Mustangs fumble opener

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Most people expected the new era of football at Western to be exciting.

That's exactly what they got in the opening game.

But most would have preferred a different ending to what was supposed to be a fairy tale return of Greg Marshall as coach of the Mustangs.

The Marshall era began with his Mustangs blowing a big lead and losing 26-20 to the Queen's Golden Gaels in overtime in the Ontario university football season opener last night at TD Waterhouse Stadium.

Shocked. Stunned. Disbelieving. All of the above. That's what most of the 9,413 in the stands and the Mustangs players were after the Gaels' improbable comeback.

Mike Giffin ran 23 yards for the overtime touchdown, ending a last-half of the game that provided more twists than a pretzel.

"We're all sort of shocked," Mustangs quarterback Mike Faulds said. "They sort of took the momentum. We tried a few things and nothing seemed to work. We're disappointed but we look at the films and try and get better from this.

"We have to get ready because we only have five days to prepare for Mac."

Better would be good.

The Mustangs played a decent first half, dominating a Queen's team that wasn't ready.

The Gaels can consider themselves lucky they were only down 13-3 at the half. Queen's managed to get a stop on downs inside their own five-yard line or they would have been down by a lot more.

How things changed in the second half.

The Mustangs paid for allowing the Gaels to remain in the game. Leading 20-6 in the third quarter, the Gaels gained the momentum and put the Mustangs under pressure for most of the fourth quarter to erase a 14-point deficit.

The Mustangs suddenly had trouble running and couldn't put a long drive together.

The Mustangs were put in a position to win by two big sacks on consecutive series, one by Jason Kosec and the other by Tom Dolezel.

Western had a chance to win on a last-play Derek Schiavone field goal from the 42. Just as the ball was snapped, the referee blew for a timeout. Schiavone made the kick, but his next try was blocked, forcing overtime.

"It's disappointing but give Queen's credit, they never quit," said Marshall. "We made a lot of mistakes. But we have to learn from those mistakes."

There were plenty of little mistakes and several big ones. The Mustangs still had trouble protecting Faulds. He was sacked four times and pressured on other occasions.

The Mustangs were also hurt on special teams. Besides the blocked punt, they gave up big yardage to Rob Bagg on kickoff and punt returns.

"The truth is, it's not such a young offensive line any more," said Marshall. "They are going to have to start playing better. And the special teams weren't very good. We got hurt all night on special teams."

There were some good things. Running back Randy McAuley finished with 214 yards on 29 carries. It looked like his time at the Toronto Argonauts training camp this year was well spent.

He appeared better able to fight through the first tackle.

McAuley also spent a great deal of time on the field. In previous years, McAuley would be running a shuttle on and off the field. It was something McAuley wasn't happy about in the past, but he's going to get a lot of work this year.

Faulds also seemed to work well with slotback Jesse Bellamy, who had seven catches for 98 yards. It was by far the best connection the Mustangs had through the air.

The Gaels also took advantage of Matt Carapella's absence. He was helped off the field with a knee injury on the last play of the first quarter. Carapella was going to be the starting slotback and a starting defensive back.

In the second half, Brannagan looked over the middle a lot more and brought the Gaels back into the game. He found a wide-open Scott Stinson for a 21-yard touchdown over the middle.

"That really hurt," said Marshall. "Craig (Butler) made some good plays but he just hasn't taken as many snaps as Matt."


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