Faulds looks at ease as Mustangs' pilot

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

While supersonic aircraft streaked overhead, a guy who'd pretty well been grounded the past couple of years put on his own aerial show yesterday.

New Western Mustangs quarterback Mike Faulds strafed the University of Toronto Blues en route to a 70-1 win. Last time the University of Toledo transfer student threw a serious pass was as a high school grad two Januarys ago for Team Canada at the Global junior championship game in San Diego.

After a tentative start, the big, blond newcomer hit his stride, connecting on 12 of 14 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns.

Mind you, the victory came against a hapless Toronto team absorbing its 25th consecutive defeat but his presence under pressure erased fears relating to the departure of veteran Chris Hessel.

"We were a little rusty but we really came together in the third quarter when we put 35 points on the board," the former Toledo back-up said. "For me, it was just a matter of getting back into game speed. We've got two great fullbacks and two great tailbacks -- probably the best in the country -- and having weapons like that help."

Faulds spread the ball around to his receivers, with touchdown passes to Andy Fantuz, Greg Ross and Mike Bonk. Back-up Mark Howard stepped in and threw a perfect rainbow to Jay Leroy for another.

There was never any question in head coach Larry Haylor's mind that Faulds would make the quarterback transition a relatively seamless one. The six-foot-two thrower's calm on-field demeanour is his style in practice, Haylor said.

"Michael is a very polished guy and you get the sense he's in charge in a very unobtrusive way," Haylor said. "He has a presence about him."

Again, this was not McMaster the Mustangs were playing.

Those hopelessly addicted to underdogs would like the Blues. The 70-odd players they had turn out at training camp is about 25 fewer than the Mustangs will carry this season after cuts last week.

They play in a jerry-built stadium while awaiting a new one. Their fans were almost outnumbered by Western supporters.

What else? Oh yeah, the public address system wasn't working. Wasps (not the kind strolling along nearby Bloor Street) buzzed the bleachers. And their regular kicker quit, leaving the job to untried Joe Valtellini, who shanked a 12-yard field goal attempt and squibbed most of his punts until he was replaced by quarterback Mark Stinson.

Still, the largest room in the world is the room for improvement and it would seem Toronto at least has a foot on the threshold. A 92-yard penalty-aided march led them to the Western 13-yard stripe but they couldn't cash on it.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to get a read on your own program in these circumstances. But Toronto, 72-8 losers to Western last year, is a better team, especially with the presence of hard-running fireplug Marc Gaudett, who ran through, over and around the Mustangs during a 139-yard afternoon.

But as planes from the Canadian National Exhibition air show streaked over midtown Toronto, Faulds was unveiling one of his own while, to complete the analogy, Toronto bombed for the 25th straight time.

Randy McAuley's added muscle obviously hasn't affected his staccato running as he tap-danced for 155 yards and two touchdowns. D.J. Bennett, just as elusive, went for 152 yards and fullback Bonk, along with some devastating blocks and special teams hits, caught a TD pass and ran for another one.

Mustangs coaches will have a few things to say about the old football bugaboo -- arm tackles. While Blues powerback Gaudett simply broke through some tackles with his power, he shook off others as he would the hovering wasps.

There were the usual early-season assignment foul-ups and other mental miscues but it's clear the Mustangs will compete strongly this season. As for Toronto, they might get over that threshold yet.


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