The football team is young and got a little tired in the fourth quarter. That's one reason it gave up a lead and wound up losing.
It has to overcome the loss of a key defensive back.
The offensive line will be up against a strong defensive front and will have its hands full trying to run the ball and protect the quarterback.
It's a big game because going 0-2 in Ontario university football makes for a pressure-filled rest of the season.
Such is the situation with the Western Mustangs.
Such is the situation with the McMaster Marauders.
When the teams take to the field Saturday at Ivor Wynne Stadium, you'll see two teams more similar than diverse.
The Mustangs gave up a 14-point second-half lead to lose to the Queen's Golden Gaels in their opener. The Marauders led the Laurier Golden Hawks by seven in the fourth quarter, but lost 36-26 in Waterloo.
The Mustangs lost defensive back/slotback Matt Carapella for up to four weeks with a knee injury. The Marauders lost safety Bryan Gauer, who tied for the team lead in interceptions last year, for the year with a knee injury.
The Mustang offensive line did a good job with the run, but had trouble with pass protection. The Marauders' O-line did a good job in pass protection, but couldn't generate any running game.
Both teams are in rebuilding mode, although Marauders coach Stefan Ptaszek doesn't like the word.
"You can't say that when you've got . . . fifth-year kids like Adam Archibald, Mateusz Pawlowski, Jordan Charter, Chris Van Zeyl," Ptaszek said. "These are senior kids that can play football at the highest level.
"We do have a lot of young guys. We had eight freshmen dress in Week 1 and 14 first-time starters. It was their first opportunity to play CIS football. We are young, but rebuilding is not fair to those seniors. We have a lot of potential. We just have to get it together."
Mustangs running back Randy McAuley gained more than 200 yards against the Gaels. The Marauders ran for 53 yards against the Hawks.
Strong-armed quarterback Archibald, though, was 26-of-37 for 361 yards.
While the loss to the Hawks was disappointing, Ptaszek was pleased with what he saw.
"We are more excited about the 2007 campaign, despite the loss, than we were going in," he said. "A young (offensive) line kept Adam Archibald off his back pretty much the whole day. A young secondary controlled one of the best receiving corp in the whole country. We got a little tired and wore down hence the 24 points in the fourth quarter but there was more good than bad on Saturday."
The Mustangs and Marauders were high on their defensive lines before the season began. The Mustangs believed theirs was one of the best in the country.
"Ours is very deep and very athletic," Ptaszek said. "It's one of the strongest units on our football team. Chris Van Zeyl was a late cut of the Montreal Alouettes. He's a force but he does not stand alone."
The game may well be decided on who gives their quarterback more time. Mustangs pivot Mike Faulds caught a lot of heat from the Gaels in the opener.
The Mustang defence came up with several timely sacks of their own late in the game to force overtime.
Paul Gleason, the Mustangs defensive co-ordinator, hopes to be back for that game. Gleason has taken some time away from the team after his brother J. P. Gleason was involved in a serious hit-and-run motorcycle accident. Gleason said his brother is improving but is still in serious condition.
Much of the focus Saturday will be on Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall. He is returning to McMaster for the first time as head man at another university. In 1997, he took over a moribund Mac program and in six years, before becoming head coach of the Hamilton Ticats, put together a 53-18-2 record, winning four straight Yates Cup championships.
"His contribution to this campus and this program is so significant," Ptaszek said. "There is a respect and admiration and there's no better way to honour that respect, contribution and admiration than sending him home 0-2."