GUELPH, Ont. – A week after spoiling the opening of Richardson Stadium with a 27-13 win, the Mustangs put a damper on Guelph's Homecoming festivities with a 50-16 victory over the Gryphons on Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
"I'm pleased [about the win]. I'm especially pleased because it was a total team effort," said Western head coach Greg Marshall. "I thought our special teams did a tremendous job early in the game pinning them down. We gave up that touchdown and then our offence responded right back, and that may have been the turning point. From that point on I really thought defensively we did a good job, offensively it was a little sporadic, we're not there yet. We're better than we were, but we're not there yet."
"Overall, that was our best team win in a long time, and this wasn't an easy place to play in."
The win, Western's first over Guelph since 2011, moves the purple and white to 4-1 on the year and makes them one of only three teams with four wins, alongside Laurier and Ottawa who are both 4-0.
Chris Merchant led the Mustangs offence with season highs in both passing yards (322) and completions (19), while also throwing for two touchdowns in the win. James Roberts led the Gryphons attack, throwing for 375 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions on 30-46 passing.
Merchant's favorite target was fifth-year receiver George Johnson who led Western's receiving corps with 103 yards on six catches, including a 20-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter.
While the air attack may have picked up the majority of the yards on Saturday, Alex Taylor continued his stellar season, topping the century mark once again with 120 yards rushing on 21 carries with one touchdown. The third-year back ranks second in the OUA in both total yards and rushing touchdowns with 647 and six respectively, while sitting in third place in yards per game with 129.4.
Marc Liegghio carried over the momentum from his career-high three field goals last week by setting a new personal milestone, kicking five field goals on Saturday along with five extra points. The five field goals is one off of the Mustangs single game record of six, jointly held by Frank Jagas, Darryl Wheeler, and Lirim Hajrullahu, who accomplished the feat on two separate occasions.
Defensively the Mustangs were led by Jean-Gabriel Poulin with 7.5 tackles, however it was both Mackenzie Ferguson and Jordan Beaulieu who stole the show. Ferguson recorded a timely interception in the second quarter, picking off Roberts in the end zone and halting a driving Gryphons offence, while Beaulieu stripped a Gryphons receiver of the ball late in the fourth and took it back 70 yards for a touchdown.
The Gryphons opened the scoring early, picking up points on only their fourth play from scrimmage on a 67-yard touchdown pass from Roberts to Colton Jones to go up 7-0 a little more than 90 seconds in.
Western responded midway through the quarter with Merchant connecting with Tom Marshall on a 13-yard touchdown pass to tie things up at 7-7.
It wouldn't take long for those seven points to turn into 14 as the Mustangs found the end zone once again on their ensuing drive. After Myles Rombough set things up with a 37-yard catch, Taylor punched it in from the two-yard line to give the Mustangs the lead.
An interception by Philippe Dion only a few plays later gave the Mustangs the ball back, and Liegghio gave the Mustangs a 17-7 lead with a 22-yard field goal.
Kickers took over the scoresheet for the second quarter, with Gabriel Ferraro hitting 37- and 38-yard field goals, while Liegghio connected from 44-, 32-, and 18-yards out to give the Mustangs a 26-13 lead heading into halftime.
Western continued to roll in the third quarter, with Merchant tossing his second touchdown pass of the day, this one a 20-yarder to George Johnson, to get the Mustangs scoring started in the frame. Liegghio added another field goal before Stevenson Bone ran in a major from the one-yard line to put the purple and white up 43-14 after three quarters.
The Mustangs added one more score in the fourth, a highlight reel effort from Beaulieu that saw the defensive back cleanly strip a Gryphons receiver of the ball and take it back 70 yards for the score to give Western a 50-16 win.
Next up for the Mustangs is a Reunion Weekend showdown with the Laurier Golden Hawks on Saturday, October 1, at TD Stadium. Game time is set for 1 p.m. and can be seen live on Rogers Cable 13 in London or online on OUA.tv. Fans can also tune in live on CHRW Radio 94.9 FM and Newstalk 1290 CJBK.
Source: Western Mustangs