marshall said they have helped create the foundation Western has built for itself as a premier football school. Being the defending Ontario champions will attract a lot of young talent to London.

“It’s huge for recruiting. I think we showed a lot of kids we’re going to be a very good program [next year],” Marshall said.

“There are so many things going for us at Western. Now we can legitimately say to recruits we are one of the top teams in Ontario and we’re going to be there. I know next year coming out of training camp we’re going to be a very good team.”

Even though the ’Stangs didn’t earn a Vanier Cup berth, Western came a long way back after starting 0-4.

Marshall is already set to defend the Ontario University Athletics title, with his eyes still set on a National Championship as his ultimate goal.

“It’s been tremendous what our kids accomplished. We have a lot of good things to build upon … we took a big step this year. We laid a foundation that we can build a National title on. And I really believe we’re going to be there.”

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