LONDON, Ont. – The Western Mustangs opened the 2016 season with a convincing 78-6 victory over the Windsor Lancers on Sunday night at TD Stadium.
"There were a lot of good things. I thought our special teams did a really good job, and we got lots of guys in the game, so that was good. It was a little bit sloppy, but overall I was happy with how our guys played," said Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall.
"Windsor did a good job offensively, the quarterback had a lot of poise. If you look at the stats they had a lot of first downs. I thought our defence did a good job of maintaining it, getting turnovers at key times, and making big plays at key times. I'm really happy with our overall team performance, and I thought our defence did a good job."
Western jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter and didn't look back, opening their 2016 campaign on a similar note as last year's, a 76-7 victory over these same Lancers.
The Mustangs dominated in all three phases of the game, with perhaps the most spectacular plays of the game coming from an unexpected source: the punt block team. On three separate occasions during the course of the game the Mustangs special teams unit stormed Lancers punter Clark Green and blocked his kick, recovering the ball all three times.
The first two came eight minutes apart in the first quarter, and both ended in recoveries for Mustang touchdowns. The first was taken to the end zone by defensive back Jordan Beaulieu and the second by second year linebacker Fraser Sopik. Beaulieu took his fumble recovery 43 yards, while Sopik scored on a 24-yard return.
"That was the turning point," said Marshall. "Up until that point it was pretty close. Those punt blocks really changed the momentum of the game."
Another thing that changed throughout the game was the identity of the Mustangs quarterback leading the offence. With both Stevenson Bone and Chris Merchant battling for the starting job Marshall rotated between the two QBs throughout the game before bringing in London native Ben Bergamin late in the game.
The Mustangs didn't wait long before opening the scoring, jumping out in front less than four minutes in with Bone leading a six-play, 77-yard drive that ended in a 12-yard touchdown run from Alex Taylor. Taylor knifed his way to the left of the line of scrimmage and found his way to the corner of the end zone for his first major score of the season.
The Mustangs followed up with another score on the ensuing possession, with Malcolm Brown blocking Green's punt, allowing Beaulieu to recover the ball and run it back 43 yards to put Western up 14-0.
Windsor responded with a 23-yard field goal from Green on the next drive, however the Mustangs fired back with their second punt block of the day, with Sopik scoring from 24 yards out to make it 22-3 for Western at the end of the first quarter.
Western's offence didn't slow down in the second frame, with Taylor picking up his second major of the day on a five-yard run less than four minutes into the quarter.
The Calgary connection of Merchant and Brett Ellerman connected for the score on Western's next drive, finding the end zone on a 38-yard pass. The touchdown was the first for each of them in their CIS careers.
Second-year running back Cedric Joseph rounded out the scoring in the half, picking up six points on a 13-yard run to give Western a 45-3 lead after 30 minutes of play.
Scoring slowed down after the half, with the two teams trading field goals – including a 46-yarder that was the first of Marc Liegghio's CIS career – before Merchant scored on a one-yard run to make it 55-6 for Western heading into the final frame.
The Mustangs added another 21 points in the final 15 minutes, with Merchant finding Ellerman on a 75-yard pass, before following that up with an eight yard run of his own. Bergamin capped off the scoring by tossing a 33-yard pass to Brian Dowds, with the score also being the first CIS touchdown for the two of them.
Western will now get set for their second straight Sunday night contest, as they'll head to Ottawa to take on the Carleton Ravens on September 4. Game time is set for 7 p.m., and fans can watch all the action live on OUA.tv. Fans can also tune in on CHRW Radio as well as on, and on Newstalk 1290 CJBK with Tom McConnell and legendary Mustangs coach Larry Haylor calling all the action.
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