The Mustangs football team is headed to Hamilton for this Saturday's game against the McMaster Marauders, who could be Western University's toughest test of the season.
The two teams will meet at Ron Joyce Stadium this weekend. The Marauders pose a daunting challenge for a team that felt their play fell short of their own championship caliber expectations during Monday’s victory at home.
Despite that win over the Queen’s University Golden Gaels, Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall offered a glimpse today at how difficult the upcoming matchup may be.
“Mac does a lot of different things; We're under the gun,” said Marshall. “Mac's got an advantage, they have a day and a half to prepare. They're looking at film right now, we're still licking our wounds.”
The coach also noted the Marauders' creativity on defence which will pose problems for the Mustangs' offence. Western must prepare for an arsenal of pressures and blitz packages, the coach said.
Highlighting the Marauders' pass rush is not just lip service.
McMaster University has been arguably the best pass-rushing team in the entire country this year, racking up 10 sacks in two games. In those two games, the sack total has been spread out perfectly between 10 different players.
During Monday’s game, the Mustangs allowed three sacks to the Gaels' D-line — who currently sit second in the U Sports sacks leaderboard.
Also, likely as a result of the punishment that the defensive front has forced on opponents, the Marauders lead the country again with their eight interceptions. To this point in the season, the most dangerous Marauders' defensive backfield has been second-year defensive back Josh Cumber, who has hauled in three picks on his own.
Cumber, who typically plays in the cornerback position, is quite undersized, though. At just five feet, nine inches tall, the Mustangs may be able to exploit his weakness by matching a larger receiver — such as Malik Besseghieur — against him.
While the Marauders' defence is their strongest facet, the offensive side of the ball is also impressive. McMaster leans on the passing game, posting 591 yards through the air this season — good for third in the nation.
The Marauders' quarterback, Andreas Dueck, has been remarkably accurate with his passes this year, completing 54 of his 77 attempts for 70.1 per cent completion. But, his accuracy on paper is somewhat misleading. The third year signal caller has averaged just 7.7 yards per passing attempt, which ranks 17th in the U Sports leaderboard.
In order to combat this quick passing attack, the Mustangs will need to be tight through the middle of the field. Last year, the team consistently defaulted to a cover 4 defensive concept, knowing they could rely on their four linebackers to manage the shorter passes. However, the team may need to alter their defensive strategy slightly to match the offence of the Marauders.
In the run game, McMaster has been relatively mediocre. They have rushed for a collective 211 yards this season, split between running backs Justice Allin and Tavian Shand and quarterback Andreas Dueck.
In their last game, Western fell short of their demanding expectations. As their head coach explained, they’re now “under the gun.”
As they heal up from their last game, and look forward to their next one, the Mustangs will need to prove that they can beat the best teams in their conference.