Mustangs work out early kinks

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

TORONTO -- Once the Western football team worked the kinks out, it was curtains for the Toronto Varsity Blues.

After a surprising tightly-played first half, the Mustangs racked up 49 unanswered second-half points and runners Randy McAuley, Mike Bonk and D.J. Bennett scored two touchdowns apiece to hand the Varsity Blues their 25th consecutive loss, 70-1 yesterday afternoon at Varsity Stadium.

"It took us a while to get going in the first half but that's natural for the first game of the season," said McAuley, who galloped for 84 yards and a major on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to set the tone for the rest of the game. "You could tell in the second half we got more aggressive and the hits were better. All in all, it was a good start."

Western's new starting quarterback Michael Faulds, a transfer from the University of Toledo, had a promising first game.

He completed his first pass -- a 17-yarder to old reliable Andy Fantuz -- and picked up his first touchdown pass of his Canadian university career on his second throw -- a 23-yarder to Greg Ross -- less than four minutes into the game. He finished a sparkling 12-for-14 in the air with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"It's really nice having all the weapons we have here," Faulds said. "This is a good building block and we look forward to Guelph next week."

Despite undergoing surgery for a leg injury in the summer, Fantuz looked like his old self, catching five balls for 106 yards and a major.

After Faulds checked out in the fourth quarter, backup Mark Howard took over and, on his first pass, winged a 79-yarder to Jay Leroy for a touchdown.

The Western defence aimed for an opening day shutout but fell short after Toronto notched a single point on a 12-yard missed field goal in the first half.

"We were so close. We should've had it," said Mustangs defensive back Nick Kordic. "On the drive they scored, we should've had two-and-out but we had a penalty for too many men on the field. Then, I had an interception that got called back because we were offside. It was that kind of drive. They ran the ball well on us in the first half but it was mostly mental mistakes. I think we'll do better and close those gaps as we go along."

Western running back Jay Akindolire, a transfer from the University of Waterloo, dressed for the warmup but didn't play because of lingering questions surrounding his eligibility.

Akindolire suited up for the Warriors in last season's opener against the Ottawa Gee-Gees before leaving the team and the Mustangs didn't want to risk giving Toronto a free victory from a protest. Canadian university rules state a player has to sit out a full calendar year before participating at school.

"We didn't know the rule for sure so we didn't take a chance," Akindolire said. "It's tough. You get dressed and prepared for a game and you want to play. But I'll just get going next week and hopefully throw a few blocks and score a couple of touchdowns. Watching today, it's exciting to see what we have on our roster."

Yesterday's contest had a decidedly different flavour than last year's 72-8 victory for Western at Varsity. In that one, Toronto struggled to get the ball over centre -- or even pick up a first down -- until the second half.

This time, the Blues hung tough in the first half and trailed 21-1 at the break, moving the ball dangerously close to Western's end zone a couple of times thanks to the athleticism of quarterback Mark Stinson and powerful runs by five-foot-eight, 215-pounder Marc Gaudett.

But Toronto turned the ball over in the second half -- second-year safety Matt Carapella had two interceptions and Kordic returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown.

"After my first one got called back, I was saying on the sideline I'll probably never get another chance the rest of the year," Kordic said. "So I'm feeling it now. We already know Carapella is going to average two picks a game. As a defence, we have some things to work on but we're ball hawks like last year. We're going to get turnovers."

The Mustangs defence didn't come out of the game unscathed. Cornerback Leron Mitchell suffered a suspected concussion, linebacker Jamaal John hurt his ankle and defensive lineman Brian (J.J.) Jones was shaken up with a leg injury.

GAME GLANCE

Western 70, Toronto 1

Mustangs touchdowns: Greg Ross, D.J. Bennett (two), Randy McAuley (two), Mike Bonk (two), Andy Fantuz, Jay Leroy, Nick Kordic

Blues scoring: A 12-yard single on a missed field goal in the first half.

Next: Western plays its home opener against Guelph on Saturday, 7 p.m. at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

After a surprisingly tight first half, Western ran away from Toronto for a 70-1 season-opening win.


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