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Walling: McMaster wins first Vanier Cup

Alex J. Walling
11/26/2011 1:15:36 PM
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The McMaster Marauders are the best college football team in Canada.

They earned that honour on Friday night, defeating the unbeatable (in Vanier Cup games) Laval Rouge et Or, 41-38, in double overtime in Vancouver.

Friday's game may have been the weirdest, most dramatic game in college football that I've seen, and it's certainly in my top ten football games of all time.

Some of those include the 1961 overtime win by Winnipeg over Hamilton, the 1958 overtime game between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants (the first NFL game ever shown on Canadian TV), the 1962 Fog Bowl, and the last-second Atlantic Bowl win by Saint Mary's over Western in 1990.

The "I don't believe it" line must have been uttered more than a few times in Friday's tilt, including a 101 yard pass and run between Kyle Quinlan and one of his receivers. But the play was called back due to an offside by the receiver; to punt and interception returns for touchdowns by Laval to around five more plays that were amazing.

The term 'shock and awe' were first used in a military plan but they were in evidence in this year's Vanier Cup match-up.

First of all, the nation was in shock when McMaster started the game by scoring, and scoring, and scoring again.

When the first half was over, the score showed McMaster 23, Laval 0.

23-0 against Laval.

Unbelievable.

This is the team that allowed no more than 12 points a game and gave up only 53 yards rushing and they were getting decimated.

Vanier Cup MVP Kyle Quinlan looked as he did warming up for the CFL combines, with 24 first downs and 289 yards passing in the first half!

"It was an incredible performance by an incredible player," said coach Stefan Ptaszek, who has high praise for Quinlan.

"He may be the best player I have seen at this level - ever," Ptaszek told TSN.

Quinlan, of South Woodslee, Ontario took home the Ted Morris Memorial trophy as offensive MVP, going 36-55 and 482 yards.

He put on a passing clinic for coaches and GMs who may want to look at a Canadian quarterback; a very rare commodity in the CFL.

He also picked up 106 yards on the ground.

But Laval wasn't the number one team in the nation for nothing.

The "awe" came in the second half. 

While McMaster provided the shock, it was Laval that "awed" us with their comeback.

Laval started its comeback and continued it until they took a 24-23 lead.  There were more heroics on both sides and with seconds left, Tyler Crapigna had a good chance to get the win but missed a field goal from 25 yards out.
 
"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," Crapigna said. "Obviously, I wanted another shot. It felt good to finally get that."

He did get a chance to win it in overtime and nailed the game-ending field goal.

It was a heck of a game.

Laval was looking to pull off a miraculous comeback, trailing 23-0 at the half in the first Vanier Cup game played in British Columbia. They rattled off 31 second-half points to force overtime.
 
"I'm really proud of my players and really proud of the character they showed," said Laval head coach Glen 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."
 
The Laval offence struggled early but senior quarterback Bruno Prud'homme, in his final game, guided a strong comeback effort for his Rouge et Or.
 
"In the first half, we dug ourselves a big hole with a number of mental mistakes," said Prud'homme, who went 21-for-30 for 239 yards along with two touchdowns and two interceptions. "But we came back really strong and we should be proud of that."

They should be proud and Prud'homme should be as well.

Much like Anthony Calvillo in the CFL's Eastern Final, Prud'homme had a great second half and on several occasions gave his team the lead.

In overtime, when Quinlan put McMaster ahead, Prud'homme came back with a bomb of his own to tie it.

As the saying goes "someone has to lose."

It seemed fitting for the game to be decided in overtime.
 
"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 - they'll take it," Ptaszek said. "So I'll go with ups and downs.
 
"It was two great teams that are going to make plays from start to finish," Ptaszek continued. "It's about what you'd expect. You just keep playing until there's no time left and see what happens, that's pretty much what we did."
 
Quinlan, who finished with 588 total yards, said he was proud of his team for their perseverance.
 
"We jumped all over them early but we weren't comfortable with that," Quinlan said. "We knew that these guys were as good as it gets in this country and they showed us why and battled right back. I'm just so proud of these guys for giving it everything that they had.
 
"We just had to be live and just play with our hearts," Quinlan added. "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."
 
McMaster becomes the first OUA team to win the Vanier Cup since Queen's won 33-31 over Calgary in 2009.
 
"What a privilege it is to work with them," said Ptaszek. "We're going to enjoy it. I suspect we'll wake up tomorrow and start building and maybe not wait 44 years for the second one."

As for Laval, the streak of Vanier Cup wins is over.  From the 1999 win - a 14-10 victory over Saint Mary's - to last year's 29-2 triumph over Calgary, this team was 6-for-6 in Vanier Cup games, winning low scoring tilts like 7-1 in 2004 or a high scoring game such as 44-21 over Western in 2008.  They finally lost one.

This is only the second Vanier Cup to go into overtime.  The first was a 50-40 win for Saskatchewan over Western in 1994.
 
Laval has been a dynasty in Canadian college football for a while now and although they didn't win this year, they should be rated first or second when next year's rankings come out.

As for McMaster, this was only their second trip to this game having lost 10-9 to Alberta in 1967.

This year's team has done it. And what a winning run - 10 wins in a row, last losing way back in September to Western.

As coach Ptaszek said on TSN: "You are the finest team ever to wear the M in front of their jerseys."

They are indeed.   McMaster's first Vanier win, enjoy it.

For TSN.ca I'm Alex J. Walling.

Alexj can be reached via email at:  ajw@eastlink.ca

*with files from CIS



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