2011 Vanier Cup: McMaster claims first Vanier Cup

Courtesy of Andy Watson / Photo credit Richard Lam

VANCOUVER (CIS) – Tyler Crapigna kicked a 20-yard field goal in second overtime to lift the McMaster University Marauders to the first Vanier Cup title in program history thanks to a 41-38 win over the Laval Rouge et Or in front of 24,935 at B.C. Place Stadium, Friday night.

The OUA champion Marauders end the season with an 11-1 overall record and on a 10-game winning streak. In its only previous appearance in the CIS football final, in 1967, the school from Hamilton had dropped a 10-9 decision to Alberta.

For their part, the Rouge et Or suffered their first loss in seven Vanier Cup appearances and missed out on setting a new all-time mark for most CIS titles. The RSEQ champions, who went 11-2 overall in 2011, tied Western Ontario a year ago with a sixth banner thanks to a 29-2 triumph against Calgary on their home turf in Quebec City.

The 47th edition of the fall classic - and the first one held in the province of British Columbia - was one of the most spectacular and dramatic in history. The Vanier Cup had required extra time only once in the past, in 1994, when Western edged Saskatchewan 50-40.

Down 23-0 at halftime, the Rouge et Or stormed back after the break with 24 straight points to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. McMaster quickly jumped back in front, 31-24, but a five-yard touchdown pass from Bruno Prud’homme to Julian Feoli-Gudino with two minutes 13 seconds remaining tied it at 31 all and sent the affair to overtime.

In fact, the Marauders had a chance to end the game on the last play in regulation but Crapigna, a first-team all-Canadian this season, missed wide left on a 30-yard attempt.

In the shootout session, the OUA champs went first and scored on a 26-yard strike from Kyle Quinlan to Brad Fochesato. Laval responded right away with a 33-yard major by Adam Thibault, who bobbled the ball on a long Prud’homme pass but managed to hold on to it as he fell backwards to the ground.

Laval went first in the second OT session but couldn’t put points on the board as Steven Ventresca intercepted Prud’homme. Crapigna got a chance to redeem himself moments later and this time split the uprights to seal the victory and send the maroon troops into a frenzy.

“I had a feeling I was going to get used again in overtime, so I just wanted to get right out there and kick it,” said Crapigna, a diminutive five-foot-seven, 156-pound sophomore from Nepean, Ont., who was seeing his first playoff action after missing three games due to illness. “Obviously, I wanted another shot. It felt good to get that.

“I had a feeling the past couple of days it was going to be a close game. I was on the bus ride to the stadium thinking about it, I had this feeling in my gut it was going to come down to a field goal. I made the one in overtime and that’s all that matters.”

McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek, in his sixth season at helm, was proud of his team and his kicker.

“Tyler cannot win or lose a football game. He’s only one player on that sideline. There was nothing for him to redeem from. He was ready to make the play and the only play that matters is the next one and he made the next one.

“We’re gonna enjoy it. I suspect we’ll wake up tomorrow and start building and maybe not wait 44 years for the second one,” added Ptaszek, who previously claimed a pair of Vanier Cups with Wilfrid Laurier, first as a player in 1991 and then as the offensive coordinator in 2005.

Despite the immense disappointment, Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin and senior quarterback Prud’homme both praised the character of their team.

After all, Laval almost completed a comeback for the ages. Queen’s set the Vanier Cup record in 2009 erasing an 18-point halftime deficit (25-7) to defeat Calgary 33-31.

“I’m really proud of my players and really proud of the character they showed,” said Constantin, who holds the record with five Vanier Cup wins as a head coach. “They could have easily packed it in after the first half.”

“In the first half we dug ourselves a big hole with a number of mental mistakes,” Prud'homme said. “But we came back really strong and we should be proud of that. It says a lot about the pride of our program.”

It is often said that good offence fills stadiums and good defence wins championships. The second part of the saying proved inaccurate Friday night at B.C. Place.

The Rouge et Or, who allowed the fewest points in the country in the regular season (12.0 ppg) for the fourth straight year and had conceded only 24 in their first three playoff duels, got all they could handle and more from start to finish from a team that led the nation in conference play with 530 yards of offence per game. In its first 12 outings of the campaign, Laval had allowed more than 17 points (27) only once.

Quinlan was the undisputed star of the contest and earned the Ted Morris memorial trophy as the game MVP following a stellar performance. The six-foot-three, 215-pound pivot from South Woodslee, Ont., completed 36 of 55 passes for 482 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, while adding 106 rushing yards on 14 carries.

At the halftime break, he was already 20-of-27 for 265 yards. At one point in the second quarter he completed 12 consecutive passes.

Quinlan and the McMaster offence are now in the Vanier Cup record book in a number of categories.

His 482 passing yards and 36 completions both rank second in game history. The Marauders tied the all-time mark with 41 first downs, while their 675 yards of total offence and 25 first downs through the air are good for second place in history.

“We jumped all over them early but we weren’t comfortable with that. We knew that these guys were as good as it gets in this country and they showed us why and battled right back,” said Quinlan, a member of the second all-Canadian team. “I’m just so proud of our guys for giving it everything that they had.

“We just had to believe and just play with our hearts. We might not have as much talent as the rest of these guys but you can do some crazy things when you play with everything that you’ve got. We knew we were in a football game, we knew they just weren’t going to roll over. We could feel the momentum turning over and we had one choice and that was to battle back.”

Robert Babic also entered the Vanier Cup record book tying the single-game mark with 12 catches. The native of Oakville, Ont., finished with a match-high 135 receiving yards.

Michael DiCroce, the OUA player of the year from Hamilton, also benefited from Quinlan’s exceptional play and racked up 102 yards on seven receptions. He could have ended the night with even better statistics but had a 101-yard TD called back in the third quarter after he was ruled to be offside.

Crapigna nailed four of six field goal attempts, hitting from 26, 37 and 24 yards out in the first half.

Defensively, the star of the evening was first-year linebacker Aram Eisho, also of Hamilton. The freshman merited the Bruce Coulter award after he led all players on the field with 11.5 tackles, in addition to forcing a fumble.

For the Rouge et Or, running back Sébastien Lévesque lived up to his reputation as a big-game player. One of many Laval stars playing in their final university game, the Brossard, Que., native, who was the Vanier Cup MVP in 2010, tallied 136 ground yards and one touchdown on 17 runs.

Prud’homme was 21-of-30 for 239 yards, a pair of majors and two picks but was under constant pressure and was sacked five times. Feoli-Gudino, who hails from Costa Rica, was his favourite target with 106 yards and a TD on 10 receptions. Both were also wearing the red and gold uniform for the last time.

The Marauders were simply too good in the first half.

McMaster took advantage of a turnover to open the scoring 7:55 into the game. Crapigna hit from 26 yards out moments after a Lévesque fumble at the Mac 35.

Crapigna made it 6-0 five minutes later thanks to a 37-yard kick. A few plays earlier, the Marauders had kept their drive alive when Marshall Ferguson faked a punt on a third-and-eight situation before completing an 11-yard pass to Ben O’Connor.

The Ontario champions resumed their domination in the second quarter.

Following a Michael Daly interception, Quinlan found senior Matthew Peressini on 21 yards to make it first and goal, and then completed the work with a three-yard toss to running back James Hill. Four minutes later, freshman Chris Pezzetta found pay dirt on a 13-yard run to cap off a quick six-play, 85-yard drive that lasted only 2:25.

Crapigna’s third field goal of the evening, on 24 yards, made it 23-0 at the half. The scoring play came minutes after Laval kicker Boris Bede hit the post on a 35-yard attempt.

Back from the break, the Rouge et Or quickly showed they wouldn’t go down without a fight and cut the deficit to 23-14 in just four minutes. Guillaume Rioux started the comeback with a 62-yard punt return to the house and all-star linebacker Frédéric Plesius followed 74 seconds later with a touchdown off a 37-yard interception return.

On the next McMaster drive, DiCroce appeared to have scored on a 101-yard bomb from Quinlan but the play was called back as he was ruled offside.

Instead of being down 30-14, the Rouge et Or closed the gap before the end of the third frame, to 23-17, on an 18-yard Bede field goal.

Lévesque completed the improbable comeback and gave Laval its first and only lead of the contest 1:57 into the fourth stanza thanks to a spectacular 44-yard run that capped off an eight-play, 107-yard drive. The speedster dazzled the crowd with a nice cutback up the middle followed by a change of direction and a burst of speed that left no chance McMaster defenders.

The stage was set for the dramatic ending.

An 18-yard Quinlan run set up a nine-yard rushing major by Peressini with 5:53 left on the clock. Quinlan and Peressini then connected for a two-point convert and the Marauders were back in front, 31-24.

It took a little more than three minutes for Laval to respond. Rioux returned the kickoff on 34 yards to his own 48. Prud’homme followed with five completions in six attempts, including the game-tying strike to Feoli-Gudino, who was waiting for the ball just over the goal line.

Quinlan and McMaster responded once again, this time with an 81-yard drive, but Crapigna failed to put an end to the thrilling affair.

In overtime, following Fochesato and Thibault’s touchdowns and Ventresca’s interception, the Marauders advanced to the Laval 13 thanks to four straight runs, one by Quinlan and three by Pezzetta. This time, Crapigna made no mistake.

“All we said entering the fourth quarter was if I were to tell you in August that we were going to be in national final, down one point in the fourth with the best offence in the country, would you have taken it,” said Ptaszek, whose team lost 24-10 to Laval in pre-season action in Quebec City. “It was two great teams that are going to make plays from start to finish. It’s about what you’d expect in the Vanier Cup final. You just keep playing until there’s no time left and see what happens, that’s pretty much what we did.”

NOTES: Laval was flagged 14 times, the third highest total in Vanier Cup history, while McMaster finished with 13 penalties... With Laval’s loss, Guelph (1-0) is now the only team with a perfect Vanier Cup record... Only two teams in the history of the Vanier Cup came back to win after failing to score in the first half, including the 1996 Saskatchewan Huskies, who erased a 12-0 halftime deficit to beat StFX 31-12, and the 2004 Rouge et Or, who trailed Saskatchewan 1-0 after 30 minutes but prevailed 7-1... Laval was facing its pre-season opponent in the national final for the third time in its last four Vanier Cup appearances (Saskatchewan in 2006, Western in 2008, McMaster in 2011)...

SCORING SUMMARY

LAV: 0-0-17-14-7-0: 38
MAC: 6-17-0-8-7-3: 41

First Quarter
MAC-FG Tyler Crapigna 26 7:55
MAC-FG Tyler Crapigna 37 12:57

Second Quarter
MAC-TD James Hill 3 pass from Kyle Quinlan (Tyler Crapigna kick) 1:22
MAC-TD Chris Pezzetta 13 run (Tyler Crapigna kick) 5:25
MAC-FG Tyler Crapigna 24 13:37

Third Quarter
LAV-TD Guillaume Rioux 62 punt return (Bede kick) 3:03
LAV-TD Frédéric Plesius 37 interception return (Bede kick) 4:17
LAV-FG Boris Bede 18 11:49

Fourth Quarter
LAV-TD Sébastien Lévesque 44 run (Boris Bede kick) 1:57
MAC-TD Matthew Peressini 9 run (Matthew Peressini pass from Kyle Quinlan) 9:07
LAV-TD Julian Feoli-Gudino 5 pass from Bruno Prud’homme (Boris Bede kick) 12:47

Overtime Shootout
MAC-TD Brad Fochesato 26 pass from Kyle Quinlan (Tyler Crapigna kick)
LAV-TD Adam Thibault 33 pass from Bruno Prud’homme (Boris Bede kick)
MAC-FG Tyler Crapigna 20

Attendance: 24,935

-CIS-