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The rematch of the 109th Yates Cup takes place on Saturday in London (Photo: Damon Burtt / Western Gazette)

Here we are, the rematch the whole OUA has been waiting for. Well, maybe not the other nine teams sitting around their televisions and computers watching the upcoming game. This one has the potential to be a great rematch between the two power houses of the OUA. If you haven’t seen my earlier posts in the year I ranked Western as the apparent number one team that was separated from WLU at #2. Although Western has all the history, coaching and talent like none other, they had maybe even a better team last year when they lost in this same game to WLU. Let’s be clear. Western is the best team in the OUA, and made an absolute statement against Guelph last week. WLU is the clear #2 team in the OUA, losing some questionable games this year, but dominated the teams they needed too. Many of you have read my articles surrounding the two offensive lines this week, but this week is different. This is the Yates Cup we are talking about, so here’s a refresher about both universities offensive lines.

bettencourt
Photo: Western Mustangs / westernmustangs.ca

There is no denying the level of play each team is playing at coming into the Yates Cup. During the regular season, Western and WLU lead almost every statistic on offence. Notably, Western accounts for 48.3 points per game, and WLU at 38.5. Another key statistic from the season is rushing yard average. It is absolutely remarkable that Western lead the OUA in rushes attempted (328), and held the highest yards per carry at a staggering 7.6 yards per rushing attempt. WLU on the other hand accumulated 5.7 yards per carry, on 256 rushing attempts on the year. There is no denying that each team will establish the run in this game.

20171104 - Kha Vo - Laurier Football vs MAC-275
Photo: Kha Vo / Laurier Athletics

If this is your first time reading my evaluations it must be noted that I have watched every OUA game this season, some multiple times, and have seen many other games across the country. I try to evaluate each team without bias, and use the film I see to dictate my evaluations toward each team. While I wish I could post every clip from each team from every game, but that is just impossible. I highlight specific plays good or bad to illustrate what a team does well, or an area to improve in. In fact the times I evaluated Western this year, typically were “negative” plays to most. I use these negative plays to show where elite offensive lines can improve, because they already do so many things at high levels. It may appear that I am trying to highlight a specific team in this evaluation in the film I will add, it is actually quite the opposite.

Let’s introduce the starting offensive lines from each team.

Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks

 

20171104 - Kha Vo - Laurier Football vs MAC-138
Photo: Kha Vo / Laurier AthleticS
Number Name Position Height Weight Year
#68 Sukhneet Kahlon Boundary Tackle 6-3 280 2
#63 Drew Mairleitner Boundary Guard 6-5 330 3
#64 JD Richardson Centre 6-2 295 3
#61 Edward Cadougan Field Guard 6-1 300 5
#66 Chris Reddy Field Tackle 6-2 270 5

This group has played together all year without injury. Well, to start the year the Hawks started #65 Myles Methner at centre and was injured early in the opening game. Since this injury this unit has remained the same. Three of the 5 starters played in the Yates last year. Expect this group to establish the run throughout the game, very similarly to Western.

Western Mustangs

western ol
Photo: Western Mustangs / Gary Jubenville
Number Name Position Height Weight Year
#66 David Brown Boundary Tackle 6-4 315 4
#52 Gregoire Bouchard Boundary Guard 6-2 314 3
#58 Mark Wheatley Centre 6-1 264 2
#62 Mathew Bettencourt Field Guard 6-2 290 2
#53* Dylan Giffen Field Tackle 6-8 346 2

*I believe #53 is Dylan Giffen, and on film that appears to be him. The Western Football Roster does not correlate with this.

Watch this block by Bouchard #52 above, he sustains the block, disperses pressure, and finishes violently.

For those who haven’t followed Western football, even those who do, it is a surprise seeing this offensive line from UWO. First off, they’re not as experienced as years past. There is also no surprise that this year’s Western OL is potentially the best in all of U SPORTS. From what I have seen from across the nation, UWO definitely has to be considered as one of the best.


When evaluating offensive lines especially in major playoff games, it is important to note how each team responded to their first weeks in the post season. WLU, who played MAC, did not play well. There is no denying that WLU played poorly and the film showed this. Western, who hosted Guelph, put on clinic tape for much of the game. I thought WLU appeared to play flat against MAC, and Western played HUNGRY against Guelph. The scores from last week definitely reflected this. It will be very interesting to see which Western team comes to play this Saturday. Will they have the same hunger and inspiration they had versus Guelph? Or did they spend all their emotional energy on a game they could have won with many backups playing in? On the flip side, did Laurier conserve their energy, in what appeared to be an emotionless win against MAC? Again, these are some important factors to add to the equation heading into the Yates Cup.

Let’s get into it…

WLU did something unexpected to the trained eye last week. In terms of their running game, they avoided most power running schemes. To me, this must have been a specific adjustment to the Marauder defence. They ran a ton of inside zone plays, with a few wrinkles, but they avoided what they did most of the year. They ran these plays quite unsuccessfully. I attributed this to the MAC defence adding a fifth defensive lineman (an offensive lineman actually) to stop the run on typical WLU running formations.

This is interesting to me, are they purposely trying to not give anything away to Western? Well of course not, Western sees the same film I’ve seen all year, they will not be fooled. I expect WLU, just like the regular season to run a mix or power and counter trey running schemes, and play action to follow their running setups. WLU features a speedster running back in Levondre Gordon, who can score on any play.

These clips, show how the WLU fails to create vertical movement against the Marauder defence. MAC holds the line of scrimmage, causing Gordon to stretch the zone running play, resulting in no yards gained. If you have seen any WLU football this year, you will notice how often they incorporate tight ends / H-backs into the running game.

Laurier is not shy they are going to run the ball. See this second clips with one of the heaviest boxes you will see in all of U SPORTS. The results definitely speak for themselves. As a reader, you can see the contrast in how each play is run, they are both wide zone runs, one with a TE lead. Two very different results. This is what to expect from this WLU offensive line. They will work their playbook, run a lot of plays, and expect to wear down a defence to open up holes as seen in the second clip. WLU will try to gain an advantage with the number of blockers they have against Western, which can open up the free running lanes.

In terms of the match up against Western’s defensive line and linebackers. I will give an edge to the offensive line to WLU against the Western DL. With that being said, Western houses 2 of the best linebackers, maybe the best tandem in the country. WLU has the ability to limit the amount of plays the Western front 7 makes. If they can’t, it will be a long day for the WLU offence who is presumably without star Quarterback Michael Knevel. Hopefully the Hawks true starting quarterback is able to play this weekend. His play this season has allowed defences to soften, allowing more success in the running game. It will be interesting to see if he returns to defend the Yates Cup.

Now for the Western Mustangs offensive line evaluation.

I find it very hard to write about Westerns offensive line. Simply put, they do so many things well, and execute them at a very high level. The one thing I will note about Western’s OL, is that since they play at such a high level, and have played many inferior opponents this year, they seem to have a mental lapse and will give up a QB hit or pressure as a result. Western’s QB Merchant has taken his fair share of QB hits this year, and for lack of better words, it’s because their OL takes a play off when they can’t afford to. Western is a power running team with a CFL calibre running back in Alex Taylor. It is unknown to me at this point in time if Taylor will be available for the Yates Cup, which is a major blow. Although Western has lots of depth in the running back position and Joseph should fill in just fine behind their offensive line.

Western will continually use a play action off of their efficient running game. This clip shows the linebacker influence the running game forces a defence to respect. The second clip shows Western failing to pick up the blitzing DB.

Simply put, Bettencourt think’s he has the DL crossing his face, and at the last moment tries to pickup the blitzing DB. He doesn’t get square due to him sliding down to the DL, and misses the block that gives up a big hit on Merchant.

This next clip shows the counter running game Western uses. Since UWO runs the ball so effectively, they can run the counter off of these looks with two OL or one OL and a TE. Here shows how athletic the OL is adjusting to the defensive end, and the kick out from the TE. This creates a big running lane for Taylor, and is one cut away from a touchdown here. This encompasses everything you need to know about this Western OL. They are efficient with their footwork, they create movement at the line of scrimmage, and they open big holes for Taylor and company.


By: Brock Vandermeer

Brock has been around the sport of football all his life. He spent his playing years as an offensive lineman at Wilfrid Laurier University. Once he knew football wasn’t going to be in his future, he decided to dedicate his passion towards coaching. In the two summers he has coached, he qualified for the OVFL conference finals and won the inaugural OPFL bantam championship with an undefeated record. Since summer football has concluded, he felt the urge to write about U SPORTS offensive line play, leading him to the creation of his blog. He felt the need to attempt to educate the general public on the intricacies of offensive line play. Nowadays, he spend his time writing for his blog and studying osteopathy as a graduate program.

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