'Stangs fall in home opener

Golden Gaels walk away with OT win in Coach Marshall's first game

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Randy McAuley

Jonas Hrebeniuk

WESTERN REALLY HIT THE GROUND RUNNING...BEFORE SPUTTERING IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. Veteran running back Randy McAuley rushed for 245 yards and two majors, but it wasn't enough to pull off a Western win.

A new school year, a new team, a new head coach, and new field turf, but an old result for the Western Mustangs as they dropped yet another season opener, this time to the Queen’s Golden Gaels, 26-20, in an overtime heart breaker. The Purple and Silver have lost four of their last five season opening games.

The Golden Gaels denied Western playoff home field advantage last year after beating them in the last game of the regular season. The upset was still fresh in the Mustangs’ minds Monday afternoon as they prepared to hand the Gaels some sweet revenge.

Instead, things went sour. The Mustangs blew a 10-point lead in the second half, en route to their first loss.

The ’Stangs took a quick lead in the first half, thanks to a couple field goals via Derek Schiavone and a touchdown courtesy veteran running back Randy McAuley.

Queen’s only managed to get themselves on the board after kicker Dan Village booted a 32-yarder before the half.

But the Golden Gaels chipped away at the lead throughout the entire second half, eventually evening up the score at 20 with 7:31 remaining in the game.

With no time left on the clock, the ’Stangs had one last opportunity to win the battle, needing Schiavone to convert a 42-yarder.

However, two quick timeouts called by the Golden Gaels seemed to cool Schiavone’s hot streak as he missed the kick, forcing both teams into overtime.

“Those were the two most strategic timeout calls in my career,” Queen’s head coach Pat Shean said. “So I am glad the strategy worked.”

Queen’s stopped Schiavone again in overtime, blocking his kick, and used the momentum in the next series as fullback Mike Giffin rushed in a 23-yard major to end the game.

“We were down, but certainly not out,” Shean said. “The fact that we were able to keep it close made a difference. In Canadian football, anything can happen. When we came back and tied it, that was anybody’s game.”

“Queen’s took one from us last year, so it [would have been] great to take it back,” said McAuley. “But every week we have a mission and this is just week one.”

Western’s newly appointed head coach Greg Marshall was disappointed the Mustangs couldn’t hang onto their lead for the victory.

“I wish we got this game with the win,” he said. “But it’s a process and we just have to get better.”

The Mustang head coach has been under a lot of scrutiny of late. Marshall, who was Western’s offensive coordinator last year, took over this season for long-time head coach Larry Haylor. Haylor is the winningest coach in Canadian Interuniversity Sport history.

Even though they couldn’t get the win, the Mustangs still had something to cheer about. Veteran running back McAuley was lethal for the Western offence, rushing for 245 yards and two touchdowns.

McAuley was uncertain at the end of last year if he would return to fulfill his final year of eligibility and play in the 2007 season. The Mustangs were thrilled when he decided to wear the Purple and Silver jersey for one more year. McAuley fills a large gap on Western’s depth chart after the losses of all-star backs D.J. Bennett and Jay Akindolire.

“He’s a great back, no question,” Shean said of McAuley. “We knew we weren’t going to stop him, but we did try and slow him down.”

Marshall noted that McAuley wasn’t the only dominant running back on the field Monday.

“We didn’t get it done at the end today, but [Queen’s back] Giffin did,” he said. “That was maybe the difference in the game. Great game for Randy, but we have to finish off better.”

Giffin ran all over the Mustangs, notching 156 yards on 24 carries.

Western’s Matt Carapella, who was listed as both a slot back and a defensive back in Monday’s match, left the game early with an injury to a ligament in his right knee. The loss of Carapella was already an obvious one: his presence was missed on both sides of the field, which contributed to Western’s downfall in the second half.

Carapella is expected to be out for at least the next two weeks.

The Mustangs are still on a hunt for their first win of the season when they travel to Hamilton tomorrow to take on the McMaster Marauders, where Marshall held a previous coaching stint before joining Western.

Like the ’Stangs, the Marauders have one loss under their belts, falling to the Laurier Golden Hawks 36-26 last week.

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