Laval vs. McMaster preview: Can they do it again?
It was the greatest game ever played.
This statement can neither be proven nor disproven; any other overtime championship win throughout history is undoubtedly comparable. However, if you ask anyone who watched McMaster win the 2011 Vanier Cup over Laval by a score of 41-38, they will tell you that it was not an average three point overtime victory. The 47th Vanier Cup changed CIS football.
It was David against Goliath. The storied Rouge et Or, who had won six national championships in 17 seasons, ranked number one in the country, travelled to Vancouver as the most dominating CIS team of the 21st century.
The fourth ranked Marauders had only been to the Vanier Cup game once, a 10-9 loss to the University of Alberta. That game was in 1967.
As underdogs, no one predicted that the Marauders would unseat Laval from the throne of Canadian Interuniversity football. It took more than four quarters, but the Maroon and Grey did just that. And they did so after winning nine games in a row - one of the more memorable playoff runs in recent history.
When kicker Tyler Crapigna kicked the winning field goal during double overtime, much like David’s slingshot, the Goliath of the CIS was defeated.
For the first time in history, after all the drama and an exchange of spectacular plays by both teams, the Marauders had won the Vanier Cup.
This season, Mac is no such underdog. This year’s Marauders are the best football team in the country and last year’s top team, Laval, is ranked number two in 2012.
Last year’s game will be a difficult act to follow, but this game is set on a much different stage.
The 48th Vanier Cup will feature two powerhouse teams, a clash of the titans if you will.
The Laval Rouge et Or (11-1) are strong on both sides of the ball, ranked number four in the CIS on offense and second on defense. The Marauders (11-0) by comparison are ranked number two on offense and fourth on defense.
Weaknesses are hard to find on both teams. However, there is one notable mismatch. McMaster’s Kyle Quinlan is arguably the nation’s best player; his ability to both run and pass the football are unparalleled in the CIS. The Marauders are equipped with the second best passing offense in the nation - an interesting stipulation considering that the Calgary Dinos, who failed to score a touchdown against Mac in the Mitchell Bowl, were the number one aerial attack this year.
In contrast, Laval’s pass defense is ranked 13th in the country. Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantine will need to find a way to stop the numerous weapons in Kyle Quinlan’s arsenal.
Robert Babic, Bradley Fochesato and Dhalin Brooks each had career years in the absence of Quinlan’s usual number one target Michael DiCroce, who suffered a broken foot during training camp and missed the entire regular season.
Since DiCroce’s return against the Western Mustangs in the Yates Cup semifinal, Quinlan has had four receivers that are a legitimate threat to score.
Mac will have to emphasize the pass game in order to be successful against Laval, who has the nation’s number one rush defense in the country allowing only 57.8 yards per game on the ground.
It will be a tough test for the Marauders who have struggled with numerous backfield injuries, seeing Christopher Pezzetta and Jimmy Hill miss significant time.
Both teams have stingy defenses, potent attacks and neither team has seen a challenge similar to last year’s Vanier match.
This will be the fourth matchup between the two, with the Rouge et Or slightly edging out the Marauders with two victories in their previous three meetings.
The old adage that the team who wants it more will win is not necessarily applicable to this game. Laval is a program built on a winning tradition, and last year’s loss is undoubtedly entrenched in their memory.
For McMaster, winning the Vanier Cup last season was a welcome first. That being said, to win the trophy for a second straight season would firmly place the program in the CIS history books. In addition, Mac could continue their already historical 21 game winning streak.
Friday night’s game is heavily anticipated, and fans of both teams can attend more easily this year. Toronto is a more feasible trip than Vancouver. The excitement is evident in the ticket sales that have forced organizers to open the fifth deck of the Rogers Centre. According to the CIS, ticket sales are approaching record-breaking proportions for the 48th Vanier Cup. By mid week the sales figure was nearing 30,000. The previous record of 32, 000 was also set at the Sky Dome in 1989.
This will be an important game for both schools, both teams, but most importantly, this game will be important for CIS football.
Broadcast on national television, kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. on TSN and RDS. Certainly, more people will pay attention this time.