A week after beating down the Windsor Lancers in an offensive slug-fest, the Mustangs are set for yet another shootout at home against Waterloo.
Waterloo University has been dominant in the run game this year. The team’s 1074 total rushing yards and 214.8 ground yards per game both rank first in the country. In terms of yards per rush and total running touchdowns, Waterloo currently holds the second and third spots, respectively.
The Warriors' dominance in the run game has translated well into their total offensive output: the team ranks in the U Sports Top Five in total scoring, points per game, total offence and yards per game.
Their potent running attack has been led by two players this season: running back Dion Pellerin and quarterback Tre Ford.
Pellerin, the Warriors' starting half-back, has been handed the ball 90 times for an eye-popping 645 yards and six touchdowns in just five games. The third-year runner’s touchdown total leads U Sports and his total rushing yards place him third in the nation.
And if Pellerin’s daunting statistics weren’t enough to send a chill down opposing defence’s spines, Ford’s 362 rushing yards also rank in the U Sports Top 10.
Ford has better rushing numbers than Windsor University's number one ground option, Jacob Savoni. And the Warriors quarterback has racked up his totals in one fewer game.
Of course, with a heavy workload on the ground, you would expect that Ford struggles in the passing game, right?
Well, his 163.2 passer efficiency rating places him third in the country, his 11 touchdowns rank second and his completion percentage is second best in the league.
Waterloo clearly benefits from a short-range passing attack, though, as the Warriors signal caller averages just 9.1 yards per attempt and has compiled just 1398 total passing yards (which rank 8th and 12th, respectively, on the U Sports leaderboard).
The Mustangs are not new to a high-flying Warriors offence, though. They have handled the Waterloo hype train in the past. Last year, the Warriors had homefield advantage and were riding high on the same offensive weapons. On paper, it should have been the hardest game to that point in the Mustangs' season.
The Mustangs quickly reminded everyone that football is played on the field — not through online leaderboards. Western routed the Warriors 67-7. Ford threw for just 130 yards, completing 50 per cent of his passes. Pellerin netted just 63 yards on 14 attempts.
In that game, the Warriors defensive secondary was torn to shreds. Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant threw for 300-plus yards and an astounding six touchdown passes.
Unfortunately for Waterloo, their defence has shown little signs of improvement this season. The rush defence has allowed 165.8 yards per game — ranking them in the bottom five in the league — and the pass defence has allowed an average of 304.8 yards through the air, ranking them as the 25th worst pass-stoppers in the nation.
The Mustangs should be careful before they gloat over the Warriors' poor defence, though. This season, Western is one of just two teams that has a worse pass defence than Waterloo. The home squad has allowed 317.2 passing yards per game, good for the second worst average among U Sports football teams.
However, where the Mustangs' defence has struggled in the pass game, they have made up for against the rush. Western’s average of 85 ground yards allowed per game is bested by just three other teams and is second in Ontario University Athletics.
So, for a second straight year, this game looks amazing on paper. The Warriors can either try to attack the Mustangs’ weakness (their pass defence), or go best on best and try to run the ball down Western’s throat.
The Mustangs' offence will need to be prepared for an offensive shootout.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at TD Stadium this Saturday.