LONDON, Ont. – A touchdown pass from Will Finch to receiver Harry McMaster only 49 seconds into the game got the Western Mustangs started and they never looked back, cruising to a 74-10 win over the York Lions on Monday night at TD Stadium.
"We tried to manage our players and rotate them through," said Western head coach Greg Marshall, talking about what the team can take from this type of victory. "Keep everyone mentally and physically sharp so that we don't get any injuries."
Playing in front of a packed house of 11,832 fans for the team's annual Orientation Week Game, the Mustangs recorded their second straight big win to start the season after last week's 76-7 victory over Windsor.
The Mustangs scored on their first four possessions in the first quarter and were up 33-0 after only 15 minutes of play. In only two quarters of play Finch had another stellar performance, finishing a perfect 14 for 14 for 304 yards and three touchdowns, while adding another on the ground before making way for backup Josh Beach for the second half.
Harry McMaster was Finch's favorite target finishing with seven catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns, the first two of his CIS career.
The dominance of the pass game opened the running game wide open as the four-headed monster of Alex Taylor, Adam Sinclair, Yannick Harou, and rookie Cedric Joseph were given space and time once again courtesy of a dominating offensive line.
The ball was spread evenly throughout the four backs, with none getting more than eight or less than four touches each. Taylor led the group going for 94 yards on only four carries with two touchdowns.
"Our running backs know that there is so much depth right now," said Marshall, "I can't tell you who is the best of the four of them. They are unselfish enough to know that if (they're) going to get ten carries a game then that's going to be ok."
"Its all about keeping your mind in the game," said Taylor, speaking about waiting long stretches between carries, "Watching the progression of the game and knowing you're going to be called any second."
Taylor added another touchdown courtesy of a 107-yard kickoff return, the longest kick return in Mustangs history and the first for the purple and white since Andrew Thibaudeau's 104-yard return in the 2010 OUA Semi-Finals.
The Western offensive unit was virtually unstoppable all night, recording 744 yards of total offence. In fact, the Mustangs finished each of their first five drives with either a touchdown or a field goal, with their first non-scoring drive only coming in the second quarter.
Defensively, the Mustangs capitalized on the small amount of time being allowed the York quarterbacks. Two rushed throws from Lions quarterback Eric Kimmerly were picked off and converted for touchdowns on the ensuing drives. Jesse McNair led the Mustangs defence with 9.5 tackles and one interception that he returned for 21 yards.
After Finch and McMaster connected to open the scoring only 49 seconds in, the duo teamed up once again on the next drive with Finch threading the needle between two defensive backs to hit McMaster and double the Western lead.
Tom Marshall caught Finch's third touchdown pass of the day a few moments later, extending the Western lead to 21-0 with just over five minutes remaining in the frame.
Taylor rounded things out with the quarter's last major, as he turned on the jets through the middle, made a defender miss with a hard cut, and took it 42 yards for the touchdown. A safety added another two points to the board for the Mustangs, and a 33-yard field goal from Ben Kelly gave the purple and white a 33-0 lead after the first quarter.
It was more of the same in the second quarter with points coming off of two safeties, a 37-yard field goal from Kelly, a 36-yard run from Taylor, and a six-yard rushing touchdown from Finch. The Lions got on the board as the first half expired with a 45-yard field goal from Nick Naylor making it 54-3 for Western at the half.
Western's offence slowed down in the second half, with Kelly recording both 34 and 37 yard field goals, while James Sifakis recorded a touchdown to give Western a 67-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
York added a touchdown late in the fourth on a catch from Nathaniel Pinto, to record their only major of the day.
Taylor's 107-yard kickoff return proved to be the highlight of the second half as well as representing the final points of the game. Taylor motored untouched through the middle of the field to make it a 74-10 final for Western.
"Kind of funny," said Taylor through a wide smile when asked about his big return. "Right before we went out there Sean Jamieson and I were talking and I said we're going to take this one to the house."
"The guys up front did a good job of getting a big hole and I came through that hole and it was only the kicker. I was kind of praying to God the kicker wouldn't get me, but just made a little move, got around, and it was daylight from there."
Western will face a tougher test as they travel to Laurier on a short week to take on the Golden Hawks on Saturday, September 12, at 7:30 p.m. The Golden Hawks are 1-1 after dropping a spirited contest to the Guelph Gryphons on Monday.
"I think that Laurier will give us a really good game next week," said Marshall. "They played Guelph tough [on Monday afternoon]. I think that Queen's after that, that's a couple of good solid opponents coming up."
Fans can watch Saturday's game on OUA.tv and listen on CHRW Radio 94.9 FM or on Newstalk 1290 CJBK with Tom McConnell and legendary Mustangs coach Larry Haylor calling all the action.
Source: Western Mustangs