Laval downs Western 44-21, wins fifth Vanier Cup
HAMILTON (CIS) – The Laval Rouge et Or captured a fifth Vanier Cup title in the program’s 13-year history with a 44-21 victory over the Western Ontario Mustangs in Saturday afternoon’s 44th Vanier Cup at Hamilton’s Ivor Wynne Stadium before a crowd of 13,873.
Dominated by a 24-point second quarter by the victors and four Laval scoring plays of 60 yards or more, the game saw both teams breaking and challenging many Vanier Cup records.
“Such a great feeling - two cups in three years,” said Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin upon tying the record of four Vanier Cup victories by a head coach, set by former Calgary Dinos sideline boss Peter Connellan. “We told the boys to answer every bell, take every shot - that the next play is the play to concentrate on.”
Laval receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino (San José, Costa Rica) won the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as the game MVP, almost single-handedly awakening the Laval offence in the second quarter with a pair of spectacular touchdowns.
The sophomore caught an 82-yard Benoit Groulx (Montreal) pass, the fourth-longest receiving touchdown in Vanier history, and then claimed the third-longest punt return in history, running 74 yards for a major. Feoli-Gudino finished the day with four receptions for 112 yards and three punt returns for 95 yards.
“We went 12-0 for the first time in team history,” said Feoli-Gudino. “It’s amazing to be one of the players who can say, ‘I did that!’”
Laval’s victory makes them the 12th team to cap an undefeated season with a Vanier Cup win. The Rouge et Or had failed to advance to the national championship following their three previous perfect regular seasons (2000, 2005, 2007).
Marc-Antoine Fortin (Quebec City) earned the Bruce Coulter Award for top player on the opposite side of the ball from the game MVP. The second-year defensive lineman amassed five solo tackles, three tackles for a loss and one sack of four yards.
“It’s a great honour but to be honest the only trophy that matters to me is the Cup,” said Fortin. “From a personal standpoint, I probably played my best game of the season, so it’s nice to end the year this way.”
After a slow start to the game, Laval exploded with 24 second-quarter points, with Feoli-Gudino’s pair of touchdowns, a two-yard TD run from backup quarterback Cesar Hernandez-Sanchez (Mexico City, Mexico), who took over for Groulx in a short-yardage situation, and a field goal from Christopher Milo (Montreal).
Western’s lone score of the first half came from a 14-yard touchdown strike from Michael Faulds (Eden Mills, Ont.) to Nick Trevail (London, Ont.) late in the second frame, sending the teams into the intermission with Laval holding a 27-7 advantage.
Laval cruised through the second half, opening with a Vanier-record 92-yard touchdown pass from Groulx to freshman Mathieu Bouvette (Quebec City) in the opening minutes. Fellow rookie Sébastien Lévesque (Brossard, Que.) added some further insurance with a 63-yard rushing major, the second-longest rushing score in Vanier history.
Groulx completed 17 of 27 attempts for 383 yards, ranking third all-time in Vanier Cup passing yardage, and two scores.
As the 2008 winner of the Hec Crighton Trophy as the most outstanding player in Canadian university football, Groulx becomes just the fourth player in history to win the Crighton and the Vanier in the same season, following the example set by running back Mark Nohra (UBC, 1997), receiver Don Blair (Calgary, 1995) and quarterback Greg Vavra (Calgary, 1983).
“12-0, it doesn’t get any better than this,” said Groulx. “Our game plan was to pass the ball often should the weather permit it, and it obviously went pretty well.”
Bouvette led Laval receivers with 118 yards on two receptions. Lévesque topped all rushers in the game with 16 carries for 132 yards.
A formidable Laval defence devastated Western’s rushing game, holding the Mustangs to 30 yards on the ground, the lowest in Vanier Cup history, and tying a Vanier Cup record with five sacks. The Rouge et Or surrendered zero net rushing yards in the first half.
The Mustangs, making their Vanier-record 12th appearance in the national final, spotted their opponents numerous opportunities, making eight turnovers with two fumbles, a pair of interceptions, and four turnovers on downs. Laval capitalized on the Mustang miscues, scoring 20 points on drives started by turnovers.
The Mustangs’ 21 points were the most any opponent scored against Laval in 2008, surpassing Concordia’s 17 points in the QUFL championship game.
In the losing effort, Mustang quarterback Michael Faulds completed 37 of 65 pass attempts for 403 yards. His performance ranks first all-time in Vanier Cup completions, and his attempts and yardage figures are the highest in a regulation-length Vanier Cup, second only to Brent Schneider’s 1994 overtime performance for the Saskatchewan Huskies. Bellamy topped the Western receiving corps with 127 yards on nine receptions.
Also entering the record book for the Mustangs was kick returner Ryan Tremblay (London, Ont.), who established single-game marks in kickoff returns (6), kickoff return yardage (204) and longest kickoff return (62 yards).
“We battled hard but today we got beat by a better team,” said Greg Marshall, making his first Vanier Cup appearance as a head coach in his second season at the helm at Western.
“We know where we need to be. If our guys leave today thinking we should have won, they’re wrong. We’re not there yet. But we have a good foundation.”
GAME NOTES: Winners by 23 points over Western, the Rouge et Or had claimed their first four Vanier Cup victories by a combined total of 22 points and had never scored more than 14 points in the CIS football final (14-10 vs. Saint Mary’s in 1999; 14-7 vs. Saint Mary’s in 2003; 7-1 vs. Saskatchewan in 2004; 13-8 vs. Saskatchewan in 2006)… Glen Constantin was Laval’s defensive coordinator when the Rouge et Or won their first Vanier Cup title in 1999… Peter Connellan needed five tries to capture his four CIS rings as head coach of the Calgary Dinos, losing to Toronto in his fourth Vanier appearance in 1993… Greg Marshall had made five previous Vanier Cup appearances with Western, losing to Acadia as a player in 1979 and posting a 2-2 record as an assistant coach, his two wins coming in 1989 and 1994…