© Scott Doherty – TC Media
Football Mountie Josh Blanchard carries the ball in the first quarter of today's Uteck Bowl, which was held in Sackville. The visiting Laval Rouge et Or defeated the host Mounties 48-21 and will advance to the Vanier Cup.
SACKVILLE, N.B. (CIS) – The defending national champion Laval Rouge et Or became the first team in CIS football history to advance to four straight Vanier Cup finals thanks to a 48-21 Uteck Bowl win over the hometown Mount Allison Mounties, Saturday afternoon, in front of a standing room-only crowd of 3,537 at MacAulay Field.
It was the third straight dominating victory for the Rouge et Or in the CIS semifinals. After crushing Calgary 41-10 in the 2011 Mitchell Bowl, they beat Acadia 42-7 in last year’s Uteck Bowl before capturing their record seventh Vanier Cup – one more than Western – thanks to a 37-14 defeat of McMaster in the CIS championship match in Toronto.
In next Saturday’s TELUS Vanier Cup on its own turf in Quebec City, second-ranked Laval (11-0) will battle either No. 1 Western (10-0) or No. 3 Calgary (10-0), who face off later today in the Mitchell Bowl at McMahon Stadium.
It will mark only the fourth Vanier Cup between undefeated teams in the 49-year history of the event, following 2005 (Laurier vs. Saskatchewan), 1986 (UBC vs. Western) and 1966 (StFX vs. Waterloo Lutheran). Kickoff at TELUS-UL Stadium is set for 1 p.m. EST, live on Sportsnet & Radio-Canada.
The first-ever Bowl game played on the scenic Sackville, N.B. campus lived up to its billing as a battle of David versus Goliath early on, but the surprise AUS conference champions refused to go down without a fight.
The Rouge et Or, winners of a record 11-straight RSEQ titles, reached the end zone in each of their first three offensive series to take a 21-0 lead and never looked back.
Running back Pascal Lochard opened the scoring three minutes and 16 seconds into the contest on a one-yard touchdown run and made it 14-0 four minutes later when he punched the ball in from two yards out. Guillaume Rioux then caught a 24-yard TD pass from quarterback Alex Skinner and it was 21-0 at the 10:47 mark.
Playing in their first Bowl game since 1997, the Mounties gave their loyal fans something to cheer about 3:28 into the second quarter when Brandon Leyh threw a perfect 15-yard strike to Troy Trentham in the right corner of the end zone to cut the deficit to two scores.
Laval responded right away however thanks to Lochard’s third rushing major of the afternoon, from one yard out, and a late safety conceded by the locals made it 30-7 at the halftime break.
Mount Allison kept the score under control in the second half, aided in part by three Laval fumbles, including one at the Mounties’ own three-yard line.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in the third period, Skinner connecting with speedster Maxime Boutin for a spectacular 80-yard catch-and-run score, and the locals answering with a 15-yard pass from Leyh to Stu Moore on the final play of the quarter.
With the Rouge et Or up 37-14 after 45 minutes, Rioux sealed the victory 3:05 into the fourth with his second major of the duel, this one on a 57-yard punt return.
Laval added a pair of safeties and Mount A rounded out the scoring with five minutes remaining on Leyh’s third TD pass of the contest, a 35-yard strike to Josh Blanchard.
Laval head coach Glen Constantin was pleased with the result but had mixed feelings about his team’s execution.
“It wasn’t our best performance of the season. After a great start, we made way too many mental mistakes, especially in the third quarter,” said the 13-year bench boss, who felt the need to address his troops on the sidelines early in the fourth quarter. “We went back to the basics in the fourth and had a few good drives. We’ll have to play better next week.”
“I think we were outscored 18-14 in the second half so I was proud,” said Mount Allison coach Kelly Jeffrey, in his sixth campaign at the helm. “I was hoping we’d start a little faster. That really hurt us playing from behind early, but I was excited about how we moved the ball. We were able to get a couple turnovers on defence. Special teams maybe weren’t as good today as they have been this year but I’m proud of the effort, proud of the guys.
“Phenomenal atmosphere,” Jeffrey added about the support from the Mounties faithful. “This is true college football atmosphere here, so I thank CIS and the AUS for making it happen.”
Laval finished with 575 yards of total offence compared to 328 for its opponents and also had a 26-17 advantage in first downs. As expected, the Rouge et Or, ranked fifth in the country this season in rushing (216.6 ypg) and first against the run (75.8), dominated the ground game 313 yards to 74.
Rioux, a fifth-year senior born in Paris, France, was named game MVP thanks to his two touchdowns and 227 all-purpose yards, including 172 on 10 punt returns, 45 on five receptions and 10 on one carry.
“We’re very happy with the win, especially since this was the first Bowl victory in the Maritimes in three tries for our program,” Rioux said. “We’re excited to go back to the show and defend our title at home.”
Boutin, a junior from Quebec City who was voted MVP of the Uteck Bowl and Vanier Cup a year ago, also had a monstrous performance for the winners with 268 all-purpose yards, including 163 on 18 rushes and 105 on three catches.
Skinner completed 18 of 26 passes for 273 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, while Lochard also went over the century mark on the ground, gaining 107 yards on 11 runs.
Leyh, a sophomore from New Westminster, B.C., was solid in the losing cause, going 22-of-36 for 260 yards, three majors and no picks. Botel, the AUS most outstanding player of the year from Prince George, B.C., also had a valiant effort with 79 yards on 18 carries.
Mount Allison’s 21 points were the second most scored this year against the best defensive unit in the country (11.5 ppg), trailing only Bishop’s 38 on Sept. 28 (46-38 Laval).
Today’s game marked the second contest in history between the two teams, four years after the Rouge et Or dominated the Mounties 73-7 in interlock action in Quebec City (Oct. 17, 2009).