The Mustangs will be back home to play the Carleton Ravens this Saturday at 7 p.m. The Ravens are a perfect 1-1 on the year, with a win over Queen’s and a loss to Guelph. The term may be overused this year for Western, but this is a trap game.
Last year, Western University narrowly defeated the Ravens 26-23 in overtime. And even though Carleton University doesn’t look like much on paper, they will have plenty of motivation to push the Mustangs again this weekend.
The Ravens come into this weekend rested and angry. Carleton was blown-out 37-20 by the Guelph Gryphons in front of a sold-out home crowd in their last game.
To make matters worse, the team had to sit with this loss for an extra week as their scheduled bye week came immediately after. Even in their post-game quotes, the emotion was palpable.
"We were on the field quite a bit and personally I think the offence has to step up a bit," Carleton linebacker Jack Cassar told the Ottawa Sun after the game. "[The offence] gave the other team two touchdowns and overall I think the defence played well."
Carleton Quarterback Tanner Dejong, in another interview with the Ottawa Sun, saw those two touchdowns in a different way: "I thought the offence played alright and [the Guelph Gryphons] got lucky on two miracle plays."
With a struggling offence and an indignant defence, a win against the defending Yates Cup champion would be huge for this group. After Western beat the McMaster Marauders last weekend — who, at the moment, seem to be the Mustangs biggest threat in the OUA — the team could easily fall in a trap of sub-par practice and uninspired game effort. If last week was a test of the team's physical strength, this week is a test of their mental fortitude.
On paper, the Ravens don’t do anything exceptionally well on offence. The team is serviceable on the ground and through the air, but they don’t have one overpowering skill.
The Ravens quarterback, Tanner DeJong, has put up a decent stat line for the year: throwing for 500 yards and three touchdowns with a 61.5 per cent completion percentage. The fourth-year quarterback didn’t see any action last year.
DeJong has not shown an ability to find space with his legs this year, though. On just three attempts, the Brockville native has rushed just 4 yards.
Similarly, Carleton running back Nathan Carter has run for 132 yards and no scores on 33 touches this year. Last season, the Mustangs defence contained the half-back well – holding him to just 62 yards on 15 attempts.
Currently, the Ravens don’t appear to have a second option that they trust to pair with Carter. The team’s second leading rusher, Joshua Ferguson, has just three attempts for a relatively impressive 23 yards.
Defence is the area of the game that Carleton may look to control.
The Ravens boast an impressive two-headed monster in Jack Cassar and Josh Walsh. The linebacking duo have both accounted for 17.5 tackles and are tied for the U Sports lead in tackles-per-game, with 8.8. As well, the two players have combined for 4.5 tackles for loss.
Interestingly, though, while one would expect the Ravens to be a good rush defence, they have been much better against the pass. While the stats are somewhat skewed given the small sample size, Carleton has coughed up an average of 138.5 yards on the ground, but held opposing teams to a paltry 145.5 yards through the air.
Also, it's easy to see that neither Queen’s nor Guelph, the only two teams the Ravens have played this year, are aerial juggernauts – the former has averaged 193.3 yards through the air, the latter 200.0.
Rounding out the defence, the Mustangs will need to look out for Shaiheem Charles-Brown in the trenches. The third year defensive lineman has hauled down three sacks this year, effectively accounting for half the team’s total.
The Ravens may not be as good as the Maruaders, who the Mustangs rolled over last weekend, but their defence deserves a fair amount of respect.
If the Mustangs prepare correctly, giving the respect due to any OUA rival, they'll avoid the trap and wake up on Sunday with a 4-0 record.