Mitchell Bowl Champs and U Sports record holders, the Western Mustangs have won 23 straight. The Western Mustangs defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies by a score of 47 to 24 at the Mitchell Bowl Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
With their 23rd consecutive win, the Mustangs are now tied with the McMaster Marauders for the longest win streak in U Sports history.
The first drive of the game was terrible for the Mustangs. On the opening play of the game, Chris Merchant overthrew a pass for Malik Besseghieur, and on the second, Harry McMaster dropped a pass. Even worse, Chris Merchant lay on the field, visibly hurt after his dropped pass to McMaster.
Luckily for Western, Merchant returned in the next offensive drive.
The first Huskies offensive drive was great. The run and pass game rolled over the Mustangs defence. The usually staunch Western defensive squad weren’t able to bring the same speed on the defensive side of the ball, allowing Tyler Chow to run free.
The Saskatchewan drive was capped by a Kyle Siemens touchdown strike to Colton Klassen. Just over ten minutes into the first quarter, the Huskies led the game 7-0.
After a botched hand-off by Kyle Siemens, the Mustangs offence was gifted with great field position. The offence converted on the opportunity as Merchant found his favourite target, Harry McMaster, across the middle of the field, tying the game at seven with just under eight minutes to play in the first quarter.
In the first Mustangs drive of the second quarter, Malik Besseghieur made multiple men miss on a wide receiver screen, setting Western up within the Huskies 30-yard line. Merchant and McMaster connected on their second major of the day on the ensuing play, giving the Mustangs their first lead of the game with 13:48 to play in the first half.
Despite a decent drive from the Huskies offence in response to the Western touchdown, Saskatchewan had to settle for a field goal.
However, the Huskies added a touchdown in their next offensive drive. Kyle Siemens found Colton Klassen for their second touchdown connection of the day, giving Saskatchewan a 17-14 lead with 7 minutes to play in the first half.
With time running down, the Mustangs put together an excellent offensive drive. Merchant, clearly ignoring his ailing hip, made plays all over the field in both the run and the pass game.
Despite missing on a pass to Griffin Campbell, Western left 0.9 seconds on the clock in the first for a 37-yard field goal. Marc Liegghio, who had was just shy of perfect for the year, split the uprights, tying the game at 17 entering halftime.
The halftime break revitalized the Western Mustangs. The defence forced a punt and the offence put together a solid 85-yard scoring drive. The series was capped by a short Merchant rushing major, giving Western a 24-17 lead with 9:25 to play in the third.
Alex Taylor broke through on a huge rush in the fourth quarter. On an inside run, the half back found a hole and ripped off a huge 57-yard rushing score. With 10:26 left to play in the game, the Mustangs led 33-17.
The Huskies answered with a huge rush of their own, though, as Tyler Chow picked up a 60 plus yard touchdown run. The fifth-year back shortened the Western lead to 33-24 with just under 10 minutes to play.
Alex Taylor answered the Huskies back with his second major of the day just a few minutes later, though. The rushing score extended the Mustangs lead to 40-24 with just over six minutes left in the game. Cedric Joseph cleaned up the game with a short rushing major with just under three minutes left in the game.
While the offence was great, it was truly the defence that led the Mustangs through the second half. After allowing 17 points in the first half, the Western defensive corps suffocated the Huskies offence, allowing just seven points against.
The Mustangs will be back in action in Quebec City next weekend in a rematch of last year’s Vanier Cup. Western will take on the Laval Rouge et Or for the right to call themselves back-to-back champions.