HAMILTON, Ont. — Those who thought the Marauders were better than they showed in their Week 2 loss to Queen's are probably reconsidering that theory after Week 3.
McMaster dropped their second game in a row to a OUA rival, and this one wasn't even close to being close. "Western 58, McMaster 15" is what remained on the scoreboard at the end, but it felt like it was always that lopsided for most of the second half.
Early on, though, it was nearly, almost, kind of close. Counting total offence from scrimmage as well as kick and punt returns, the yardage was 348 to 333 for Mac at halftime, despite the 31-9 deficit. But it was clear that the game was getting away from the home side even before they went down 17-6 or 24-6 or by whatever multiple-touchdown lead you want to use.
QB Will Finch faced some pressure from the Mac blitz in the first, and nearly none at all after that — the biggest anchors weighing down their passing plays were dropped and/or slightly overthrown balls. Finch didn't have a problem finding his targets against a young Mac secondary, notably the electric George Johnson (9 catches, 224 yards, 2 TDs). Once the 'Stangs squared that small problem away, it was difficult to stop them; Finch would end up passing for more than 15 adjusted net yards per attempt, nearly three times that of his counterpart Marshall Ferguson. (My notebook is full of "not covered well by Mac.")
And even when Mac gained yards in the first quarter, they did themselves in more than Western stopped them. On the first drive their own penalties erased 46 yards of gains, and they settled for a not-so-coincidental 44-yard field goal. The second drive didn't actually happen; the punt returner, rookie Danny Vandervoort, couldn't secure the ball and gave it up to Western on the Mac 21. The third drive was a 2-and-out, gaining only 23 net yards on the punt. It was that kind of day.
It's hard to argue against Western as the class of the division and perhaps the non-Laval CIS at this point. They have a much more aesthetically-pleasing offence than in 2012 (which isn't saying much, granted) and handled Mac far easier than Queen's did last week. Finch's accuracy is the envy of many quarterbacks in the country, as there were more than a few instances today where no coverage would have resulted in an incomplete. His offensive line gave him more than enough time, neutralizing whatever pressure Mac sent when they blitzed, and letting Finch find the holes in the Joey Cupido and Mike Daly-less coverage when they didn't. In one of the more surprising stats of the day, Ferguson was sacked only once on nearly 50 passing plays — not the total you'd expect from a Mustang defensive line that got through the depleted Mac o-line seemingly at will. And after two games in which they did not really succeed with deep passes, Ferguson and his receivers didn't connect on anything longer than 31 yards, often being swarmed by three Western defenders immediately after a short completion.
(It should also be noted that typically, in these sorts of games, the winning team eases up a bit, but Finch was still in when it was 40-15 and still there at 47-15 midway through the fourth, a quarter in which the Mustangs scored nearly a third of their points.)
Put it this way: scheduling aside, the fewest number of points the Mustangs have scored is 50. The most allowed, 15. At the very least, they're now able to focus their "hated rival" energy solely on Queen's in Week 6, with fellow 519-er Laurier looking worse by the day.
As for McMaster, a 1-2 start isn't the end of the season, with as many as four guaranteed wins left on the schedule. But any playoff success will have to go through one of these teams to whom they've already lost, and likely both of them.
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