The Mustangs continued a characteristic Greg Marshall late-season run with a clinical and convincing 51-24 win against the Carleton Ravens. Laurier, in a game that almost projects as a microcosm of an Ontario University Athletics season full of parity, shaded McMaster 21-19 in the other semifinal, meaning Hawks honcho Michael Faulds will go to his first Yates as a HC after going 2-2 in them as Western's quarterback from 2005 through 09.
Convenience sample: in 2015, Western defeated Laurier by 50 points in the regular season and by 14 (with a backup quarterback) in the semifinal. They won by 19 in the regular-game, so ipso facto?
Western's offence, with quarterback Chris Merchant settled in, is working at ludicrous speed. Nothing is guaranteed in football but one can almost start skipping ahead to wondering whether they can finally match up well against a non-Ontario team in the Uteck Bowl. Will what wins in OUA work in Laval or Montréal on Nov. 19?
Here the drive summary from the first half, when Western rang up a 35-10 lead on Carleton after 30 minutes:
- Two plays, 22 yards, 29 seconds, touchdown. Tom Marshall catches a five-yard scoring pass for a 7-0 lead.
- 11 plays, 55 yards, 4:48, missed field goal. Marc Liegghio misses a 42-yarder.
- Nine plays, 90 yards, 3:08, touchdown. Cedric Joseph bolts over from six yards away for the first of his four touchdowns. Western's longest second down on the drive was a second-and-5.
- Two plays, eight yards, 49 seconds, punt. A two-and-out after a being backed up to the 14-yard line by a holding penalty on a punt return.
- Four plays, 65 yards, 1:47, touchdown. Harry McMaster catches a 41-yard TD from Merchant to take the lead back out to 21-10.
- Two plays, seven yards, 1:35, punt. Two-and-out. Which Western's defence's negates by stopping Carleton from making the line to gain after having first-and-5.
- Four plays, 76 yards, 1:19, touchdown. McMaster for a quick 30, give or take a yard. Alex Taylor gets through Carleton's secondary. Pass to Tom Marshall for a quick 30, give or take a yard. Joseph touchdown. What, no tackle-eligible play?
- Two plays, 41 yards, 0:21, touchdown. Jean-Gabriel Poulin and John Biewald combine for the tackle for a turnover on downs on third-and-one in Carleton's zone. On a rushing down, second-and-2, short-yardage QB Stevenson Bone throws a 33-yard TD pass to Marshall.
And it just went on like that: 32 first downs, 598 yards, 8.4 per play. The 23 penalties for 287 yards needs to be cleaned up, but apart from that ...
The point is the obvious: Western has very few empty possessions, to borrow the basketball term. Their 51 red zone irruptions was 16, or two more per game, than anyone else. Laurier is going to need a lot more finish than it has shown by times this year. Being only 9-of-18 on field goals prior to Saturday is a worrying thing.
Laurier's defence is light-years removed from Carleton's, but they still got lit up 45-26 against the Mustangs back on Oct. 1. Laurier's leading rusher Eric Guiltanan was hurt in the fifth minute against McMaster on Saturday, which amplifies concerns about whether the Golden Hawks will be able to give their defenHazarding a guess, Laurier should keep it close for two, 2½ quarters. ce breathers and long fields to cover. Laurier passes only sparingly and has not scored more than 27 points against a playoff team all season.
It's a premium unit with the likes of DE Kwaku Boateng, DE Rashari Henry, LB Nakas Onyeka and 320-pound DT Jalen Price. Laurier had 62 disruptions (combined total of fumble recoveries, interceptions, sacks) during the regular season compared to Carleton's 34 in the regular season. That illustrates the difference in competition, but Western typically avoids those mistakes in the Ontario playoffs.
In any event, protégé Faulds being across the sideline from mentor Marshall makes for a great storyline. Laurier certainly will not be intimidated. It's their third visit to London in the last year. If they win, it could fairly be called a major upset.
(Postscript: Come to think of it, Laurier at seemingly invincible Western in a Yates Cup? Maybe there's some déjà vu. Or not.)
More déjà vu? Laurier went 1-7 in 2013 and is in the Yates three seasons hence. In 2002, they went 1-7. You might remember what happened three seasons hence.