LONDON, Ont. – The Western Mustangs showed off their wealth of talent at the running back position, racking up over 500 yards and scoring nine rushing touchdowns en route to a 63-19 victory over the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Saturday at TD Stadium.
"Other than a couple mistakes that we made I thought it was maybe our best team game we've played," said Western head coach Greg Marshall after the win.
Coming in to the game, Western and Ottawa boasted two of the top three passing attacks in the CIS, but this contest was determined by the running game. The Mustangs finished with an astounding 538 rushing yards on the day, and were led once again by Alex Taylor, who accounted for 195 of those yards and Yannick Harou, who scored four touchdowns and put up 140 yards of his own.
"They put in a lot of effort to stop our pass and it opened up our run game," said Marshall.
Along with Harou's four majors, each of the Mustangs running backs found the end zone on Saturday, with Taylor and Adam Sinclair both scoring twice, while rookie Cedric Joseph scored once. Taylor's two touchdowns and nearly 200 yards rushing keep him on top of the CIS leaderboard in those two categories, with 12 rushing touchdowns and 1,010 yards on the year.
"It just goes to show how deep we are in the backfield," said Taylor. "We've been saying it all season."
Fourth-year quarterback Will Finch went an uncharacteristic 10 for 21 for 151 yards and he was picked off two times thanks to great plays from the Gee-Gee secondary. His Gee-Gees counterpart Derek Wendel was also picked off twice on 22-for-34 passing with 203 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, the Mustangs limited the Gee-Gees to only 361 yards and stopped them three times on third down. Coach Marshall was extremely impressed with how his defence played, considering the high-powered nature of the Gee-Gee offence who came into the game averaging 521 yards per game.
"I thought it was our best defensive game of the year," said Marshall. "I thought they played really well last week in Toronto, but they stepped in up today with how they played this afternoon."
"That's as well as you can defend that group over there."
The Mustangs were led in tackles by Malcolm Brown who had 6.5 on the day. Jesse McNair, who had several big hits in the win, trailed just behind with five tackles, as did Preston Huggins and Philippe Dion.
The Mustangs kicked off to start the game but were gifted an interception on the first play from scrimmage. Ottawa quarterback Derek Wendel overthrew his receiver on the flat and Josh Woodman dove and picked it before it hit the carpet.
The Mustangs offence took over and three plays later Taylor walked in his 11th touchdown of the year to put Western up 7-0.
Ottawa gambled on third down on their second drive, but came up short near midfield, giving the Mustangs excellent field position to start their next drive. The Mustangs took over once again, and after Finch scrambled for a first down and found receiver George Johnson for a big gain down to the five yard line, Sinclair punched in the second major score for the Mustangs.
The Gee-Gees offence kept the Mustang defence honest, going for it on third down consistently. With a little over seven minutes gone in the first quarter the Gee-Gees strung together a nice drive and were threatening. However, the Mustangs defence stood tall on third down as linebacker Jean-Gabriel Poulin broke through the line and stopped Bryce Vieira in his tracks.
The Mustangs took over the ball on their 26-yard line and worked another efficient drive. Five plays, 84 yards in a minute and thirty-three second and it once again ended with a running touchdown. This time from the work of Harou, who made a man miss and broke through two Ottawa defenders to find the end zone. The score was Harou's sixth of the year and extended Western's lead to 21-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Gee-Gees drove to midfield and let kicker Lewis Ward attempt a 47-yard field goal. He lifted the ball just inches above over the uprights and Ottawa was on the board midway through the second trailing 21-3.
Western responded a few minutes later with a nine-play 75 yard drive that Harou once again finished, scoring from the one-yard line to make it 28-3 for the home side.
Ottawa chipped away at that lead as time ran down towards the end of the half. After a Western offside on a field goal attempt gave them third and short, Ottawa ran a read option that opened up a running lane for Wendel, as he accelerated untouched 27-yards for the Gee-Gees first touchdown. It narrowed Western's lead to 28-10 after 30 minutes.
The Mustangs stepped on the gas in the second half, pouring on 35 points and putting the game out of reach. The scoring was rounded out by two more Harou scores, and a score each for Taylor, Sinclair and Joseph, who received six carries in the fourth quarter.
The highlight of the half was a dynamic 50-yard rush from Harou for his third score. Fans of St. Andrew's College football would recognize the make up of the play as Harou picked up a great block from his high school teammate Jamal Kett in the open field that allowed him to dash to the corner of the end zone. The play extended the Mustang lead to 49-13.
The Gee-Gees offence also found a bit of a rhythm as they worked several nice drives and scored nine points thanks to 41-yard field goal from Lewis and a one-yard Wendel touchdown throw late in the fourth, however it wouldn't be enough as the Mustangs walked away with a 63-19 victory.
Next week the Mustangs will face their toughest challenge of the season so far as they travel to McMaster to play the 6-1 Marauders. With a win, the Mustangs will finish atop the OUA standings with an undefeated 8-0 record and guarantee home field advantage throughout the OUA playoffs.
Kickoff for the game on Saturday, October 24, is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton.
NOTES: Yannick Harou's second quarter touchdown was Western's 53rd major of the year, breaking the OUA record for touchdowns in a season that the Mustangs set in 2013… Harou's four touchdown day is a career-high, eclipsing his previous best of three against Laurier on September 21, 2013…Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall stands on the edge of a career milestone with 99 CIS regular season wins after today's game. That means that win number 100 could come against the same McMaster team that Marshall guided to 42 regular season victories…
Source: Western Mustangs