LONDON, Ont. – Will Finch threw for 454 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Western Mustangs to a 48-25 victory over the Queen's Gaels on a rainy Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
"I think offensively we have got to finish and clean some mistakes up," said Western head coach Greg Marshall following the win. "Defensively, at times we were awesome, but we didn't cover the pass well enough."
The Mustangs once again relied on their fourth-year quarterback, who had perhaps his best statistical game of the season on Saturday. The Gaels came into the game allowing a CIS-worst 363.3 passing yards per game and Finch took advantage, going 32 for 42 for 454 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
The Burlington, Ont., native spread the ball around to a total of eight different receivers, while two Mustangs receivers—George Johnson (140) and Harry McMaster (109)—posted 100+ yard games. McMaster also recorded a touchdown along with Justin Sanvido, who caught five passes in his return to the lineup after missing the past two games due to injury.
While the Mustangs divided their offensive output among a number of players, the Gaels offence was primarily powered by the three-pronged attack of quarterback Nate Hobbs, running back Jessie Andrews, and receiver Curtis Carmichael.
In his first ever OUA start at TD Stadium Hobbs completed 20 of 41 passes, throwing for 336 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. His favourite target was Carmichael, who made eight catches to record 124 yards and two touchdowns. Andrews led the way for the Gaels ground game, racking up 102 yards on 17 carries.
The rain did play a factor throughout the game as players on both teams struggled to keep a firm grip on the ball leading to six turnovers in the game.
The Mustangs offence moved the ball well throughout the afternoon but couldn't blame several second half turnovers on the weather as the rain held off. Western turned the ball over on three consecutive drives to begin the second half, including one off of a deflected interception, and fumbles from Alex Taylor and Yannick Harou, both of which came from inside the Queen's ten-yard line.
"There are some things that happen in the course of a game like dropping the ball and those things happen sometimes," said coach Marshall, "and sometimes they come in bunches."
Despite his two fumbles, Taylor had another electrifying game; running hard and making defenders miss with hard cuts as he earned 107 yards on only 11 carries and twice found the end zone.
Queen's offence looked capable of moving the ball early in the game. After they used a fake field goal to extend their opening drive, the Gaels became the first team to get ahead of the Mustangs on the scoreboard in 2015, picking up a single point off of a missed field goal from Dillon Wamsley just under five minutes into the contest.
The lead for the Gaels did not last long. On the very next drive the Mustangs recovered a fumbled punt by the Gaels and were set up in great field position. The offence didn't take too much time turning that field position into points on the board as they need only three plays to hit the end zone, capping things off with Taylor's sixth touchdown of the season.
Neither team was able to generate much in the way of scoring for the majority of the frame until Mustangs defensive back Christiaan Collarile intercepted an overthrow from Hobbs and took it back 63 yards for the pick six with a minute left in the first quarter.
Ben Kelly extended Western's lead to 17-3 on the Mustangs next possession, hitting an 11-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The home side then followed that up midway through the second as Finch found McMaster on a curl route in the end zone on a three-yard pass to extend the give Western a 24-3 with 7:26 left in the first half.
The Gaels took advantage of two pass interference calls against the Mustangs on the ensuing drive before finishing things off with an excellent 41-yard pass from Hobbs to Carmichael to give Queen's their first major of the day.
"Good composure," said coach Marshall when asked about the play of Hobbs, "He got out of the pocket and he threw the ball down field."
The Mustangs responded with a touchdown to close out the half. Finch drove the Mustangs 45 yards in 56 seconds and capped off the drive with a five-yard floater to Sanvido to regain the 21-point lead at 31-11.
Both offences were unable to put points on the board in the third quarter, outside of a single point for the Gaels. Carmichael would haul in another Hobbs pass to open the scoring in the fourth quarter, but that's as close as it would get as Western stepped on the gas and took their next two possessions for major scores on the back of Harou and Taylor punch-ins.
A late Queen's touchdown would not be enough and the Mustangs took the physical battle by a final score of 48-25.
"We came out of it pretty healthy," said Marshall, looking forward to next week's Homecoming matchup against the Carleton Ravens. "We are going to be OK. Carleton's a good team but we will be OK."
The Ravens should expect to be playing in front of a packed house at TD Stadium as alumni from around the world descend on the Western campus for Homecoming Weekend. Game time on Saturday, September 26, is set for 1 p.m., and fans can watch all the action live on OUA.tv and Rogers Cable 13. Fans can also listen live on CHRW Radio 94.9 FM and Newstalk 1290 CJBK with Tom McConnell and legendary Mustangs coach Larry Haylor calling all the action.
NOTES: Queen's became the first defence to shut out the Mustangs for an entire quarter in 2015, holding Western off the board in the 3rd quarter…Defensive back Christiaan Collarile's interception and touchdown return late in the first quarter were the first of his CIS career…Finch's 454 yards passing is the second-highest single game total of his career, surpassed only by a 547-yard effort against York to close out the 2013 regular season…
Source: Western Mustangs