In season of change, some losing expected

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Let's all concede the Western Mustangs football team is unlucky to be 0-3.

Let's all concede they were competitive in every game and if the ball had bounced their way once or twice, they might have won a game or two.

Let's all concede that if they had played better, they would not be discussing what could have been.

The No. 1 song on Western's hit parade is: "We may be nothing right now but we're close to being something."

A great many people are shaken by the 0-3 start. They're consoling themselves by looking at what's transpired. A 14-point lead blown against Queen's, multiple scoring chances blown against McMaster and a mistake-filled game against Ottawa that thwarted a nice comeback.

News flash. This might be as good as this team gets.

Oh, don't get your purple pants in a knot. No one is suggesting zero wins is the best they'll do. But in this season of change for the Mustangs, whatever happens shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

Could they lose to Guelph? Guelph is 1-2 and has lost close games to Queen's at Kingston and at home to Ottawa.

Close doesn't count for anything. Yes, the Mustangs did a lot of things that cost them those games. But you'll hear the same things from the winners. They'll tell you they didn't play very well. Queen's had a horrible first half. McMaster didn't play well defensively and Ottawa wasn't very good offensively.

They weren't perfect. Far from it. The only difference being they won and the Mustangs didn't.

Losing teams can take solace that they did a lot of things that will help them win games. They can talk about being the better team and deserving to win, about feeling unlucky because that big, fat zero is still in the win column.

That excuse will get old in a hurry. It's a big step from feeling you deserve to win to actually doing something to win.

Like catching the ball instead of dropping it. Hanging on to the ball instead of fumbling. Making a good block so the runner can gain that extra yard for a touchdown instead of taking a holding penalty or getting beat by the other guy. Making a big play on special teams instead of having them made on you.

"Potential is only potential if you do something with it," said Mustangs coach Greg Marshall.

Most of the time it has nothing to do with luck. It has to do with performing when the time comes.

In simple language, not choking.

You don't come through in the clutch, you don't deserve to win.

"We've lost some tough games no doubt," said Marshall. "But you have to eventually get the job done. We've made too many mistakes."

If Marshall were in a grocery store, he'd be into a two-cart shopping spree. But this is university football and you go with what's already in the pantry.

"We're second in offence and second or third in defence in the OUA," said Marshall. "There's optimism there. This was the third week in a row against a very good team, we outplayed them and didn't win. We keep finding ways to lose."

Marshall knows better than anyone you don't get any points for "outplayed" in the standings.

"We found a way at the end to cough the ball up, rough the punter turn the ball over. We didn't get it done," he said. "The good thing about that game was that unlike the first two games, I thought we played better. We were more consistent in SOME areas."

There's a gnawing feeling that no matter how hard his players play, and they do play hard for Marshall, his team isn't going to get better in some areas. Those areas won't improve until they recruit better players.

"I'm disappointed we're 0-3 but I'm not worried," Marshall said. "I can see where we're at now and where we're going to be at the end of the season and where we're going to be next year and the year after that. We're not there yet but we'll get there. I'm not worried."

That's one.

Losing teams can take solace that they did a lot of things that will help them win games. They can talk about being the better team and deserving to win, about feeling unlucky -- but that big, fat zero is still in the win column.

That excuse will get old in a hurry. It's a big step from feeling you deserve to win to actually doing something to win. Like catching the ball instead of dropping it. Hanging on to the ball instead of fumbling. Making a good block so the runner can gain that extra yard for a touchdown instead of taking a holding penalty or getting beat by the other guy. Making a big play on special teams instead of having them made on you.

"Potential is only potential if you do something with it," said Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall.

Most of the time it has nothing to do with luck. It has to do with performing when the time comes. In simple language, not choking.

You don't come through in the clutch, you don't deserve to win.

"We've lost some tough games no doubt," Marshall said. "But you have to eventually get the job done. We've made too many mistakes."

If Marshall were in a grocery store, he'd be into a two-cart shopping spree. But this is university football and you go with what's already in the pantry.

"We're second in offence and second or third in defence in the OUA," he said.

"There's optimism there. This was the third week in a row against a very good team, we outplayed them and didn't win. We keep finding ways to lose."

Marshall knows better than anyone you don't get any points in the standings for "outplayed."

"We found a way at the end to cough the ball up, rough the punter, turn the ball over. We didn't get it done," he said. "The good thing about that game was that unlike the first two games, I thought we played better. We were more consistent in some areas."

There's a gnawing feeling that no matter how hard his players play, and they do play hard for Marshall, his team isn't going to get better in some areas. Those areas won't improve until they recruit better players.

"I'm disappointed we're 0-3, but I'm not worried," Marshall said. "I can see where we're at now and where we're going to be at the end of the season and where we're going to be next year and the year after that. We're not there yet, but we'll get there. I'm not worried."

That's one who isn't.


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