Currently tied for first place in the OUA, the No. 6 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (4-0) will look to snap a 12-game losing streak against Western on Saturday when they travel to London to take on the No. 3 Mustangs (4-1).
NEED TO KNOW
– the Hawks enter Week 6 of the OUA season having won four straight games to start the year, the first time they’ve done so since 2007
– Laurier is just one of three unbeaten teams in the country along with Ottawa (4-0) and Montreal (4-0)
– Western has won three straight games heading into the matchup including a 50-16 triumph over Guelph last week
– Saturday’s game is the Hawks second matchup against a fellow Top 10 opponent of the season
– Laurier was victorious in their last game against a Top 10 opponent, defeating Carleton 17-16 on the road
– The Hawks and Mustangs are the top two teams in the conference in points per game, rushing yards per game, and defensive touchdowns
– Western has eliminated Laurier from the playoffs each of the last two seasons, including a 32-18 win over the Hawks in the OUA Semifinal last year
The Hawks and Mustangs meet for the 70th time overall in their history on Saturday with Western holding a 48-21-0 record against the purple and gold. Laurier has not posted a victory over Western in a decade with their last win coming in the OUA Semifinals back in 2006. The Hawks last win in London came during the regular season in 2005 when they won 32-17.
Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks (4-0) – No. 6 in Canada
The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks are on a roll as they head into, perhaps, their biggest game of the season against their long-time rivals.
Featuring the top rushing offence in the conference, the Hawks have posted an eye-popping 354.3 rushing yards per game over their first four contests of the year. That success on the ground was a big part of their 68-7 Homecoming victory over the Waterloo Warriors last week as the Hawks posted 440 rushing yards on the afternoon, the sixth-most in team history.
Fifth year running back Eric Guiltinan of London, Ont., continues to lead the way on the ground as he is leading the conference in average rushing yards per game (160.5) and rushing touchdowns (7) thanks to back-to-back-to-back 100-plus yard rushing performances this season.
Under centre, quarterback Michael Knevel of Brantford, Ont., was solid in his first career start for the Hawks as he threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns. More importantly, he was able to get explosive receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa, Ont., the ball as he recorded a season-high six catches.
The Hawks also continue to punish their opponents on defence as they lowered their league-low points allowed per game to 11.0 after the win over Waterloo. Laurier also leads the conference in fewest yards allowed per game (293.5), sacks (20) and defensive touchdowns (3).
The reason the purple and gold’s defence is so dangerous for the opposition is that each and every week, a new player steps up and contributes. Against Waterloo, it was linebackers Nakas Onyeka of Brampton, Ont., and Scott Hutter of London, Ont. Onyeka he had a team-high 7.5 tackles along with one pass breakup while Hutter had 4.5 tackles and his first two career sacks.
Western Mustangs – (4-1) No. 3 in Canada
Entering their toughest stretch of the season in which they play three straight games against nationally-ranked opponents, Western will be looking to support their CIS Top 10 ranking as the best team in the conference against the Hawks.
Built in a similar model as the Hawks, Western brings to Saturday’s game a run-first offence that features a young arm at quarterback. Averaging just over 300 yards on the ground per game as a team, the Mustangs are led by running back Alex Taylor of Winnipeg, who has rushed for 647 yards and six touchdowns in five games, second in the conference in both categories.
NCAA transfer Chris Merchant of Calgary, currently in his second year of eligibility, guides Western from under centre. In five games this season, Merchant has been solid, completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 893 yards and nine touchdowns to just one interception.
On defence, the Mustangs are sixth in the conference in yards allowed per game and fourth in points allowed per game but feature a group that has the ability to turn the ball over. As a team, Western has eight interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries on the year with the 19 turnovers leading the OUA.
Fifth year defensive back Malcolm Brown of London, Ont., anchors the defence for Western as he’s third on the team in tackles with 22.5, first in fumble recoveries with three and first in interceptions with two.