Thursdays with coaches: Western game for extra game

Apologies for not having this week (although has the audio available so you can hear me stammer out questions).

With only the four coaches involved in the quarter-finals (Guelph's Kyle Walters and Western's Greg Marshall; McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek and Ottawa's Denis Piché) on the call, it made for a speedy affair.

Piché had the bons mots, considering the past two OUA post-seasons have seen an 8-0 team lose in its first playoff game: "We always say you have eight weeks to get ready for the weeks that matter." If that isn't a spur to change one's thinking about the importance of regular-season records.

Guelph's Kyle Walters and Western's Greg Marshall (whose teams meet Saturday, 1 p.m., on The Score, and there will be a liveblog)

Marshall, on Western's defensive struggles: "We're pretty healthy, we've lost defensive linemen this year, we lost (end) Scott Fournier last week, we lost (tackle) Mike Van Praet early on in the season ... we're not using injuries as an excuse, we have to play better. Sometimes when you have young players in, they're tentative and they make mistakes. We hope that after an eight-game regular season, our defence steps up.

On what needs to improve from their first meeting with Guelph (a 41-39 win Sept. 26): "We need to do a better job offensively and need to do a better job on special teams. We put our defence in some bad spots last time."

Walters, on going into TD Waterhouse: "We've had four road games, so nothing should surprise us. We've played against some big crowds and some loud crowds, so it's just another road game, it happens this is a playoff road game."

On Guelph's last-season fade, losing 4-of-5: "It's not overly complicated. Our biggest concern is the inconsistency. I've told the kids, if we can play on offence, defence, special teams remotely at the level we're capable of, we'll be fine. Easier said than done ... it's just the inconsistency."

On Western MLB John Surla's public comments about Gryphons QB Justin Dunk: "When that came up, to be honest with you I had completely forgotten ... because when you're coaching, you're just thinking of the next week. After that happened, we had to get ready to play Waterloo ... ow that whole Justin Dunk episode is resurfacing. From an emotional standpoint, Justin's an emotional kid. John Surla's comments in the paper, we're hoping it acts as motivation. ... I'm hoping what Surla said helps the lightbulb go on and helps him keep his focus. We've talked to him, it doesn't do you any good to get fired up like that, see this is what we've been telling you about

Marshall, on facing Dunk: "He is an outstanding athlete. We can't get down when he makes a big play, you just have to focus on making the play the next time. He and (running back Nick) Fitzgibbon are going to make plays ... you know, one of the things we did against Queen's is we started to play a bit afraid when they started to move the ball. We have to play confident and stay on-task."

On the benefits of a first-round bye vs. playing in the quarter-final (3 of the last 4 Yates Cups finalists did not have a bye): "There's certainly advantages to playing and keeping guys into it and playing games and keeping a rhythm. However, there's a risk you're taking when you don't have a chance to get guys healthy. When you get that bye week, you're just fresher. We did it in '07, on the road the whole time against teams (Queen's, Ottawa and Guelph) that had beaten us in the regulation season. My feeling is if we're going to be the best team, we have to beat the best. I don't care what the record is, Guelph is a good team. They lost a close game to us where we had to kick a field goal at the end, they lost a close game to Queen's in a similar situation. If we want to be the best team, we have to beat the best team and we are hoping that starts Saturday."

McMaster's Stefan Ptaszek and Ottawa's Denis Piché (1 p.m.,

Ptaszek, on not having played Ottawa in regular season: "The information exchange we have between OUA teams is outstanding. As a coach, you're kind of motivated to do your job. The first time around, you might be able to pull a few tricks and get a couple extra first downs."

On what worries him facing Ottawa: "They can score in a big hurry. (Quarterback Brad) Sinopoli, one of the leading rushers in the conference. He's also a pocket passer that can gun-sling to the four corners of the universe. Obviously, we want to control the clock, I think we're the top two teams in time of possession. Last week (against Guelph), the 300 yards rushing, no fumbles, was encouraging."

On Mac's diverse rushing game with Jordan Kozina, Joey Nemet and slippery slotback Matthew Peressini all able to challenge defenders: "It's tremendously difficult to know what we're doing when we have three ballcarriers on the field. It creates some headaches. All three can carry the ball, they can catch the rock and they can block for the quarterback. You need a couple people to share carries ... to have a marquee tailback and to give him 200 carries is to wear him down before the real season starts."

On sophomore QB Kyle Quinlan: "He's been tremendously poised in every situation. He handled it well in his first start against Laurier which is probably the best, then to go down to Western and play the way he played. We hope to get him his favourite throws early in the game to calm him down, then go from there."

On the third phase of the game, special teams: "I know Coach Piché has some film of us turning the ball over on punt returns in the fourth quarter the past two weeks. We're doing everything we can address that area and fix those mistakes. Special teams is 1% inspiration, 99% work, you bust your ass and outwork the guy in front of you. Mostly it's not starters, it's the other 21 guys on the (45-man) roster who have take ownership. It is a major concern, have had some major gaffes. That's something to look out for on Saturday, if we can have a big play go our way on specials, that will help our chances."

Piché, on his veteran cornerbacks Chayce Elliott and Lee Shaver (Mac's corners are each rookies): "Lee and Chayce have done well, the thing which would come up with them is consistency, but they've always come up big at the right time. We have to minimize the mistakes and give our front seven the freedom to do some things, so we have be strong on the back end."

On how the Gee-Gees have galvanized during a five-game win streak: "We always say you have eight weeks to get ready for the weeks that matter. Bradley is a pretty insightful man. He has been a qback all his week and had a big role ... approaching it the same way.

On the difference between the '08 team and '09 edition: "We're a lot younger at certain positios. We have a new quarterback, a freshman running back (Jordan Wilson-Ross, plus backup Brendan Gillanders) starting for us ... on the positive side, we're healthy. Last year, we were walking dead. (Reciver) Ivan Birungi played the Guelph (quarter-final) game with about 70% recovery on his broken foot, guys who were not practising and just playing the games during our play. This year, we're a young team, it's an exciting time, these kids want to create their own history."

On appraising Mac: "I see a very tough defence that is predicated on throwing the football to beat them. They have great athletes, they have size ... on offence, I see one which is very similar to ours, a quarterback who can do it with his arm and his feet, good running game, good receivers."
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