The Western Mustangs finished their regular season Saturday with a 19-18 Homecoming victory over the McMaster Marauders. With the win, they improved their record to 7-1 and claimed first place in Ontario University Athletics.
The game started slow as neither team managed a touchdown until into the second quarter. Western built up a slim early lead with a safety and a couple of field goals from kicker Marc Liegghio before the Marauders tied it up at 8 with a one-yard drive by Asher Hastings.
Western's victory was built primarily on field goals, with backup quarterback Stevenson Bone pushing through a lone touchdown 10 minutes into the second quarter on a short-yardage situation. The game was tied at 18 deep into the fourth quarter before the Mustangs picked up a tiebreaking extra point off a missed field goal attempt.
Both teams put on an impressive defensive performance, with Western repeatedly shutting down McMaster's running game. They held the Marauders to just 76 rushing yards, well below their season average of 165.3.
McMaster pressured Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant hard throughout the game, sacking him three times and restricting his movement repeatedly. He threw for 185 yards, short of his average 215.
Western's 19 points is significantly less than previous performances, averaging just over 49 in the season, but against a tough McMaster defence it was all they could manage.
There were several external factors at play in the game, with winds topping 40 km/h at times. As the homecoming game, TD Stadium had a healthy crowd of alumni and students on hand. The noise from the stands carried well and gave the Mustangs an edge.
Both teams went into the game with a lot at stake, with the winner being assured first place in the OUA. Had the Mustangs lost, they could've fallen as low as fourth in the standings, forcing them to play a quarter-final next week. Instead, they'll have a week off to rest, with players like running back Alex Taylor looking shaken up during the game.
Gazette Player of the Game
Western's most valuable player of the game may have been kicker Marc Liegghio, who was successful on three field goal attempts and also picked up a conversion and the game-winning rouge point.
Having secured a bye through the first round of the playoffs, the Mustangs will host the lowest-seeded quarter-final winner on Nov. 5 at TD Stadium.