The Western Mustangs are back-to-back Yates Cup champions. The Mustangs defeated the Guelph Gryphons by a score of 63–14 at the Yates Cup on Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
The Mustangs came out of the gates on fire in all aspects of the game. The first offensive drive was rolling well, but, because of an unfortunate Alex Taylor fumble within the five yard line, Western was forced to bring out their formidable defence.
The Mustangs defence was downright terrifying in the first quarter. On the Gryphons first two drives of the game, Western forced two two-and-outs.
The Mustangs benefited from the excellent play of their defence, scoring the first points of the game on a Cedric Joseph power rush. With just under nine minutes to play in the quarter, Western owned a 7–0 lead.
The Mustangs defence added some points of their own a few minutes later. Theo Landers, facing heavy pressure, looked to force a pass into double coverage down field. Mackenzie Ferguson took advantage of the overthrown pass, intercepting the ball and returning it 45 yards to the house.
The Western offence continued its roll entering the second quarter. Not normally known for his legs, quarterback Chris Merchant ran the ball 24 yards to the end zone on a broken play, extending the Western lead to 21–0.
Cedric Joseph added his second touchdown of the game with 6:57 to play in the first half. A few minutes later, Merchant found Griffin Campbell sitting wide open in the Gryphons zone coverage for the receivers first touchdown in his U Sports career. After the two scores, the Mustangs led 39-0.
Indicative of the incredible play of the Mustangs defence, the Gryphons conceded two safeties and picked up just five first downs in the first half. In fact, three of the first downs came in the last drive of the game.
Despite dominating the Gryphons for most of the half, the Mustangs allowed Guelph to score their first touchdown of the game on the final play of the first half. Through 30 minutes of play, Western held a commanding 39–7 lead.
While the Western defence dominated the Gryphons through about 27 minutes of play, Guelph scored on back-to-back drives between the last drive of the first half and first drive of the second half. In the second half scoring play, first year running back J-P Cimakinda broke off a huge 57-yard rush, closing the Gryphons deficit to 39–14.
The Mustangs offence responded quickly, though, as Merchant added his second rushing score of the game on a scramble.
The Western D stopped the bleeding on Guelph’s next drive, forcing a 2-and-out. However, the Western offence was unable to add another touchdown as Merchant forced a pass into the end zone. The ill-advised throw was picked off by a Gryphons defender.
Merchant made up for his mistake with a one-yard QB sneak on the next drive, adding his third rushing touchdown of the game. With three ground scores on the day, Western’s quarterback tied his total for rushing scores through eight regular season games this year.
Merchant wasn’t done with his third rushing major of the game, though. After Cedric Joseph rushed the ball 33 yards, the running back was stripped on the goal line. Fortunately for the Mustangs, their quarterback was able to fall on the ball for his fourth rushing score of the game.
After the early fourth quarter score, Chris Merchant, Alex Taylor and some other starters traded their helmets for ball caps, allowing Kevin John and the bench to close out the game.
Western will stay at home to play the Mitchell Bowl against the Saskatchewan Huskies next Saturday at 4 p.m. at TD Stadium.