2004 Vanier Cup Game Recap

2004 – Laval 7, Saskatchewan 1

In the lowest scoring Vanier Cup game in history, the Laval Rouge et Or became the fourth team to repeat as CIS football champion in 2004 with a 7-1 victory over the Saskatchewan Huskies in front of 14,227 fans at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The CIS final was played outside of Toronto for the first time in history, and outdoors for the first time since 1988.

Laval, crowned following a 14-7 win over Saint Mary’s in 2003, captured a third CIS title in six years, and its third in as many championship final appearances. Manitoba, in 1969 and 1970, Western Ontario in 1976 and 1977, and Saint Mary’s in 2001 and 2002 were the previous schools to win back-to-back Vanier Cups.

Before the 2004 contest, the lowest scoring Vanier Cup games were a 10-9 win by Alberta over McMaster in 1967, and a 16-3 win by Queen’s over UBC in 1978. This marks the first time in history that no touchdowns were scored in the CIS final.

Defences supposedly win championships, and the Rouge et Or defensive unit, ranked number one in the country this season in all major categories, confirmed the old saying. Laval created seven turnovers, including five interceptions of Canada West MVP and first team all-Canadian quarterback Steve Bilan, while holding the Huskies to a rouge by Brad Ollen which opened the scoring 7:04 into the game.

Bilan, who led the CIS with 25 touchdown passes and 2549 passing yards during the regular season, completed only 11 of 33 attempts for 113 yards, and was sacked twice. He had thrown seven interceptions in nine games overall this fall.

The five interceptions by Laval tie a Vanier Cup record. Saskatchewan’s Brent Schneider threw five picks in a 50-40 loss to Western in 1994.

“This one might feel even better (than last year), simply because of all the great players we lost following last year’s win,” said Laval head coach Glen Constantin, who saw eleven starters, including eight on offence, graduate since last fall, and four members of the 2003 championship squad move on to the CFL. “We thought at the start of the season that our defence could take us a long way, and that if the offence improved every week we would be in good shape. It’s pretty much the way it turned out.”

Matthew Leblanc received the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as Desjardins Vanier Cup MVP. The rookie receiver kicked the game’s only field goal with 2:51 remaining in the third quarter to send the Rouge et Or ahead, 3-1. He added a single in the fourth frame, caught three passes for 38 yards, and gained 31 yards on the ground on a key reverse early in the final stanza.

Laval made it 6-1 on a safety with 5:50 left in the game, and completed the scoring with 34 seconds remaining on a rouge by Jeronimo Huerta-Flores.

Fourth-year defensive back Matthieu Proulx led the way on defence for Laval with two interceptions, claiming the Bruce Coulter Award as the best defensive player in the game. He added four tackles and broke two other passes.

If Bilan and the Huskies struggled on offence, it was the same for Laval and Quebec conference player of the year and Uteck Bowl MVP, Huerta-Flores. The fifth-year running back from Metepec, Mexico was held to 41 yards on 18 carries, and added 10 yards on one reception.

Laval, which had to wait until midway through the second quarter for its first first down of the afternoon, gained 257 net yards, compared to 223 for Saskatchewan, which was limited to 18 yards in the entire second half. The Huskies controlled the ball for 33 minutes and six seconds.

“I thought it would be a low scoring affair, 14-10 or something, but never 7-1,” commented Saskatchewan head coach Brian Towriss. “Everybody talked about Laval’s defence this week, and with good reasons, but our own defensive unit has been outstanding all year and was up to the task again today.”

Laval quarterback William Leclerc was 12-of-25 for 159 yards and no interceptions, and was sacked three times. He added 30 yards on five carries.

On defence, Jean-Philippe Abraham led both teams with eight tackles, while safety Yves Hercule, halfback Phillip Gauthier and defensive back Jean-Philippe Lanthier each had one interception. Philippe Audet recovered two fumbles.

Chad Nunweiler rushed for 101 yards on 22 carries for Saskatchewan, including 81 yards in the first half.