Uteck Bowl: Mustangs rout Axemen 81-3 to make Vanier Cup


Western Mustangs quarterback Chris Merchant (12) runs with the ball against the Acadia Axemen during first half U Sports semifinal Uteck Bowl action at Acadia University, in Wolfsville, N.S., on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Ted Pritchard/CP)

WOLFVILLE, N.S. — The Western Mustangs set a Uteck Bowl record for points as their vaunted rushing attack dominated the Acadia Axemen in an 81-3 victory on Saturday.

Western amassed 451 yards on the ground and starting running back Cedric Joseph rushed 13 times for 100 yards and three touchdowns to give him 10 touchdowns in his team’s three post-season games.

"It’s easy when I’ve got a monstrous O-line in front of me," said Joseph. "I’m going to have to give kudos to them, they’re really making my job a whole lot easier."

Joseph stepped into the starter’s role when Alex Taylor suffered a knee injury. He thinks a strong running game is the team’s legacy and he and fellow running backs Trey Humes and Yannick Harou get more than enough action to keep them all happy.

"We’re a hard-nosed, old-school, run-the-ball-down-your-throat type of offence," Joseph said. "We all kind of fit into that mould and we complement each other real nice."

The running back by committee approach didn’t slow down the Western ground game at all as Humes finished with 175 yards on just 15 carries. Harou ran for 98 yards on 15 carries and rushed for two TDs.

Quarterback Chris Merchant was 10 of 11 for 200 yards and two touchdowns passes. He also rushed for 54 yards and ran in two TDs as well.

Western advances to the Vanier Cup, Canada’s university football championship, to be held on Nov. 25. The Mustangs will play the Laval Rouge et Or after they defeated Calgary 35-23 in the Mitchell Bowl later Saturday.

Joseph, a third-year player out of Montreal, is excited for his first trip to the Vanier Cup.

"The boys have been working hard all season and the scoreboard shows our preparation and the work that we put in," he said.

Acadia quarterback Cody Cluett said there wasn’t much to say after a game like that.

"They just outplayed us big-time," he said. They’re a great football team and they will probably go on to win it all."

The Axemen stuck with their game plan of trying to use a balanced attack, instead of just trying to pass. Cluett finished 15-of-25 with 181 yards passing and was intercepted three times.

"There is not an 80-point play in football, so you just have to stick with what you do," Cluett said.

Western dominated the first half, building up a 57-0 lead. They had 26 first downs to Acadia’s two and did not allow the Axemen across midfield for the entire half. They also piled up 472 yards on offence to Acadia’s 61. The final yardage tally was 689-214 for the Mustangs.

The only thing that was able to stop the Mustangs from scoring a touchdown in the first half was the clock as their ninth possession was cut short when time ran out in the second quarter.

Marshall took Merchant out for the second half and started to put his back-ups in at other positions, too.

Acadia finally managed to get the ball over midfield on their first possession of the second half and came close to scoring, but a 32-yard field goal attempt by placekicker Jarett Saumure was wide right and Western was able to run it out of the end zone to keep Acadia off the scoreboard.

The Axemen finally got on the scoreboard when a 41-yard pass from Cluett to Eugene McMinns put them deep in Western territory. The drive stalled, but Saumure kicked a 27-yard field goal to break the shutout with 6:54 left in the game and the crowd of 2,815 gave the home team their loudest applause of the day.

Acadia running back Brandon McDonald said it was those three points might seem trivial, but they meant a lot to the player.

"It was definitely huge," he said. "We didn’t want to sit on that goose egg and look back on that, so we’re happy that we got that on the board."

Acadia had a complicated path to the Uteck Bowl. It had originally won the Atlantic University Sports football title by forfeit when it was deemed that the Saint Mary’s Huskies had used an ineligible player in the regular season.

Saint Mary’s successfully challenged the ruling in court, with Acadia playing the Huskies in the Loney Bowl on Tuesday.

The Axemen won that game but had short rest before taking on the Ontario University Athletics champion Mustangs on short rest.


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