No. 2 Western showed they're the defending Yates Cup Champions for a reason, trouncing no. 3 McMaster 48-21 in front of a hostile crowd. Varga not only lived up to the hype from his phenomenal debut, but likely made it even bigger by rushing for 149 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
For a battle between the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams in the country, it sure looked like regular OUA matchup, where blowouts are quickly becoming the norm in the parity-starved conference.
A 7-7 first quarter made it seem like the matchup would live up to its billing, with Mac looking like they were going to shred the Mustang secondary apart all day, while Western's only offence came largely thanks to a huge 51-yard reception by Andy Thibaudeau.
Then Varga took over.
After looking solid if unspectacular early on, the rookie running back put his mark on the game, breaking dozens (not exaggerating: he was un-tackle-able, if that's a word) of tackles and chugging Western up the field, where they would score twice in the second quarter to open up a 21-7 lead at halftime.
"I made some moves in the open field I guess, but that's what the running back's supposed to do. I just did my job," said Varga, perhaps understating what was simply a stunning performance.
The emergence of Varga, who now has seven touchdowns in the first two games of his CIS career, is catching nearly everyone in the league off guard, perhaps most of all opposing coaches.
"He's unique. He's solid and tougher and looks more like a fourth- or fifth-year kid in terms of taking hits and and moving the ball after first contact... I knew he was a playmaker, I knew he was gonna score. I didn't know he was gonna be this put together and mature and steady with the football so young in his career," said Stefan Ptaszek, the Mac coach on the wrong end of Varga's 149 yards.
"He's good. He's special. He's got a great drive and great determination. He catches well, blocks well," said Western coach Greg Marshall, once a purple pony back himself, and perhaps sounding a bit jealous about the attention afforded to the young Varga.
Western's halftime lead should have been seven when Mac got down to first-and-goal from the one yard line, but the Western D-line held strong and stopped Marauder rookie Chris Pezzetta on three straight carries to swing the momentum.
Mac made things interesting early in the second half, with Mike DiCroce hauling in a 26-yard touchdown to make it 21-14. But from then on, the Marauders could simply not contain Varga and his backfield mates Donnie Marshall, Nathan Riva and Garrett Sanvido
. The Mustangs ran for 321 yards against a pretty solid front-7 from McMaster.
"We ran hard today. [Varga] ran hard, Nathan ran hard, Garrett ran hard, so did Donnie. We've got a lot of guys comin' at you," said Greg Marshall.
"They're tough kids to bring down and that's not gonna change," said Ptaszek.
While it's only week two in the OUA, the win for Western is huge. Apart from sending a (terrifying) message to other OUA teams, beating McMaster means any postseason matchup between the two (which seems, at this early point, like a reasonably likely outcome) will take place in London.
"Getting the tiebreaker is huge. Getting the first-round bye is important, as is home field advantage," said Greg Marshall. "We need to be able to communicate on offence and need our home fans quiet."
Of course, a win over a solid divisional rival in the early season guarantees little if nothing for Western. Promising teams at Ottawa and Laurier lie waiting, and McMaster did little on Saturday to suggest a Mustang win meant a whole lot.
But after scoring 134 points in their first two games while blowing away a much-hyped opponent, Western has clearly sent a message that they're ready to defend their Yates Cup.
With a superstar in-the-making carrying the ball and a boatload of confidence going forward, it's up to the rest of the OUA to prove that anything else is true.