TORONTO, ON – The Western Mustangs became back-to-back Yates Cup champions in 2022, dominating Queen’s Gaels 44-16 in the final. Historically, Western boast the most successful program in OUA history. The Mustangs have been to 15 U SPORTS Vanier Cups and winning eight of them, most among all teams in the OUA.
Yates Cup runner-up, Queen’s will host the 58th Vanier Cup on Nov. 25. This is the first of the two years the Kingston university will serve as hosts. Queen’s has spent the last couple of seasons in the shadow of Western losing in the Yates Cup twice in a row. Its likely the journey to playing the Vanier Cup on home turf involves conquering the team that has given them so much trouble. The Gaels started their season on Aug. 18 in a non-conference match up against McGill, winning 33-10.
The OUA season truly begins on Aug. 26, as Queen’s hosts the Laurier Golden Hawks. Meanwhile, the defending Yates Cup Mustangs are on the road taking on the lowely York Lions. At the same time, the McMaster Marauders feature the largest recruiting class in the OUA, looking to rebuild from their 2-6 record they had last year — they take on Windsor.
Viewers will be able to catch opening weekend and the remainder of the season on OUA.TV. Just under one week until the season begins, here are some teams to look out for.
Contender #1: Western Mustangs
Any conversation about Yates Cup contention needs to start with the Western Mustangs. The reigning back-to-back Yates Cup champions have dominated the OUA post-COVID. The Mustangs have lost once in OUA play since the 2020 season was cancelled.
Last season, Western had the dream combination of spectacular offense and suffocating defence. Their defence ranked first in points allowed per game (14.4), allowed the lowest amount of yards per game (271.1 yds). the largest amount of points the Mustangs conceded in 2022 was 21 in a game against the Toronto Varsity Blues, which Western won 56-21.
Just like their defence was top ranked in scoring, so was their offense (45 ppg). The Mustangs rushing attack was lethal last season. Western averaged 292 yards on the ground per game, over 50 more yards than the next best team. The Mustangs had the conferences leading rusher in Keon Edwards (129.0 yds/g) and the fourth in Edouard Wanadi (105.4 yds/g). Western won’t have Wanadi for this season as he is serving a four-year ban for testing positive for a banned substance. Without the fourth leading rusher in the Yates Cup, they leaned heavy on Edwards who rushed for 260 yards on 24 carries.
Contender #2: Queen’s Gaels
The past couple seasons Queen’s has failed to get past Western, but that doesn’t stop them from being legit contenders once again. Outside of the Mustangs, the Gaels have the best run game and defence in the OUA. Of course, they have the enticing factor of hosting the Vanier Cup this November.
The Queen’s defence gave up the fourth least amount of total yards, and were able to limit the scoring posting the second-best points allowed per game (15.9). Gaining yards on the ground against the Gaels was a chore, only the Mustangs allowed less rushing yards per game. The only criticism that could come against the Queen’s defence was their pass defence ranked sixth in the OUA, but they had no trouble getting to the quarterback leading the OUA in sacks (25).
The rushing attack was rolling for Queen’s last year and it was a combination of running backs that got it done. The Gaels ground game had three running backs averaging over 50 yards per game. The combination of Anthony Soles and Jared Chisari are going to be hard to stop this year.
Sleeper pick: Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
Under the guidance of head coach Michael Faulds, Wilfrid Laurier haven’t had a losing season since 2013. The Golden Hawks had a record of 5-3 last season, losing only to Western, the University of Ottawa, and Queen’s. Laurier breezed past Carleton in the OUA quarterfinals, and then fell to Western 45-9.
Quarterback Taylor Elgersma is coming off a season where he was second passing touchdowns (13) and third in passing yards (1786). Elgersma completed 66.2 percent of his passes, but struggled with ball security throwing eight interceptions. The London, Ontario native is heading into his third year and another season with one of the OUA’s all time great quarterbacks as his head coach, Elgersma could be set for a massive campaign.
If Wilfrid Laurier are to make their way to the Yates Cup for the first time since 2017, the defence will need to step up against teams like Queens and Western. In both regular season losses, the defence gave up 30 points or more. Against Western they gave up 512 yards of total offense, 402 yards against Queen’s. In both defeats, they gave up over 200 yards on the ground.
Player To Watch: Keon Edwards (Western Mustangs)
Keon Edwards is heading into his fourth year at Western, and is going to have a monster season. The running back led the OUA in rushing yards (1032). He was apart of a two-headed backfield that also consisted of the fourth leading rusher in Wanadi. Due to the earlier mentioned suspension, Edwards should front more responsibility in the Mustangs offense.
Without Wanadi in the lineup, Edwards had an absurd Yates Cup, rushing for over 250 yards. He averaged over ten yards per car and scored a touchdown.
Western’s schedule has several favourable rushing matchups, playing three of last year’s worst run defences.