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PREVIEW: MFOOT hosts 109th Yates Cup rematch
#5 Golden Hawks host the #4 Western Mustangs for first time since epic Yates Cup win

Friday, September 29, 2017 - Posted by Laura O'Toole

Having reached the mid-way point of the regular season, both teams get set to add another page to a historic rivalry which could determine first place and home field advantage in the playoffs.

Game Date/Time: Saturday September 30th, 1 p.m.
Game Location: University Stadium, Waterloo
Live Webcast/Stats: OUA.tv & RadioLaurier.com

THE SKINNY
The Golden Hawks come into Saturday’s game at 4-0, having convincingly won the latest installment of the Battle of Waterloo at Warrior Field a week ago, 71-24. Western maintained their perch atop the standings though with their fifth straight win of the season, a 48-10 win over Queen’s under the lights in London last Saturday night. 

NEED TO KNOW
- The Mustangs (48.6 PPG) and Hawks (47 PPG) have the two of the top offences in the province and are ranked second and third in the nation, respectively. The two teams are also #1 and #2 in USports in yards per game, with the Mustangs sitting at 599 while Laurier currently averages 574.3. 
- Western running back Alex Taylor and Laurier receiver/returner Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (Ottawa, Ont.), were recognized as OUA offensive and special teams Players of the Week. Taylor recorded 184 rushing yards, 50 receiving yards and three touchdowns against Queen’s while Gittens Jr. had a touchdown reception and returned a 65-yard punt for another in his team’s victory at UW.
- The Mustangs currently have the stingiest defence in USports thanks to only giving up 255.6 yards per game of offence to their opponents (166.8 passing, 88.8 rushing). Laurier’s unit, which sits third in the OUA and fourth in USports, boasts the country’s sack leader Robbie Smith (Brampton, Ont.) who has 6.5.

ALL-TIME SERIES
Today’s meeting is the 72nd between the two teams, with Western holding a 49-22-0 advantage over Laurier. The Hawks’ Yates Cup victory last November was their first win over Western since 2006.

TEAM BREAKDOWN 
Laurier Golden Hawks 

A recurring theme for the Golden Hawks’ offence this year is just how balanced of an attack it is. Sitting at 145 passing plays and 143 rushing plays through four games, last week’s victory provided further proof, with four touchdowns being recorded on the ground and another four through the air.

It was also the second straight game that Michael Knevel (Brantford, Ont.) has at least thrown three touchdowns and, despite having his first sub-300 yard passing game of the year against UW, he is still tops in USports with a 353.5 per game average.  

With his receiver Brentyn Hall (Toronto, Ont.) enjoying a break-out game in Week 5, both he and Gittens Jr. now sit in the OUA’s top five for receiving touchdowns with three apiece. The latter of the two will likely continue seeing the opposing team’s top defenders though, as he leads the OUA with 102 receiving yards per game. 

On the ground, Levondre Gordon (Mississauga, Ont.) has a slight edge over his counterpart this week by averaging 119.8 per game, but he has been buoyed effectively by the depth the Golden Hawks have at the running back position.

Osayi Iginuan (Hamilton, Ont.) is one behind Gordon’s OUA leading five touchdowns while Kavantye Bailey (Calgary, Alta.) and Eli Fera (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) have proven to be effective options when called upon – evidenced by their combined 73 yards and 10 carries against the Warriors.

As impressive as Laurier’s offensive performances have been, their defence certainly has certainly reciprocated time and again – much like the effort in the stifling heart a week ago. Facing a very mobile opposing  quarterback rotation of Tre Ford and Lucas McConnell, the defensive line was relentless in pursuit as Sam Acheampong (Brampton, Ont.), Rashari Henry (Ottawa, Ont.) and Smith each recorded sacks. 

In the secondary, halfback Isaiah Guzylak-Messam (Hamilton, Ont.) snagged his second interception of the season while his fellow defensive back Shomari Hutchinson (LaSalle, Que.) recorded his first of the year in the team’s second straight road game.

Two-time All-Canadian cornerback Godfrey Onyeka (Brampton, Ont.), not only led his team with eight tackles against the Warriors, but also had a sack and a forced fumble that was recovered by Smith. Brad Cowan (Ottawa, Ont.) was close behind with five tackles of his own while veterans Brandon Calver (London, Ont.) and Taylor Calverly (Pottageville, Ont) each had 3.5.
 
Kicker Nathan Mesher (Waterloo, Ont.) is coming off his best punting performance of the season after averaging 42.3 yards per kick (including a 64-yarder) against the Waterloo.

Western Mustangs

The Western Mustangs travel to Waterloo looking to keep their perfect start to the season intact, which is something they have been able to accomplish twice in the last four seasons. After winning the Yates Cup in 2013 but falling short in their last two finals appearances, Head Coach Greg Marshall’s team appears primed for another deep post-season run.

Quarterback Chris Merchant, who was a NCAA-D1 transfer from the University of Buffalo Bulls before the start of last season, is nipping at the heels of Michael Knevel in his second year under center. The Calgary, Alta native currently sits second in the OUA with 283.6 yards per game and is tied for fourth with seven passing touchdowns.

Despite not having a plethora of options at receiver as years past, Merchant has developed an impressive rapport with fellow second-year player Malik Besseghieur. The receiver from Nanaimo, BC currently sits second in the OUA with 432 receiving yards while also leading the team with two touchdown grabs.

Where the Mustangs offence is most lethal though is in their run game, which is led by Alex Taylor. Considered to be one of the most dangerous runners in the country, the fourth-year from Winnipeg, Man. is fourth in the OUA with 478 rushing yards. Cedric Joseph and Yanic Harou also have the ability to be game-breakers.

The stable of rushers for Western is fronted by an offensive line that is as good as ever and large in stature – which will provide the Laurier defence with their toughest test of the season.

Despite graduating some key student-athletes on the defensive side of the football, the Mustangs have a formidable group that consists of Fraser Sopik and Nick Vanin (who lead the team in tackles with 20 each), and has also given up a stingy 13.6 points per game.

On special teams, 2016 OUA second team all-star Marc Liegghio is currently in a tie for first in scoring by OUA kickers while sitting in third for made field goals (15) and accuracy (83%).


EXTRA POINTS
- Will call desk opens at 10:00 a.m. for game day ticket sales
- Gates will open on Saturday at 11 a.m.
- Laurier Student Homecoming packages are still available for purchase for $17. Package includes a game ticket, t-shirt and noise maker
- Tailgate tickets for those 19+ can be purchased for an additional $5 on top of your game ticket 
- Access to the Alumni Tailgate Endzone for Laurier Alumni returning to campus is also available for $5 with the purchase of a game ticket
- Kira Isabella set to perform anthem and halftime show

- Written by: Dan Polischuk


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