Losses frustrate Mustang go-to guy

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

Randy McAuley did not look or sound like a guy who just became the all-time leading rusher at one of Canada's most storied football institutions.

The fifth-year Western running back was angry and frustrated with his team's fourth straight loss -- 31-17 at the hands of the Gryphons on Saturday in Guelph. With the school's Homecoming game on tap, he lashed out at the suggestion the team's worst start in four decades would make for an embarrassing week for Mustangs players on campus.

"Mostly, people have been supportive," McAuley said. "If people are going to criticize us, then I say to them come out and play with us. We play for our school and our city and we're proud to do it but most of all, we play for the guys sitting beside us in the locker room. Each of us in here know what we go through trying to improve and help this team.

"You (media, fans, alumni) are never as critical of us as we are on ourselves. It's not even close."

Rushing records are football's most sacred offensive yardsticks. Prolific passing and receiving totals didn't come along until more recently and, historically, a team's best player was the one carrying the ball.

But for McAuley, becoming Western's career leader in what is quickly becoming one of the school's most forgettable seasons is bittersweet.

"It would've been better if we won," he said. "You don't even think about stuff like that when you lose. That's not what's important."

The player McAuley passed -- Sean Reade -- played on powerful Western teams from 1992-96 that racked up a combined 43-9-1 record and won the Vanier Cup in 1994.

So far, McAuley's Mustangs have a 25-18 mark and, like star receiver Andy Fantuz before him, the star tailback will likely go through his university career without winning a Yates Cup as OUA champion.

"It's shocking," Western receiver Jesse Bellamy said. "With the way the games have gone, we could be 3-1 or at least 2-2 and we're 0-4. No one ever thought we'd be 0-4 and it's frustrating. We're not giving up on the playoffs -- this isn't a rebuilding year yet -- but we definitely have to win out from here and then we need some help. Four-and-four might get you in but 3-5 definitely won't."

There isn't a team in Ontario university football that doesn't want to kick Western when it's down. Guelph, which hadn't beaten the Mustangs in the regular season in 15 years (they won a playoff tilt in 1996), had the ball late in the fourth quarter and was angling to pile on more points before deciding to take a knee after quarterback Justin Dunk was shoved out of bounds on a dangerous-looking running play.

"We heard all week how we haven't beaten Western since 1992," Guelph's four-touchdown star Nick FitzGibbon said.

Western Homecoming is no gimme, either. The Windsor Lancers have underachieved at 1-3 and boast the best running back in the country -- Londoner Daryl Stephenson.

Western safety Matt Carapella, a defensive all-star who also leads the way on offence and special teams, is close to coming back after tearing up his knee in the opening game against Queen's. But at this point, he could be returning to a lost cause.

If Western holds him out to heal for the rest of the season, it could later lobby Canadian Interuniversity Sport to restore a year of eligibility since his injury happened in the first game. The Mustangs successfully did the same with fullback Jay Akindolire a couple of years ago.


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