It’s down to the final two weeks in the OUA’s regular season, and while there’s a wild playoff chase going on, there are still questions about the three teams who have already qualified for post-season play.
Do we take Western for granted?
At the beginning of the season, it was a nearly unanimous consensus that the Mustangs were the team to beat in the OUA. They have done nothing to dissuade those who gave them that love, and have in all likelihood convinced those few doubters who the best team in Ontario is.
The way Greg Marshall’s group has gone about its business has been most impressive. After surviving an overtime scare from Guelph early in the season, they’ve settled down and rolled along nicely, including impressive wins over Laurier and McMaster. They can beat you on the ground, through the air, or simply smother you on defence. Aside from the OT game, Western has allowed a total of 47 points in five outings.
Oh, and if that’s not enough, Mark Liegghio leads the country in scoring and has missed just three of his 28 field-goal attempts this season.
It’s a team with few flaws, but it still has to get it done when it most matters.
Who are the Golden Hawks?
For many, Laurier had become the ‘It Team’ in the OUA. Many saw the impressive way Michael Faulds’ team had started the season and had moved them ahead of Western in their power ranking.
Then came September 30th.
Western ruined Laurier’s Homecoming with a 29-13 win in a game that felt more one-sided than the scoreboard indicated. The ‘Stangs ran at will, rolling up a surprising 358 yards on the ground.
Laurier followed that up with a win over York, but again the defence had a less than stellar performance. The Hawks are a dynamic offensive group. They’re well balanced and can score from any spot on the field, but has their ‘D’ taken a step back?
If their mojo returns on that side of the ball they’ll become a very dangerous team come playoff time.
How good is McMaster at this stage?
It’s a typical Greg Knox defence in Hamilton. The Marauders get after the quarterback and fly to the football. They are tied for third in the country in interceptions and fumble recoveries, and alone in third with 20 sacks.
Most impressively, they allow just 287 total yards per game, best in the country, while opponents average just 10.3 points per game against MAC, second nationally to only Montreal.
What should worry OUA opponents is that the offence is now catching up to the defence. Freshman Jackson White has played in five games, posting over 300-passing yards in each of his last two outings. They have a balanced attack, with Jordan Lyons and Justice Allin providing a talented tandem in the backfield.
They may not be as good as Western from top to bottom, but the gap appears to be closing.
Queen’s played the first night game at the new Richardson Stadium and dominated Waterloo 68-17. The Gaels offensive line looks like a completely different group than the one that opened the season. Nate Hobbs was not sacked once, passing for 379 yards and four TDs. Jake Puskas caught two passes, both for touchdowns, and rushed for 175 yards and two additional scores. Chris Osei-Kusi is on fire of late, catching 10 passes against the Warriors for 111 yards. Nelkas Kwemo had a pair of sacks for the Tricolour. Waterloo’s high-powered offence, meanwhile, was held to just three points in the first half. Kurtis Gray had 13 tackles for the Warriors. Queen’s kept playing its starters until almost the end of the game in case points for and against comes into play in a tie-breaker at the end of the season. Another of the many highlights for the Gaels was a video the team showed honouring Pat Sheahan for his 150th career win, accomplished the previous week at Windsor.
The Marauders continued to roll with a 43-6 win at Toronto. Jackson White threw for a season-high 355 yards and a pair of TDs. Fellow freshman Justice Allin rushed for 70 yards and added 137 receiving yards. The Blues racked up 16 penalties for 267 yards. Toronto’s top two rushers were non-running backs, as QB Clay Sequeira picked up 55 yards, while receiver Will Corby had 36 yards on one carry.
It was an air show at York as the Lions and Laurier Golden Hawks combined for 819 yards passing. Laurier connected on more big plays and outlasted York 53-31. Kurleigh Gittens Jr. hauled in TD passes of 75 and 80 yards. He caught 18 passes for 174 yards, one catch shy of the USPORTS record of 19 set by former Hawk Andre Talbot. Levondre Gordon scored on a 52-yard run, part of his 152-yard, two-touchdown game. York’s Brett Hunchak finally hit the 300-yard mark for the first time this season, finishing with 388 yards and a pair of TDs. He was obviously happy to see his brother back in the line-up, as Colton Hunchak returned from an injury and caught 14 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions biggest play came immediately after Gordon’s TD run, when Kadeem Hemmings returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a score.
Western rolled to a 51-14 win over Carleton in a game under the Friday night lights. The Mustangs rushed for 363 yards and Chris Merchant passed for 300 more. Harry McMaster was the top receiver on the day with five catches for 114 yards and a touchdown. The most impressive number was posted by Western’s defence, as it held the dynamic Nathan Carter to just 23 yards on nine carries. The ‘Stangs have the bye this week before hosting Ottawa.