KINGSTON, Ont. – Three field goals from Marc Liegghio and 198 yards rushing from Alex Taylor helped the Western Mustangs spoil the Queen's Gaels home opening party with a 27-13 win on Saturday afternoon at Richardson Stadium.
"We moved [the ball] but then we'd make a mistake. The big thing in this game was that we were able to run the football against them," said Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall.
"We've got to do a better job, we've got to do a way better job converting on third down. We'd turn the ball over, and then how many turnovers we got, or we got a big play and the penalty called it back. Too many mistakes, too many mistakes offensively. If you're going to be a great football team you can't make those mistakes."
The win, Western's fourth straight over the Gaels, comes in the first game played at the new Richardson Stadium and moves Western to 3-1 on the season.
Liegghio topped the scoresheet for the purple and white in a game played in heavy wind and, at times, heavy rain as well. The Woodbridge, Ont., native, finished with 11 points coming off of three field goals, one extra point, and a single.
"My field goal kicking today, I was really happy with it," said Liegghio. "Unfortunately, I hit the upright on that 42-yarder, I wish that would have went in. But I was fairly happy with my performance on field goals and despite the weather I think we all did a pretty good job overall."
Taylor's 198 yards came on 32 carries, and was the third time this season that the running back has topped 140 yards in a game. Four games into the season Taylor ranks first in the OUA in both rushing yards (527) and touchdowns (five), and ranks second in yards per game (131.8).
"Queen's is probably the best 0-3 team I'll ever see. They're a good football team," said Taylor. "They played physical and they gave us a football game. They weren't going to go away easy with the opening of their new stadium, and obviously we wanted to come out hard and push them to their limits right off the bat, which we did."
The Mustangs didn't wait long before putting points on the board, with Merchant connecting with Myles Rombough on a 17-yard pass to cap off Western's first drive.
Liegghio rounded out the scoring in the frame, picking up points for the Mustangs off of a single and 21-yard field goal to give the purple and white an 11-0 lead after one.
Not to be outdone by his Mustangs counterpart, Gaels kicker Nick Liberatore cut into Western's lead with a trio of field goals in the second quarter, connecting from 25, 34, and 14 yards. The two kickers traded points just before half, with a single from Liberatore and a 21-yard field goal from Liegghio to make it 14-10 for Western at halftime.
The heavy rain that began late in the second quarter continued off and on in the third, causing both offences to stall, however the Mustangs added another five points thanks to a conceded safety from the Gaels and a 40-yard field goal from Liegghio.
Another field goal from Liberatore pulled the Gaels closer, and they threatened to take the lead midway through the fourth, however Hakeem Johnson recorded his first career CIS interception at the perfect time, picking off Nate Hobbs in the Mustangs end zone to preserve the purple and white lead. Johnson's pick was one of three from the Mustangs in the second half, with both Malcolm Brown and Mackenzie Ferguson also recording interceptions.
"I'm really proud of the way we came together as a group and made some big plays when we needed to," said Ferguson, who's interception was the first of his CIS career. "I think we had three interceptions in the second half, so that's really good when you can make those big plays against them."
A 20-yard run touchdown run from Merchant and a two-point conversion with just under three minutes remaining gave the Mustangs the 27-13 win.
With the first half of their schedule in the books the Mustangs now get set for the toughest part of their schedule as they'll face three of this week's CIS Top 10 teams over their final four games, with matchups against No. 7 Laurier, No. 8 Ottawa, and No. 9 McMaster. And the Mustangs other opponent? Only the defending Yates Cup Champion Guelph Gryphons, who will host Western next week for Homecoming.
"Everybody's tough," said Marshall. "Guelph beat Queen's. You look at the teams – Carleton, us, Queen's, Laurier, McMaster, Ottawa – it's a battle. I know what people are expecting, but we're not going to win 75-0 every week. Sometimes games like this are a really good character [builder], a way better character game to win like this than we lost at Carleton."
Western's Yates Cup rematch with the Gryphons is set for Saturday, September 24, at Alumni Stadium in Guelph. Game time is set for 1 p.m., and can once again be seen live across Canada on City, and online on OUA.tv. Fans can also tune in to CHRW Radio 94.9 FM and Newstalk 1290 CJBK.
Source: Western Mustangs