Two of Ontario’s four nationally ranked teams clash this weekend on University Rush, live on The Score. The No.5 Western Mustangs hit the road for a second week in a row to battle the undefeated No. 10 Guelph Gryphons on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET at Alumni Stadium.
Both teams are coming off Week 4 wins in the Ontario University Athletics regular season. Western beat the Windsor Lancers on the road while Guelph earned a hard fought win against last year’s Vanier Cup champion Queen’s Gaels.
The Mustangs (3-1) came out strong with a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Zach Bull (Port Colbourne) pulled in his first two touchdowns to round out the half with a 22-1 lead. The game finished with a Windsor touchdown, but it wouldn’t be enough for the Lancers to answer the Mustangs on offence. Despite the win, Western head coach and former McMaster mentor Greg Marshall believed his team could have performed better last Saturday.
“We probably took too many penalties at opportune moments,” said Marshall. “If you’re going to play solid football you have to be more disciplined, but it’s a good thing that it happened in the middle of the season and not the last game of the year.”
In Guelph, the Gryphons (3-0) took on the Queen’s Gaels in a highly anticipated match. After both teams put field goals on the board, the Gryphons were the first to score a touchdown to take the lead. After another field goal from Queen’s, Guelph would score another seven points to increase the lead to 20-8. The Gaels would score another touchdown from rookie quarterback Billy McPhee (Burlington), but the tough Guelph defence held strong to win, 21-15.
In this week’s game, presented by Belairdirect, Guelph’s defence will be tested by the best scoring offence in the league.
Western has two players in the top five in Canadian Interuniversity Sports for rushing touchdowns and quarterback Donnie Marshall (London) has led his team to 15 touchdowns, tied for first in the OUA with Ottawa. Western averages over 36 points per game.
“We’re still young in a lot of positions and we are growing as a team well,” said Marshall. “I think we need to be more consistent on offence but I am relatively happy with where we are right now.”
Western also boasts Craig Butler (London) on defence who has 35 tackles on the season, second in OUA. His four interceptions put him at the top of the list when it comes to overall interceptions in the CIS tied, ironically, with Guelph Gryphon Mark Durigon (Guelph).
Durigon not only leads the nation in interceptions, shared with Butler, but also has six pass break ups and an average of 3.33 passes defended. The strong Guelph defence doesn’t stop there. The Gryphons gives up only an average of 207 yards a game, the least amount in the league, and on the ground only allow 44 yards. The next closest is Western with 83 yards allowed rushing.
“We’re proud in all areas, but the first I’d say is defence,” said Guelph head coach Stu Lang. “Fortunately we have a lot of players who returned this season. We have a senior defence where these players have played together and have some experience.”
The Mustangs are currently ranked fifth in the CIS Top 10, nothing new for the football powerhouse. The Gryphons are also ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 2004. If Guelph wins this weekend it will be the first time the squad has gone 4-0 since 1997.
And even though Guelph comes in as the underdogs once again, Lang feels like it’s just another test for his young football program.
“We’re trying to build sustained success at Guelph and every game is a test one way or the other. It’s not about one game or one season. We are trying to build a program that can compete at the elite level with the Western’s of the world.”
Watch as Guelph hosts the Mustangs this Saturday in front of a sold out crowd, live on The Score or streamed live e on thescore.com. A live blog is also posted during the game at blogs.thescore.com.
WESTERN STATS LEADERS
Donnie Marshall (London)
48 completions, 94 attempts, 710 yards, 4 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
339 yards, 3 touchdowns
Zach Bull (Port Colbourne)
17 receptions, 273 yards, 3 touchdowns
Craig Butler (London)
26 solo tackles, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, 1 forced fumble
John Surla (Niagara Falls)
16 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble
Jason Kosec (Mississauga)
15 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles
GUELPH STATS LEADERS
Chris Rossetti (Mississauga)
38 completions, 69 attempts, 459 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Nick FitzGibbon (Puslinch)
487 yards, 2 touchdowns
Jedd Gardner (Niagara Falls)
10 receptions, 103 yards, 1 touchdown
Adam Dunk (Guelph)
15 solo tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble
Matthew Rossetti (Mississauga)
12 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble
Bryan Dunjko (Aurora)
11 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble