Laurier looks to bounce back against top-ranked Mustangs in London this weekend

Photo by Darien Funk

Coach Michael Faulds and the Golden Hawks football team will look to get back in the win column this weekend as they head to London to face the Western Mustangs. 

Following a dominant 37-6 victory over York in the season opener, Laurier had their homecoming spoiled last Saturday, losing 36-12 against the Waterloo Warriors. In the return of the “Battle of Waterloo,” the Hawks started the game slow offensively and struggled in all three phases against a vastly improved Waterloo side. 

Laurier committed nine penalties, five turnovers and punted six times as freshman quarterback, Taylor Elgersma and the offense struggled to move the ball down field all-game. On the flip side, the Golden Hawks gave up four touchdowns and 568 total yards to Waterloo, 395 of them to superstar quarterback and MVP front-runner Tre Ford. 

“[Ford] is able to buy time so well and use his incredible athletic ability to generate positive plays,” Faulds said. 

“Just when you think you can get a defensive stop, Ford makes a great play,” Faulds continued. Saying that the quarterback’s ability to take off and run is “100 per cent what worries defensive coordinators the most across the OUA.” 

It won’t get any easier for Laurier as they hit the road for the first time this season, to face one of the best teams in the country. Simply put, the Western Mustangs are and always have been a Canadian football juggernaut. Ranked as the top team in the nation heading into last week, the Mustangs have made it to five consecutive Yate’s Cups, winning two provincial championships and a national title in that time.  

After beginning their season much like Laurier, with a dominant victory over McMaster, Western was shocked last week in Guelph, losing their first regular season game in over five years. With three consecutive undefeated regular seasons and 31 straight victories in regular season play, the Mustangs saw their streak come to an end following a 23-21 loss to Guelph on Saturday night. 

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we know we’re going to play cleaner, execute better and have a good week of practice,” Faulds said about Western. 

The Golden Hawks and Mustangs have developed quite a rivalry in Canadian university football and Coach Faulds might know that better than anyone. During his accomplished playing career, Faulds played five seasons for Western. From 2005-2009, Faulds won two provincial championships with the Mustangs and finished his career as the all-time leading passer in USPORTS/CIS history with over 10,000 passing yards. 

Since joining the Golden Hawks in 2013 – trading his silver and purple for purple and gold – Faulds has coached against his former team 11 times and views the matchup no differently than other opponents on the Laurier schedule. 

“I’m past the point of it being nostalgic… we’ve played there so many times, regular season and post-season, so for us it’s just another game,” Faulds said. 

“I’ve almost been coaching at Laurier two times as long as I was at Western as a player,” he continued. 

The last two matchups saw Laurier lose 46-13 to be eliminated from the playoffs in the 2018 finale, while a 32-19 defeat in the 2019 opener, had Laurier start their season 0-1. Faulds and his team have had their struggles against the Mustang machine, having lost four in a row and winning only one of the 11 matchups against Western in his tenure.

That one win, however, will live in history for the Golden Hawks football program. A remarkable season in 2016, which was capped by an incredible 43-40 victory over Western in the Yates Cup. A team that broke a decade long championship drought for the program and a team featuring a plethora of Laurier legends. Levondre Gordon, Brentyn Hall, Kurleigh Gittens Jr, and recently inducted Laurier Hall of Famers, Nakas Onyeka and Kwaku Boateng to name a few. 

The rivalry between the two teams continues to grow each season, as fans are usually gifted with a physical and often-times high scoring game. With both teams at 1-1, heading into their third game of a six-game season, Saturday should be no different. 

Both the Mustangs and Golden Hawks had high expectations going into this season and knew that a second loss through three weeks would hurt their playoff chances, especially in the ultra-talented OUA West division. A division that had five of the top ten teams in the nation last week, with only the top four qualifying for the playoffs at the end of the season. 

Western has the top rushing offense in the OUA and two of the top four individual rushers in Trey Humes and Keon Edwards. The duo was able to combine for nearly 400 yards on the ground, torching the Marauders defense in their 41-13-win week one. 

“Offensively, they have a really strong rushing attack and defensively they are able to get a lot of pressure generated from their defensive line,” Faulds said of the matchup. 

For Laurier, they will hope that their offense can return to it’s week one form. The biggest question remains to be starting quarterback Connor Carusello’s health. While Elgersma has proven to be a talented prospect, he has faced a lot of pressure in his first two weeks. The team is hoping Carusello will be back soon after suffering a shoulder injury in the first quarter of the season against York. 

“Connor is progressing well. I don’t know if it will be in enough time for this week, but we are super optimistic he will be ready to go in future games this season,” Faulds said. 

With a bye week following the Western matchup, Faulds and his staff might have their eye’s set towards McMaster and their fourth game of the season for the veteran quarterback to return. 

The Golden Hawks will conclude the first half of their season on the road this weekend. Fans can watch the matchup between Laurier and Western on OUA.TV, with kickoff scheduled for 1:00 PM EST this Saturday.

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