LONDON, Ont. – Matt Uren rushed for two touchdowns to help lift the Western Mustangs over the Laurier Golden Hawks by a 32-18 score in an OUA Semi-Final on Saturday afternoon at TD Stadium.
With the win the Mustangs will now host the Guelph Gryphons in the 108th Yates Cup, set for Saturday, November 14, at TD Stadium.
The offence was lead by Uren and star running back Alex Taylor. Taylor rushed for 114 yards on 26 attempts, battling through contact and fighting the physical Laurier defensive line for every inch.
Uren ran two jet sweeps in at critical points in the game, extending the lead at times when the Golden Hawks were threatening. The Mustangs willingness to throw the ball down the field may have opened up the room for Uren to motor.
"If those corners on the far side are having to worry about covering their receivers downfield they have their backs to me," said Uren, "So it definitely opens that up."
Finch went 17 for 24 for 160 yards before leaving the game. Bone came into the game and went 3 for 6 for 20 yards, but took several shots down the field that opened up the run game
"I'm just happy we got the win," said Bone "Just defending our home turf."
The defence was led by safety Jesse McNair who had 4.5 tackles. McNair has quietly been one of the best Mustangs all season, consistently leading the team in tackles and placing the defence on solid footing from the safety position.
"They played outstanding," said Western head coach Greg Marshall when asked about the performance of his team's defence.
Western received the opening kick and instantly engaged their no huddle offence. The Mustangs strung together a nice drive, but settled for 23-yard field goal by kicker Ben Kelly.
The Mustangs and Golden Hawks traded several possessions without a score and halfway through the first, a time in which the Mustangs have generally been up two or three scores this season, Western continued to hold only a three-point lead.
Early in the game, the emphasis for the Mustang offence was for Finch to take off and run, eventually finishing with 67 yards on nine carries. The Golden Hawk defence was keyed on Taylor and limited the Mustangs primary ground attack to only 12 yards on five carries in the opening frame, helping to keep the score at 3-0 after 15 minutes.
Kelly doubled the Mustang lead on the second play of the second quarter, splitting the uprights from 35 yards to make it 6-0 Mustangs.
On the next drive OUA leading rusher Dillon Campbell, who was very quiet in the first quarter, busted a 53 yard run up the left sideline and put the Golden Hawks on the Mustang eight-yard line. Mustangs defensive back Malcolm Brown hunted Campbell down for 40 yards and prevented Campbell from striding to the end zone. Despite putting his team in excellent field position, run proved costly for Campbell, as he didn't return to the game after the play.
Even after a Mustang penalty gave Laurier a fresh set of downs, they were unable to convert and settled for a field goal from 10 yards out courtesy of kicker Nathan Mesher.
A fumble by Finch was recovered by the Golden Hawks on the very next play from scrimmage, giving the visitors the ball on the Western 32-yard line. That set up a 37-yard field goal from Mesher to tie the game at 6-6.
Following another sequence of trading possessions, the Mustangs offence seemed to settle in a bit. The purple and white went 82 yards on seven plays and ended the drive with the first Uren touchdown run, giving them a 13-6 lead midway through the second quarter.
After a conceded safety from the Golden Hawks increased Western's lead, the Mustangs took over the ball again with two minutes left in the half. Western's offence ran a play action pass to the flats that they've completed dozens of times this year. However, this time Laurier defensive back Malcolm Thompson jumped the route, intercepted the ball and took it 58 yards for the pick six. It was the first defensive touchdown the Mustangs had given up all year and cut their lead to 15-13 heading into the half.
Early in the third Finch suffered a big hit in the Mustangs backfield, prompting Bone to take over at quarterback for the remainder of the contest.
On Bone's first drive, the Mustangs leaned heavily on Taylor and Harou while driving the field and settled for a Kelly field goal to extend the lead to 18-13. Despite handing it off several times, Bone was not afraid to take a deep shot, throwing down the field a several occasions.
"There's never really a plan for your backup to go in the game," he said, "I have to be ready and we took some shots, they played some man coverage."
With the Mustangs only up five early in the fourth, coach Marshall decided to concede a safety and reduce the lead to only three points. The move proved Marshall's faith in his defence.
"At that point of the game we were pretty confident that we could stop them and pin them deep," said Marshall of the decision to concede the safety.
The gamble paid off as the Mustangs pinned the Golden Hawks deep and eventually made them pay. Preston Huggins picked off a screen pass and gave the Mustangs the ball on the seven yard line. A few plays later Uren fought through several tackles and found the corner pylon for his second score to make it 25-15 for Western midway through the fourth.
Another Mesher field goal for the Golden Hawks closed the gap with 2:29 remaining, but the Mustangs iced the win with a Cedric Joseph rushing touchdown in the final minute, giving Western a 32-18 victory.
With the win the Mustangs advance to their second Yates Cup in three years, winning the OUA title in their last appearance in 2013. They will be hosting Guelph, the collision course that many fans of OUA football saw coming all year long. But if Finch is not able to go, Bone is not lacking for playoff experience. He started Western's semi-final game against Guelph last year, and despite the loss, he is looking forward to taking on the challenge.
"We lost down on their turf so it's going to be nice to have this one for the Yates Cup at Western," said Bone. "Obviously it's going to be fun and I know we're going to get after it this week and have a good game plan. "
The 108th Yates Cup kicks off at 1 p.m. at TD Stadium on Saturday, November 14.
Source: Western Mustangs