CALGARY — Laval quarterback Hugo Richard didn't think it was his team's best outing. But, as usual, the Rouge et Or did enough to win.
Laval outscored the Calgary Dinos 25-6 in the second half en route to a 35-23 victory Saturday to capture the Mitchell Bowl and advance to the U Sports national championship.
"The game was close, a bit closer than it should have been," said Richard. "We really didn't play a good game. We made way too many mistakes on offence … some turnovers.
"We find a way, we find a way," the game's most valuable player added. "It's character."
The Quebec City school will go for its 10th Vanier Cup next weekend in Hamilton against the Western Mustangs.
Western defeated the Acadia Axemen 81-3 earlier Saturday in the Uteck Bowl.
"They're a great team," Richard said of Western. "We know they're high offence. They move the ball really well on the ground and they can throw. On defence, they have a few shutouts this year, so we know they're a great team. If they're in the Vanier it's because they're a big team, so we know we have a big challenge ahead of us."
"We need to do much better next week if we want to have a chance to win the Vanier."
Calgary has now lost all six of its meetings with the Rouge et Or — three times in the Vanier Cup (2010, 2013, 2016), twice in the Mitchell Bowl (2011, 2017) and once in the Uteck Bowl (2008).
"The guys you feel the most for are the fifth-year guys who won't be back with the team," said Calgary coach Wayne Harris. "They were such a big part of the game and made some outstanding plays. I'm proud of the way they performed on the field. I thought we outplayed Laval and we just weren't able to finish with those points on the board."
The Dinos did turn in a solid first half, constructing a well-earned 17-10 lead.
But Laval, the top-ranked program in the country, began manufacturing points in the third quarter. The visitors followed up Dave Cote's 46-yard field goal with a major score.
Shortly after a pass-interference call put them inside the Calgary 10-yard line, Richard found Simon Gingras-Gagnon with a touchdown toss.
That made it 20-18 for Laval's first lead of the afternoon.
"It was a battle of who wanted it more," said Laval defensive lineman Mathieu Betts. "They have a tremendous team. We have to credit our coaches. They put in tremendous hours in the film room. They had a great game plan."
If there was a single turning point, it arrived on the opening play of the fourth quarter.
Marc-Antoine Bellefroid forced Calgary punt-returner Deane Leonard to fumble. Gabriel Ouellet scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 42 yards for a touchdown.
That nine-point deficit proved to be insurmountable for the hosts, whose offensive attack faltered late.
Dinos quarterback Adam Sinagra, who completed 26-of-43 passes for 318 yards and one interception, was sacked five times.
"Defensively, they came out and stopped our offence in that second half," said Harris. "You have to be able to produce points in all four quarters to be successful in these games."
Richard, who ran the ball eight times for 31 yards, went 21-for-32 for 258 yards through the air.
"They brought a lot of pressure," he said of the Dinos, who recorded four sacks. "We were expecting it, but, obviously, we hoped that we'd cope with it a bit better. They've got a good defensive front and they got a couple hits in."