Western Mustangs expected McMaster Maraunders to switch to ground game

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The McMaster Marauder team that takes on the Western Mustangs Saturday in Hamilton will look to pound you to a pulp on the ground rather than blow you to bits from the air.

A lot of that is from necessity rather than planning.

The Marauders and Mustangs have developed a healthy rivalry over the years, with the Mustangs getting used to planning for what’s been a long line of talented, strong-armed quarterbacks.

The list includes Kyle Quinlan, Marshall Ferguson and Asher Hastings.

The Marauders are going with rookie quarterback Andreas Dueck. While the Marauders won the only game they’ve played so far this year, defeating Carlton Ravens 23-9, McMaster finished with 65 yards net passing.

“They are going to be a little different,” said Mustangs head coach Greg Marshall. “For years they had experienced quarterbacks; now they have an 18-year-old freshman and that’s different.”

McMaster still has good receivers, led by Dan Petermann and Mitch O’Connor, but they need to get the ball and in their first game that didn’t happen.

The Marauders did try and run the ball, though. They ran it 31 times with Jordan Lyons doing the bulk of the work with 94 yards.

“Their offence looks a lot like us,” Marshall said. “They try to run the ball; they try to play-action pass. The kid is going to be a good quarterback. It’s a learning thing for him. I hope he doesn’t learn too quickly. But he’s athletic. One of the things he can do is extend plays with his feet. If his read isn’t there, he can get out and make something happen.”

When it’s all said and done, though, McMaster relies on its defence.

“Mac still plays strong, strong defence,” Marshall said. “They don’t make mistakes on offence and their defence will create opportunities, which looks like how the team is right now. They are going to build their team around their defence and make you earn it.”

Even though the Ravens managed to put up more than 350 yards of offence against the Marauders, McMaster did what Marshall says they are good at — create opportunities for their offence.

They forced six Raven turnovers, including four fumbles.

The Mustangs go into the game at 2-0 after a marathon overtime win over the Guelph Gryphons on Monday.

It was a game in which the Mustangs got better the longer they played, especially quarterback Chris Merchant.

It’s been an unpredictable year for the OUA. Several teams are operating without veteran quarterbacks. Taking advantage of that is a key, especially since you can bet that teams like McMaster and Guelph will in the running at the end of the year. When tiebreakers come up for byes and home-field advantage, winning these early games will have been vital.

Merchant is in his second year. He’s working with a new offensive co-ordinator. For years the Mustangs’ plays were called by Marshall on the sidelines. Steve Snyder is now calling them from the booth. That too takes some adjustment.

Marshall is also wearing a headset for the first time, so he can hear everything being said by the offensive and defensive co-ordinators.

“I’m very pleased with how we’ve come along,” Marshall said. “There are some changes. It takes some time to build that continuity up. I could see that Chris played better, especially bettering the second half, and he played better than he did against York. The communication between Chris and Steve is going to be important so they are on the same page.”

Merchant has also lost a number of receivers he worked with all of last season to graduation. He looked like he was starting to get in a rhythm with Brett Ellerman, Harry McMaster (who he had with him last year), Malik Besseghieur and some of Mustangs coming out of the backfield, such as David Mackie and Cole Majoros.

The Mustangs and Marauders kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday in Hamilton.

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