McMaster and Western kick off OUA football coverage on Sportsnet 360

McMaster and Western kick off OUA football coverage on Sportsnet 360
HAMILTON, Ont. – Two of the OUA’s fiercest rivals meet on the gridiron as the Western Mustangs (2-0) take on the reigning two-time Yates Cup champion McMaster Marauders at Ron Joyce Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m. The perennial powerhouses kick off OUA coverage on Sportsnet 360 and the game is presented by Pioneer Energy.

There is some history between these teams, as McMaster won the last three meetings against Western, including two playoff wins in the 2011 Yates Cup final and the 2012 semifinal.

“We have pretty good memories,” Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall said referencing those losses. “I know our players are motivated … and in order for us to get where we need to be, we have to knock them off. This game is important, but some time we have to knock them off in the playoffs.”

Compete level shouldn’t be an issue for the Mustangs, who would love to hand Mac their second straight loss for the first time since the 2010 season, when they lost back-to-back games against Western and Ottawa.

Western is coming in hot after winning their first two games by a combined score of 121-18. The ‘Stangs beat the Toronto Varsity Blues 50-14 in their season opener and absolutely dominated the Carleton Ravens 71-4 at home last week. Neither of those teams presents the challenges of a nationally ranked opponent, but their starters won’t be as beat up or tired as McMaster’s and haven’t had to play a full 60 minutes.

“The speed in which we’ve had to play for four quarters, coupled with the endurance and knowing we can play in the heat against a quality opponent is counterbalanced by the fact we’re more nicked up,” Marauders head coach Stefan Ptaszek said. “Neither team can make an excuse, but you have to leverage your advantage.”

Don’t underestimate Mighty Mac after losing 31-24 to the Queen’s Gaels on Labour Day. In Monday’s loss, McMaster more than doubled Queen’s in total net yards 495-227 while quarterback Marshall Ferguson (Kingston, Ont.) completed 39 of 60 passes and threw for 459 yards with three touchdowns. In contrast, Queen’s QB Billy McPhee (Burlington, Ont.) went 14-29 for 114 yards without a major.

“Our defence played great and we had 500 yards of offence,” Ptaszek said. “There were a lot of positives and we need to build on them this week.”

 So what happened? McMaster turned the ball over seven times and paid dearly for two of them. Two of Ferguson’s three interceptions were returned for 70 and 99 yard touchdowns by CIS football player of the week Yann Dika-Balotoken (Toronto). Those two drives could have at least been field goals and that’s a huge swing on the scoreboard. Despite that, the game was close till the end and statistically, was one that McMaster should have won.

“As much as last week was a loss, there’s not a loss of faith in our direction of what we are doing,” Ptaszek said.

The Western-McMaster rivalry will feature a new quarterback matchup as Will Finch (Burlington, Ont.) and Ferguson line up under centre. Ferguson, a fourth-year QB is finally getting his chance and is running with the opportunity. He leads OUA in yardage with 811 and is averaging 405.5 yards per game. He has taken a few snaps against Western in the past, but Finch has more experience in the rivalry, as he started in the 2012 semifinal against McMaster. Finch threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns, but he also had four picks in the loss. McMaster led the country in interceptions for the past two seasons and all five starters are returning, so Finch’s accuracy will need to be spot on this Saturday. The highly-touted sophomore is off to a good start this season completing an impressive 49 for 64 (77%) for 715 yards, five touchdowns with only one pick. 

“It’s a lot to do with his confidence and experience,” Marshall said. “Part of being a good quarterback is getting experience and you can’t get it in practice. You have to play games and sometimes you have to make mistakes to improve. Some of those valuable lessons he learned last year have helped.”

Western won’t just be relying on Finch come game day, as their ground game is the most potent rushing attack in the league. The Mustangs have already rushed for 539 yards and eight touchdowns, twice as many majors as the second placed Windsor Lancers. Running back Garret Sanvido (Vancouver, B.C.) is the reigning CIS rushing leader and is currently leading the OUA in rushing yards (213) and TDs (3).

“Our rushing game may be a function of the teams we’ve played,” Marshall said. “But our run game needs to be successful for us to be successful on Saturday.”

McMaster counters with James Hill (Hamilton, Ont.), who has rushed for 133 yards and one touchdown, but overall the Marauders are outgunned on the ground and haven’t eclipsed the 200 yard mark.  

With a focus on the passing game, both teams have talented receiving corps and boast top OUA talent. London locals George Johnson (265 yards, 2 TDs) and Brian Marshall (246 yards, 3 TDs) suit up for the ‘Stangs and are the second and fourth ranked receivers in the OUA. McMaster rookie Daniel Vandervoort (Barrie, Ont.) has 261 yards and 2 TDs, followed by veteran Michael DiCroce (Hamilton, Ont.) with 201 yards, 2 TDs. The duo sits in third and sixth respectively. No matter how it is broken down, both teams are very strong in the air and scoring is not an issue.

“Our skill kids are competitive with anyone in the country,” Ptaszek said. “Our secondary and receivers are deep and talented groups. Western is a little younger in their secondary and in their receiving corps; they’re all good athletes, but maybe not as experienced. I need the Mike DiCroce’s and Mike Daly’s (Kitchener, Ont.) of the world to have great games and help baptize the younger Mustangs.”

At 1-1, McMaster understands the implications of a loss to Western. Coach Ptaszek has been around long enough to know what two losses mean in OUA – typically an extra playoff game and no home field in the semifinals. Coach Marshall knows what’s on the line as well and wants to preserve that bye week for the purple and silver.

The implications for this game are huge and the rivalry is fierce. They’ve met in the last three postseasons and Saturday could just be setting the stage for another great contest in the late fall. Voice of the OUA Tim Micallef and CFL alum Mike Morreale have the call on Sportsnet 360 at 1 p.m., so tune in and catch the action presented by Pioneer Energy.

WESTERN LEADERS

Passing
Will Finch
49 completions, 64 attempts, 715 yards, 5 touchdowns
Blake Huggins
7 completions, 12 attempts, 130 yards, 1 touchdown

Rushing
Garret Sanvido
30 carries, 213 yards, 2 touchdowns
Adam Sinclair
11 carries, 114 yards, 2 touchdowns

Receiving
George Johnson
16 catches, 265 yards, 2 touchdowns
Brian Marshall
12 catches, 246 yards, 3 touchdowns

Defence
Beau Landry
10.5 tackles, 9 solo tackles, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery
Rory Connop
8.5 tackles, 7 solo tackles, 2 sacks
Pawel Kruba
7.5 tackles, 5 solo tackles

MCMASTER LEADERS

Passing
Marshall Ferguson
67 completions, 100 attempts, 811 yards, 5 touchdowns

Rushing
James Hill
21 carries, 133 yards, 1 touchdown
Kasean Davis-Reynolds
6 carries, 17 yards

Receiving
Daniel Vandervoort
13 catches, 261 yards, 2 touchdowns
Michael DiCroce
20 catches, 201 yards, 2 touchdowns
Max Cameron
10 catches, 97 yards

Defence
Keldyn Ahlstedt
12.5 tackles, 11 solo tackles
Scott Martin
12.5 tackles, 12 solo tackles
Aram Eisho
8 tackles, 7 solo tackles, 1 interception

 
 
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