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It’s back to the drawing board for everyone although it’s likely to be a little better study session for the Western Mustangs.
The Mustangs defeated the York Lions 66-3 Sunday at York in both teams Ontario university football openers.
While the score is not unfamiliar to either team the game highlighted just how early in the season it is.
The Mustangs won easily but they are a work in progress.
As for the York Lions, well, they were supposed to be better and may well be but their opening game was a disaster especially on special teams.
The Lions had a strong recruiting class bringing in players from out of conference but it’s difficult to start their rebirth against a potential Yates Cup champion.
The Lions hung in for the first quarter but gave up two blocked punts, a Cole Majoros punt-return touchdown along with a Brett Hunchak interception by Bleska Kambamba that went for six points. By the end of the half it was 34-3 Mustangs and the hammering was on.
“We were really inconsistent on offence,” said Mustangs’ head coach Greg Marshall. “We made some big plays but our special teams put the ball in great position for us and we have to come away with more than just a point. That’s going to take a little bit of time. We missed some open receivers.”
The Mustangs will also have to improve on the defensive line. They are inexperienced and not very big. The Mustangs rotated seven defensive linemen to keep them fresh.
It didn’t affect them a great deal against York but there are bigger, tougher teams ahead.
While quarterback Chris Merchant did not have his most accurate day the Mustangs had to be happy with the performance of their revamped receiver corps. The Mustang lost their most productive receivers to graduation second year pass catchers Brett Ellerman and Malik Besseghieur stepped up and blitzed the Lions.
Besseghieur caught six passes for 179 yards.
The Mustangs were in desperate need of finding some explosiveness from the wide receiver position Besseghieur gave them that in the game. He took a simple hitch pass 75 yards from Stevenson Bone for a touchdown. Once he got in the open he was nothing but a vapor trail.
Ellerman gave both Merchant and Bone a reliable pair of hands from the slot position. He’s got size as well.
Ellerman didn’t play much last year and for the Mustangs to be successful needs to be effective. He caught four passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns including a 54-yarder.
“We felt very prepared after the two weeks of camp we had,” Ellerman said. “The coaches emphasized they want to make the practices hard on us so that come game time we were very well prepared. I think that showed.”
The other impressive unit was the Mustang secondary led by missile Jesse McNair. Aside from NcNair the most noticeable was Kambamba. The second-year defensive back is a tremendous athlete but lacks football experience. He looked right at home picking off Hunchak and returning it for a touchdown.
“I’ve been preparing for this for a while. I felt really good being out there,” Kambamba said. “But there’s always negatives. There’s always something we can fix. We’ll go in tomorrow, watch our film and get better. That’s the only thing we can do because there are bigger fish to fry everywhere. Everyone wants the top and we have to work for it.”
Kambamba admits he felt nervous in what was his first start.
“The first drive I was nervous,” he said. “I was here on kickoff and thought ‘it’s time. Go out there and just breathe.’ After a couple of plays I felt it was like practice again. I go up against our offence and they put up a lot of points every game. Going up against Brett every practice, he makes me work.”
The Mustangs put up 563 yards of offence to York’s 190. York was only able to rush for 38 yards on 22 carries.
Most everyone on the Mustangs gave the special teams a special mention. When they weren’t pressuring the York kicking game, punter Marc Liegghio was pinning them deep near the goal line.
“Marc hammered the ball. He put the ball in good spots,” Marshall said.
The Mustangs don’t play again until Labour Day at 7 p.m. at TD Stadium against Guelph Gryphons.
— — —
Western 66, York 3
Wes-FG Liegghio 13 4:51
Wes-TD Ellerman 54 pass from Merchant 10:35
Wes-TD Kambamba 43 interception (Liegghio) 13:23
Wes-FG Liegghio 18 5:13
Wes-Single Liegghio 8:51
Wes-TD Majoros 90 punt return (Liegghio) 10:51
Wes-TD Joseph 2 run (Liegghio) 12:22
York-FG Mastrogiuseppe 12 14:40
Wes-TD Ellerman 29 pass from Merchant (Liegghio) 2:47
Wes-TD Bone 1 run (Liegghio) 9:22
Wes-TD Joseph 2 run (Liegghio) 13:20
Wes-TD Besseghieur 75 pass from Bone (Liegghio) 14:47
Western 16 18 30 2 — 66
York 0 3 0 0 — 3
Rushing: Western-Taylor 12-97, Humes 10-66, Joseph 9-42 2TD, Merchant 3-29; York-Amankwaa 9-32, Johnson 6-22; Passing: Western-Merchant 11-23-221 INT 2TD; Bone 4-4-151 TD York-Hunchak 15-31-176 2INT; Receiving: Western-Besseghieur 6-79 TD, Ellerman-4-118 2TD, McMaster 2-40; York-Daley 6-68, Ricottone 3-45
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