There was a little bit of everything in the Mustangs 34-17 road win over the Marauders this Saturday.
McMaster University posed the biggest challenge in the Mustangs young season. As a result, the Western University coaching staff had to alter the offensive playbook slightly, and even throw in a trick play in order to come out victorious.
After relying on the passing game in Monday night’s game, the Mustangs shifted back to a ground offence in their game against McMaster.
Despite being listed as questionable to start before the game, running back Trey Humes encountered a massive workload against the Marauders — rushing for 129 yards on 29 attempts, including a touchdown.
Humes led the game in rushing yards, but just behind him was his quarterback, Chris Merchant. The fifth-year player racked up 104 yards and two scores on just 13 attempts. For reference, the Marauders' leading rusher, running back Jordan Lyons, posted just 29 yards on seven attempts.
To be fair, where McMaster University fell short on the ground, they made up through the air. Marauders quarterback Andreas Dueck tossed two pretty touchdown passes over the Mustangs defence and racked up 345 yards.
By half-time, neither team had a clear visual advantage. The Mustangs held a 17-10 lead, but the Marauders had played well throughout the entire first half.
Truly, McMaster got in their own way in the first 30 minutes, committing 10 penalties that cost them a whopping 93 yards. In the same half, the Mustangs only threw for 55 yards, but also rushed for 126.
The low production in Western's passing game — the Mustangs finished with 189 passing yards as a team — was the product of excellent pass defence by the Marauders. The defensive backfield was so stingy, that head coach Greg Marshall had to get creative in order to beat them.
At the start of the fourth quarter, in a one-score game, the veteran coach dug deep into the playbook and called a well-timed fake. Quarterback Merchant took the snap and handed the ball to Humes. Humes then followed the shifting offensive line to the left, however, just as it seemed the play would go for nothing, he flipped the ball to Brett Ellerman, who threw a pass to a wide-open Merchant on the right side of the field.
No one on the Marauder’s defence was even in Merchant’s area code.
After going up by two touchdowns, the Mustangs worked like a championship team, squeezing the life out of McMaster. Their defence stopped the ensuing Marauders drive short, giving the ball back to the offence with seven minutes remaining in regulation.
The Mustangs scratched and clawed down the field and were stopped just outside of the end zone. With just over a minute remaining, Marc Liegghio chipped in an 11-yard field goal – putting the final nail in McMaster’s coffin.
While the Marauders made an effort to score in the final minute, Mustangs defensive lineman Mark Shelley dispelled any hope by sacking McMaster’s Quarterback Dueck as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
While it wasn’t easy, the Mustangs threw everything they had at the Marauders and found a way to win – extending their perfect regular season record to 3-0.
Next week, Western returns home, eyeing a four-game streak for their annual blackout game against the Carleton Ravens.