Laval claims fourth national title in eight years
SASKATOON (CIS) – No. 2-ranked Laval University claimed its fourth Vanier Cup in eight years as Canadian Interuniversity Sport football champion in typical Rouge et Or fashion: with dominating defence.
Laval defeated the hometown University of Saskatchewan Huskies 13-8 on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out and cold crowd of just under 13,000 fans, who cheered on their Dogs until the final whistle despite temperatures of well below 20 degrees.
The Rouge et Or proved once again that defence wins championship keeping their opponents to 10 points or less for the fourth time in as many Vanier Cup appearances. Laval beat Saint Mary’s 14-10 in 1999 and 14-7 in 2003, and Saskatchewan 7-1 in 2004.
With the win, the Rouge et Or avenged a 29-27 loss to the Huskies at Griffiths Stadium in last year’s Mitchell Bowl, a defeat that put an end to Laval’s dream of becoming the first school in history to three-peat a Vanier champions.
Laval, which became the second team in history to capture three CIS football titles over a four-season period after Western Ontario (1974, 1976, 1977), is now tied with Calgary in second place for most Vanier victories, one behind Western Ontario, despite only joining the CIS football league in 1996.
“Every championship is special, each title has its own flavour. But obviously this one is pretty amazing considering we started the season with such a young group of players, especially on defence. It’s very, very satisfying,” commented sixth-year head coach Glen Constantin, savouring his third Vanier Cup win at the helm, twelve months after losing 10 starters, including seven on defence.
“We shut them down pretty good,” added two-time all-Canadian defensive lineman Michaël Jean-Louis. “We came in here and most people expected them to have an advantage because of their home crowd, so this feels pretty sweet.”
“The Huskies had success all year gaining big chunks of yardage on the ground on first down. We forced them into second-and-long situations all game and it threw them off their game,” continued the fourth-year senior from Granby, Que. who had three solo tackles on the afternoon.
Laval opened the scoring six minutes into the second quarter on a 26-yard Cameron Takacs (Brantford, Ont.) field goal. After conceding a safety with 2:51 left in the half, the Rouge et Or saw sophomore Guillaume Allard-Caméus (Montreal) score on a one-yard run with 71 seconds remaining for a 10-2 lead at the break.
Allard-Caméus’ major was set up by a 22-yard punt return by fifth-year veteran Nicolas Bisaillon (Latuque, Que.) combined to a 15-yard roughing penalty against the Huskies, which allowed Laval to start its drive deep in Saskatchewan territory.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Tyler O’Gorman (Edmonton) sent the crowd into a frenzy and made it a two-point affair with a three-yard TD rush after 4:10 of play in the fourth stanza. The potential game-tying two-point convert attempt failed however as Bret Thompson’s (Saskatoon) pass was broken up in the end zone.
Third-year linebacker Éric Maranda (Notre-Dame des Pins, Que.) all but sealed the victory for Laval when he intercepted Thompson at the Saskatchewan 30-yard line with under two minutes left and returned the ball on 16 yards to set up the final scoring play of the contest, a 15-yard Takacs field goal with 44 seconds on the clock.
The Huskies had one last chance to drive the field but turned the ball over on downs at midfield with 16 seconds remaining on the clock.
Maranda, who racked up seven solo tackles, received the Ted Morris Trophy as Vanier Cup MVP.
Samuel Grégoire-Champagne (Quebec City), who led all players with five catches for 87 yards, captured the Bruce Coulter Trophy as the top offensive player in the game. Grégoire-Champagne’s 42-yard reception off a Benoit Groulx (Laval, Que.) pass set up the first Takacs field goal.
“This one hurts,” simply said Saskatchewan head coach Brian Towriss, who saw his team lose a CIS record third straight Vanier Cup final, by a combined total of 12 points.
The Huskies lost 24-23 to Laurier a year ago and 7-1 to Laval in 2004. Saskatchewan, which was also downed by Saint Mary’s in the final five years ago, has last claimed the Vanier Cup in 1998 and now shows a 3-6 lifetime record in the championship game.
Saskatchewan had a 16-9 advantage on first downs and out-gained Laval 285 yards to 164, including a 151-81 edge on the ground. The Huskies controlled the ball for 33 minutes.
O’Gorman led all rushers in the game with 81 yards on 24 carries, while Allard-Caméus had a Rouge et Or-high 49 yards off 14 runs.
Thompson and Groulx both completed 10 of 23 passes, Thompson finishing with 146 yards, 40 more than his opponent.
Third-year Saskatchewan linebacker Gabe Mackesey (Saskatoon) tallied a game-high nine tackles and recovered a fumble. Linebacker Mathieu Parent (Quebec City) led Laval with eight tackles to go with one sack.
The 2007 Vanier Cup will be hosted by Ontario University Athletics at Rogers Centre in Toronto on November 23, with a Friday night kick-off.