LONDON, Ont. – The Western Mustangs jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back as they defeated the Carleton Ravens 70-14 in front of 10,291 fans on Homecoming Saturday at TD Stadium.
"A little bit," said Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall when asked if he was surprised by the final score. "I was surprised by the bunches we scored in at the end of the first half but I thought we had a pretty good game plan."
On a perfect day for football, the Mustangs were near perfect all afternoon as they were dominant in all three phases of the game. The pace of the Mustangs no huddle offence wore down the Ravens and finished with 765 yards of offence.
The Mustang defence gave up a couple explosive plays to Carleton but past that they were solid, limiting the Ravens to 405 yards of offence, including 267 yards passing from quarterback Jesse Mills. He completed 26 of 41 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
Offensively, the Mustangs had one of their best halves of the season in the opening 30 minutes of play. The purple and white put up 48 points thanks to big plays on almost every drive in the first half.
For the first time this season, coach Marshall called several deep shots through the air, and it paid off. Fourth-year quarterback Will Finch had four touchdown passes in the first half with none shorter than 28 yards.
"They bring so many combinations from so many different areas but the downside of that is that they leave guys open and they left guys open," said Marshall. "They made some plays but Will found a couple guys they didn't cover."
Finch had another strong performance, finishing with 350 yards and four touchdowns after completing 20 of 33 passes.
"Anytime you put 70 points on the board, things have got to be going OK," said Finch. "We were hot and cold and we had a couple penalties at crucial points in the game but ultimately we were good."
Backup quarterback Stevenson Bone entered the game late in the third quarter to replace Finch and completed six of his nine pass attempts for a total of 72 yards. He also showed off his ability to run the ball with 16 yards rushing on only three carries.
In the backfield, Alex Taylor led the way for the Mustangs for the third game in a row, picking up 110 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. But that didn't mean the other three backs didn't make an impact on Saturday afternoon as Yannick Harou, Cedric Joseph and Adam Sinclair all found the end zone as the Mustangs run game racked up 349 yards on the day.
The Western defensive front was tasked with limiting the OUA's second leading rusher Jahvari Bennett. Bennet came into this game averaging 126.8 yards per game but couldn't find any traction against the physical Mustang front. Bennett finished the game with only 50 yards on 13 carries.
This after limiting the OUA's leading rusher Jesse Andrews of Queen's last week. If the Mustang defense can continue to eliminate the run game the way they have been they will be tough to top on any day.
Middle linebacker Jean-Gabriel Poulin lead the Mustangs with 7.5 tackles, while Malcolm Brown, Matt Gruniger, and Charlton Elliott each recorded interceptions.
The Mustangs wasted little time getting on the board as Taylor took the opening kickoff back 48 yards and seven plays later dashed 26 yards to the right corner of the end zone. On the very next Western play from scrimmage, Finch lofted a 59-yard touchdown pass to Harry McMaster. There was little doubt about the intentions of the Mustang offence on the afternoon: strike early and often.
"We have amazing players and they played very well early," said All-Canadian offensive tackle Eddie Meredith. "We kind of took their momentum."
Carleton had some jump early and strung together a nice drive to open the second quarter that closed the gap to 17-7. However, the Mustangs struck back right away with another deep ball from Finch to Tom Marshall, the first of two straight touchdowns from Finch to Marshall on virtually identical plays.
"A couple plays there Tom Marshall our fullback – no one picked him up in the middle of the field," said Finch. "He just got open and I was able to find him"
After another Carleton touchdown, this one coming off of a 19-yard pass from Jesse Mills to London native Nathaniel Behar, a wide open Matt Uren hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Finch and extended the lead to 41-14. The purple and white lead increased again less than 90 seconds later as Taylor record his second major of the day on a 26-yard run to make it 48-14 at the half.
The second half scoring consisted of a Harou punch in, Sinclair's 6-yard touchdown dash, and an impressive 38-yard rush from Joseph along with a rouge from kicker Ben Kelly to make it a 70-14 final for the Mustangs.
Even though the Mustangs haven't been in a tight game this year, Meredith says he and his teammates are not going to lose their focus.
"We have to keep challenging ourselves to get better," he said, "teams are giving us their best shot and it only takes potentially one shot to end our season."
The Mustangs move into a bye week that will help give some rest to a couple players that are dealing with nagging injuries. Western will return to action on October 8th at Varsity Stadium as they take on the Toronto Varsity Blues.
Game time is set for 7 p.m. and fans can watch all the action live on OUA.tv, or listen on CHRW Radio 94.9 FM and on Newstalk 1290 CJBK with Tom McConnell and legendary Mustangs coach Larry Haylor calling all the action.
NOTES: Today's game is only the second time that the Ravens and Mustangs have met on the gridiron. The first was in Carleton's return to CIS football in 2013 that saw Western claim a 71-4 victory…Western's first touchdown marked the third time in five games that the Mustangs have scored on their opening drive, also picking up a field goal against Windsor and a touchdown against York…
Source: Western Mustangs