Thursdays with Coaches: Western's "Da Riva Rapids" focus for Laurier

As noted, the OUA is holding a weekly conference call with most of its football coaches. Here are some highlights from this week's, mainly from Western's Greg Marshall, Laurier's Gary Jeffries (whose teams meet in Saturday's University Rush premiere, 1 p.m. on The Score), McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek, Queen's Pat Sheahan, Ottawa's Denis Piché, Toronto's Greg DeLaval and Windsor's Mike Morencie.

No. 6 Laurier at No. 2 Western would be the marquee matchup even if it was not on national TV. It is a hot topic on

Marshall, on his team playing on national TV: "It is important for our kids, especially in a game this early this season, team like Laurier, great rivalry. We'd play them at 8 o'clock in the morning if we had to."

On having home field: "It's definitely important. When we go to their stadium it's so loud that Gary takes his team over to other side, while their students are right behind us. We have to make sure we educate our fans, they're to make noise when Laurier on offence, not us and heckle Coach Jeffries on the side ... just don't throw stuff at him." (Marshall and Jeffries both had a laugh over this.)

On facing Laurier's dual-threat QB, Luke Thompson, who is very good on rollouts and run-pass options: "He can stretch it. The difficult thing for our defence is a quarterback who has the ability to run. It is difficult. We have some things that we're doing. We have to contain him, that is something that is a focus of our preparation."

On using Da'Shawn Thomas and Nathan Riva ("Da Riva Rapids") together on the field: "Da'Shawn's fast, he's pretty smooth, he can make you miss, turn nothing into some gains. Nathan is running a lot more confidently than he did last season. He goes downhill hard, if he gets a crease, he can come out the other end pretty quickly. Of course, no running back can run unless offensive line does its job. Laurier has a very good defensive line and that's going to be a challenge for us."

On the three INTs QB Michael Faulds threw last week (one pass was tipped and the other was a deep ball on second-and-long which pinned Ottawa deep in its own zone, leading to a nine-point swing for Western): "Sometimes you get five interceptions and none of them are the QB's fault ... we work on ball security ever week. Sometimes the best-made plans just don't work out. In the course of the game, it happens."

Jeffries' major preoccupation has been the kicking game; at this writing it's "undetermined" who will be putting the foot in the football for the Golden Hawks. Kicker Rashad LaTouche has a "bit of injury," while veteran Chris Mamo is struggling.

"I think it's going to come down to field position, special teams, we have to win on specials. We have to punt the ball well. Getting out of your end, it's going to be critical."

On preparing for Western's misdirection on offence; the Mustangs are using a lot of "long handoffs" to Riva and Thomas: "We haven't had a lot of time to prepare with playing Monday evening. We've spent a lot of of time in the film room with the kids. We have to attack, cannot sit back and be tentative. They're going to make some plays, we have to limit them. They can run and pass the ball."

Queen's Pat Sheahan, comparing this season's Golden Gaels to last at the some point: "We were probably a little bit tougher defensively at this point last year. Without (Thaine) Carter and (Dee) Sterling, Neil Puffer in that tackle box. Offensively, we are probably ahead, more efficient."

On Mac's offence: "Once it gets rolling, it's a well-oiled machine. They have good movement, strategic movement, it puts pressure in the edge. We need to be a lot tougher on defence."

On whether giving up 49 points vs. Guelph was telling, or a Justin Dunk-induced anomaly: "The Guelph quarterback is a unique problem. Singlehandedly, he can give you lots of problems, stretching plays out to 6-7 steamboats ... Guelph has a high-octane offence, they going to score some points in the OUA. Their kids caught the ball very well. We probably played a lot more man coverage than we would have liked. McMaster, with their movement, they can make you do a lot of things. We've got a game plan that we've used with success in the past." (Queen's held Mac to 11 points last season, but that was pre-Jordan Kozina.)

On life after Mike Giffin: "He was an intimidating guy to have in backfield. Even when he was wrong, he usually ended up making it right, as you saw on some of his plays. We have other guys who came in understanding that they would have to shoulder more of the load. Ultimately, as the season goes along, our aim is to be balanced. You are going to face times when you are going to need other facets of your offence. Our goal is to be balanced, but we ended up throwing it more than we ran it on Monday (22 rushes, 50 passes). That's probably the best way to answer that."

On Jimmy Allin's three special teams TDs vs. Guelph on Monday: "He was delivered some very returnable kicks and the guys really worked hard to spring him. He is a great athlete, there's no denying it.

Mac's Stefan Ptaszek, on his team's opening 52-21 win over Waterloo: "It was a good starting point for all three facets, offence, defence, special teams, but that's all it was, a starting point. On special teams, we had a punt blocked, we gotta clean that up. We had one big return, but that it was called back. They (Waterloo) also had a big return.

"Our passing game has to be more consistent. It has to be as tidy and tight as the Queen's passing game I've been watching all week."

Sheahan also noted kicker Dan Village is "possible" for Saturday after missing the opener with an injury. His replacement, Mike Petranovic, had a storybook ending by going 3-for-3 on the field goals including a 38-yard game-winner on the final play. Sheahan noted Queen's had issues in the kicking game: "The first three snaps bounced back to him (Petranovic). I think if you were writing your own script you would write it a bit better than that. He got shaken up. He's actually quite a good kicker.

Morencie made an interesting point about the short turnaround OUA teams face with the Labour Day openers: "The two-week grind, physically and mentally, that we put the kids through is unbelievable. You go through a 14-day camp, then you have to play Labour Day, short week, then go on the road. I really empathize with (Toronto coach Greg DeLaval's) situation. U of T had to play Labour Day at 7 o'clock night, then go on the road."

DeLaval replied: "They should spot us a couple points, then. Honestly, I love getting on the bus. It's the one time when I'm at peace."

Morencie noted the Lancers plan on being by-committee along the ground: "Cody Butler was a real surprise with 10 carries for 53 yards. He gave us some really tough inside running from the fullback spot. He probably expected to get two carries. I think our fullbacks have probably have 10 carries the last five years when we had Daryl Stephenson."

DeLaval, on coming off a shutout loss: "We had trouble passing the ball. That's been a real point of emphasis in practice this week."

Ottawa's Denis Piché, on his team's penalty woes (151 yards vs. Western): "I said it would take us 2-3 weeks to get this team going in the same direction because so many players are in new roles ... We're pleased with the numbers on offence other than penalties. On defence, we feel we gave up a little much, but let's be honest, we were playing a very good offence in Western. I felt like we played well enough to win the game ... I didn't feel like we were outplayed.

"We need to be more disciplined not only individually, but schematically."

On the penalties: "I've been coaching here for a long time, eight years, not something that is synonymous with our team. I'm not sure what happened. Some were deserved, some after watching film were like, 'hmmm, really?' I don't expect a repeat performance. Obviously, we can't control the judgment calls and so forth, the roughing penalties and borderline out-of-bounds, in-bounds calls. We've talked to our kids about trying not to be in grey area, to use good judgment. At the same time, you don't want them to play scared, otherwise they play the game tippy-toeing."

On QB Brad Sinopoli, who passed for 355 yards and rushed for 89 in the 32-17 loss: "At the end of the day, it was as good as a first game could have been for him. He's a better quarterback today than he was before last Sunday ... He's proven to that he can be a threat. He can throw the ball, given the time, can take the zone apart."
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  1. I disagree a bit with Piche on the penalties being sort of a new thing. Thay took a lot of then last year as well. There have been times in his eight years when Ottawa took too many penalties.I do not know why he can not convince his players to reduce the number of penalties they take.However, he is going to have to if he wants his team to win games like the one last Sunday.

  2. I agree with the above comment. As an Ottawa fan it has been incredibly frusterating over the past couple of years to watch them lose yards again and again to unnecessary penalties. The coaches need to get that under control if they want to be a force in the OUA this season.