WATERLOO, ON — The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team fell 29-13 to the Western Mustangs Saturday afternoon in front of a Homecoming crowd of 7,166 at University Stadium.
The loss is the Golden Hawks’ first of the season, dropping them to 4-1. The Mustangs stay undefeated, improving to 6-0.
Western quarterback Chris Merchant had a career day running the ball, rushing for 143 yards, leading a Mustangs run game that racked up 361 yards on the ground. Alex Taylor also had a big day for the Mustangs, running for 124 yards, while Cedric Joseph chipped in 80 rushing yards and scored both Mustang touchdowns.
For the Golden Hawks, receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. (Ottawa, Ont.) finished one off the U Sports record for catches in a game, making 18 receptions for 174 yards. The current national record of 19 catches in a game was set by former Golden Hawk Andre Talbot in 2000 and tied by Alberta’s Tylor Henry last season.
The win was a measure of revenge for the Mustangs, who fell 43-40 to the Golden Hawks in last year’s Yates Cup after a 21-point Laurier comeback in the fourth quarter.
“Western is a good football team and I give credit to them because they were the better team today,” said Laurier head coach Michael Faulds. “I thought defensively at times we did a decent job. Any time you can hold Western at 29 points that is not a bad day at the office.”
It was tough going for both offences through the first two quarters as both teams’ top-ranked defensive units kept the scoring limited mostly to field goals.
Both teams scored on their opening drives of the game, trading field goals in the first few minutes with Western’s Marc Liegghio hitting from 39 yards before Laurier’s Nathan Mesher (Waterloo, Ont.) answered with a 21-yard field goal. Mesher finished the game 2/3 on field goals while Liegghio went 5/5.
The Mustangs were the first team to find the endzone when Joseph scored a five-yard rushing touchdown with 3:32 left in the first half to put the Mustangs up 16-6, a scoreline the teams carried into halftime.
After a long stretch of scoreless football, Joseph scored his second rushing touchdown of the game with 2:39 left in the third quarter, running it in from 34 yards out.
The Golden Hawks scored their lone major of the game with 8:34 to play in the fourth quarter when Michael Knevel(Brantford, Ont.) threw his 10th touchdown of the season, hitting Daniel Bennett (Scarborough, Ont.) for his second touchdown in as many weeks.
“Offensively we need to finish drives- we can’t settle for field goals,” said Faulds. “We need to put up more points against a high powered offence.”
Knevel set a new career high for completions in a game, finishing 33/45 for 317 yards and touchdown, recording his fourth game this season with at least 300 passing yards. Levondre Gordon (Mississauga, Ont.) led the way on the ground for the Hawks, rushing for 107 yards on 18 carries — his second-straight 100-yard game and third of the season.
Fifth-year linebacker Brandon Calver (London, Ont.) was the Golden Hawks’ leading tackler, picking up 11 total (eight solo) and adding a sack. The Hawks also got a sack from safety Scott Hutter (London, Ont.).
The Golden Hawks are still looking for their first regular-season win against Western since 2006, a Mustangs regular-season winning streak that now spans ten games. The Hawks’ Yates Cup win last season snapped a 13-game winning streak for Western against Laurier, including regular season and playoffs.
Next week the Golden Hawks travel to Toronto to take on the York Lions, kicking off the Thanksgiving weekend with a Thursday night game. The Hawks hold a 38-6-0 all-time record against York and won the most recent meeting 74-3 last season. Kickoff at York’s Alumni Field is 7 p.m. on Oct. 5.
Written by: Justin Fauteux