After nearly two years without OUA football, the Western Mustangs came out with a strong 41-13 victory over McMaster on Saturday at TD Stadium in London, Ont.
Western running back Keon Edwards reached the end zone three times to lead the Mustangs offensively.
Following the game, Western head coach Greg Marshall gave credit to the offensive line and the defensive line.
“We wanted to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Their base defence was going to make it difficult for us to run the ball. That was basically the same defence that we faced in the (2019) Yates Cup when we didn’t run the ball well and it showed how much has changed,” said Marshall.
With no OUA football for two years, experience can be both rare and key at the same time, and the Mustangs’ offensive line took advantage of the returners in the trenches.
“From an athletic standpoint, the line is one of the best I have coached and capable of playing at the next level,” Marshall said.
Adding to the rushing attack is fifth-year fullback Antonio Valvano, who added to the ability for the Western rushers, like Edwards and Trey Humes, to get outside.
New Western quarterback Jackson White found both Griffin Campbell and Brett Ellerman for touchdowns in the second half.
White was going against his former team and Marshall pointed out the challenges that can bring, especially after going so long between actual games.
“As much as you say ‘don’t worry about it Jacks, it’s just another game,’ there are going to be nerves. He just needed to settle down and he did,” said Marshall. “He was exceptionally accurate, especially in the third and fourth quarter.”
Like Marshall, White gave big praise to everyone in front of him and the guys lined up behind him as well.
“The O-line and the running backs made the job easy today and we are thrilled to start this way,” said White. “(The Marauders) were coming fast and it took some getting used to but we managed.”
White’s throw into the back of the end zone from 25 yards out to Griffin Campbell in the fourth quarter put the Mustangs up 31-13 and the game out of reach.
The score at the half was 14-7 for Western and the Marauders managed to keep things close into the second half as they twice cut the Western lead to four points on a pair of field goals.
Western kicker Ryan Garrity connected in between those scores from 45 yards out for his first OUA field goal. Garrity made it memorable, not just for the distance, but for the fact that it hit both posts on the upright and went through.
Fast starts are vital in the OUA this year. A season that normally begins in the final weekend of August was shifted to the third week of September, meaning teams will only play six regular-season games.
McMaster’s only touchdown came after a fumbled snap on a Mustang punt that the Marauders recovered on the Western six-yard line.
Defensive lineman Deionte Knight of the Mustangs helped create a pressure-packed afternoon for Marauder quarterback Andreas Dueck. Western linebacker Zach Lindley was another force on defence with an interception, a sack and a couple of quarterback pressures.
The look on Greg Marshall’s face after the game said more than anything about the return of football at the University level.
“It was just really good to be back playing,” admitted Marshall. “The atmosphere was great, the officiating was outstanding. It was a great afternoon of football.”
Next Western will visit the Guelph Gryphons on September 25 for a 6 p.m. start and then return home on October 2 at 1 p.m. against the Laurier Golden Hawks.