Around U Sports: Western Mustangs open season with 83-point rout of York Lions

Photo courtesy: Saskia Orr/Western Mustangs

The first week of the 2023 U Sports football season is officially in the books with games in Atlantic University Sport (AUS), Ontario University Athletics (OUA), and Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ).

Around U Sports is a weekly feature on 3DownNation that will take readers across the country each week to summarize collegiate football action, highlighting standout performances and tracking possible playoff matchups. It will run for the full season through the Vanier Cup in Kingston, Ont. on Saturday, Nov. 25.

Laval Rouge et Or, 37 — Sherbrooke Vert et Or, 14

The reigning Vanier Cup champions built a 20-0 lead by halftime and never looked back as they stifled their rivals to the southwest. Kevin Mital, the reigning Hec Crighton Trophy winner, played despite facing multiple assault charges stemming from an alleged 2021 altercation and made eight catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns. Reigning first-team U Sports All-Canadian and fellow Hec Crighton hopeful Arnaud Desjardins also stood out, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns with five carries for 41 yards.

Acadia Axemen, 15 — Mount Allison Mounties, 13

The Axemen wasted no time getting their first win of the season after finishing the 2022 season with an 0-8 record, topping the Mounties on a last-second field goal from Thomas Veinot. Acadia got the win despite producing only eight first downs and 152 yards of offence, both of which were less than half of what Mount Allison was able to generate. Fifth-year quarterback Justin Vogels and second-year running back Brandt Burzuk both ran for more than 100 yards for the Mounties in the loss.

Toronto Varsity Blues, 10 — Guelph Gryphons, 33

The Gryphons started this season off on the right foot after a miserable 1-7 campaign one year ago. First-year quarterback Tristan Aboud threw for 200 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in the win, while Guelph’s defence made five sacks and two interceptions. Third-year tight end Jared Currie scored the lone touchdown for Toronto, which came late in the fourth quarter with the game already out of hand.

Western Mustangs, 83 — York Lions, 0

Nobody expected the Lions to keep this game close, but 83-0? Wow. Western led 52-0 at halftime with third-year quarterback Evan Hillock throwing for 305 yards and five touchdowns before being pulled due to the lopsided nature of the score. Reigning first-team U Sports All-Canadian and Hec Crighton hopeful Keon Edwards led the way for the Mustangs along the ground with 128 yards and one touchdown, averaging an eye-popping 16 yards per carry. Clearly, York’s new associate head coaches have a lot of work to do.

Bishop’s Gaiters, 8 — St. FX X-Men, 22

St. FX went undefeated last year and kept their winning ways alive to start 2023 as they held Bishop’s scoreless in the second half. Hec Crighton hopeful Malcolm Bussey picked up where he left off with the X-Men last year, rushing for 115 yards on 18 carries, while Alex Fedchun, a seventh-round pick of the Calgary Stampeders in the 2023 CFL Draft, made eight total tackles and 2.5 sacks. Fifth-year receiver Oliver Burnett led the way for the Gaiters as he made eight catches for 101 yards and one touchdown.

McGill Redbirds, 11 — Montreal Carabins, 43

McGill finished at the bottom of the RSEQ standings last year and failed to prove they’re ready to hang with the conference’s top teams in this loss to the Carabins. Hec Crighton hopeful Jonathan Senecal was sensational for Montreal as he threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns in the win, completing passes to nine different receivers. Second-year quarterback Eloa Latendresse-Regimbald struggled through the air for McGill but had a nice day along the ground, rushing for 64 yards and a touchdown.

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 11 — Queen’s Golden Gaels, 10

Upset alert! Queen’s was unable to sustain drives on Saturday, scoring their lone touchdown following an interception by fifth-year defensive back Eric Colonna. It wasn’t a strong performance from the kickers as Dawson Hodge and Tyler Mullan missed a combined five field goal attempts with Mullan squandering a potential 36-yard game-winner on the final play of the game. This was the Golden Gaels’ first loss to a team other than Western since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Windsor Lancers, 21 — McMaster Marauders, 17

McMaster settled for field goals until late in the fourth quarter of this game, while the Lancers were able to capitalize on their opportunities by converting for touchdowns. Third-year quarterback Danny Skelton threw touchdown passes to Colby Ginn and Shane Johnson and ran one in himself from 10 yards out. Fifth-year receiver Jacob Patten was the best player of the night for the Marauders as he caught six passes for 89 yards and one touchdown.

Waterloo Warriors, 10 — Ottawa Gee-Gees, 28

This was a five-point game heading into the fourth quarter before the home side blew things open with a pair of field goals from 2023 CFL Draft pick Campbell Fair and a pick-six from second-year defensive back Patrick Cumberbatch. The Gee-Gees intercepted fourth-year quarterback Nolan Kaban four times, while Tyson Hergott was a monster along Waterloo’s defensive line, recording 5.5 total tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, one interception, and one forced fumble.

Canada West doesn’t start its schedule until next week, while Carleton (OUA), Concordia (RSEQ), and Saint Mary’s (AUS) opened the season with a bye.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.