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Defence comes up big as Western Mustangs improve to 5-0 in OUA football

980 CFPL/Mike Stubbs

In his OUA career, Western Mustang quarterback Chris Merchant has thrown for 50 touchdowns and run for 14 more.

On Saturday in Guelph, the Gryphons managed to keep Merchant and the rest of the Western offence out of the end zone entirely but the Mustangs leaned on their defence and the foot of Marc Liegghio to stay unbeaten this season with a 9-3 victory in some heavy heat and humidity.

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Even with defence being the big story of the afternoon, Merchant found ways to move the football all day. He engineered a 79-yard drive in the first quarter for the game’s first points on a 23-yard Liegghio field goal but Guelph kept the Mustangs without a major for the first time over their entire 27-game regular-season winning streak. Western has not lost since Sept. 4, 2016, when they were beaten by the Carleton Ravens in Ottawa.

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Merchant ended the day 19-of-27 for 213 yards and an interception and added 49 rushing yards.

Mustang running back Trey Humes carried the ball 21 times for 109 yards.

A battered Western defence, which was missing some key players, stood tall and limited the Gryphons to 263 yards of total offence. Western also sacked Guelph QB Theo Landers twice and Zach Lindley picked off a pass in the third quarter.

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Both defences stopped the opposing offence on third down tries early in the game. Western stopped the Gryphons on three of their four third-down attempts in total.

With the Mustangs leading 3-0, Liegghio added a 27-yarder before the end of the first half to double the Western lead as they headed to the locker room. Then he hit from 16-yards with 13:44 to go in the game.

Western held a 9-0 lead inside the final five minutes but Gryphons kicker Eric Stranz booted a 47-yard field goal to break the bid for a shutout by the Mustangs.

Western also shut down a final Guelph drive by forcing an incompletion from Landers on a 3rd and 3 attempt.

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The Mustangs entered the week as the number one ranked team in USports and sit atop the OUA standings at 5-0.

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Western will visit 1-4 Windsor on Sept. 28 and then return home to face Waterloo on Oct. 5. After a bye week, the Mustangs will complete their regular-season schedule against the Ottawa Gee Gees on Oct. 19 at TD Stadium.

McMaster and Waterloo both improved to 4-1 on Saturday. The Marauders hammered Windsor 47-19 while the Warriors beat the Ravens 34-24.