Yates Cup - Shirley Ma-2.jpg

The Yates Cup was the first goal. The Western Mustangs exacted revenge on the Laurier Golden Hawks in Saturday's 75–32 route of the defending Ontario University Athletics champs.

Now, it's onto the next goal; the program's seventh Vanier Cup and it's first since 1994. But to get to the national championship game the Mustangs must first travel east, to Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia for the Uteck Bowl.

There, the Acadia Axemen will be waiting. The winners of the Loney Bowl, the championship game of the Atlantic University Sport conference, triumphed 45–38 in an overtime thriller over the Saint Mary's University Huskies in a game rife with controversy

The last time an AUS team appeared in the Vanier Cup was 2003 when Saint Mary's lost to the Laval Rouge-et-Or in an attempt to pull off an unprecedented three-peat.

However, football in the AUS has changed since then, as the power shifted westward and the lack of a natural recruiting pipeline in the Maritimes led to a decrease in the quality of football in the conference.

The Mustangs haven't played a semifinal game on the East Coast since 1995. Acadia is somewhat of a mystery to the Western coaching staff, save for offensive coordinator Steve Snyder, who could prove to be increasingly valuable as the Mustangs prepare for the Axemen.

Snyder spent the last three seasons in Antigonish, Nova Scotia as the offensive coordinator for the St. Francis Xavier University X-Men. He'll have an idea of how to score on an Acadia defence designed to shut down the run game.

The Axemen allowed an average of only 117 rushing yards per game, good for first in the AUS. Their passing defence was mediocre all year, however, as they gave up 258 yards per game from the air. While 14 interceptions will be something the Mustangs need to keep an eye on, Western quarterback Chris Merchant will play a pivotal role in the Mustangs offensive success.

On the offensive side of the ball, Acadia running back Dale Wright will be the focal point of the Mustangs' defensive preparation. Wright led the AUS with 1,030 yards and six touchdowns on the season and was named conference MVP. 

However, the Mustangs will be ready. Their defence has been dominant all season, save for two touchdown drives against Laurier in the Yates Cup. Jean-Gabriel Poulin, Philippe Dion and Fraser Sopik lead a Western defence that allowed only 99 rushing yards a game during the regular season.

The Mustangs will be heavy favourites heading into Saturday's Uteck Bowl. After an emotionally draining win over Laurier, that silenced a year of questions about this team's inability to finish in big games, this Western team now has its eyes set on a national title.

They can't overlook Acadia, of course. They can't play as if they're satisfied with a Yates Cup. Because while they're expected to handle the Axemen on Saturday, two Goliaths appear on the horizon ready to play them for a greatest prize in Canadian college football.

This game against Acadia can act as the perfect tuneup for a potential date with either Laval or the Calgary Dinos in two weeks. A road trip to the Maritimes to play in cold, damp conditions will test this team's resolve.

It will prepare them for what lies ahead.

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