Wild finish highlights McMaster’s first Vanier Cup


The McMaster Marauders won the first Vanier Cup in school history in dramatic fashion, as Tyler Crapigna booted a 20-yard field goal in a second overtime period to lift his team to a 41-38 win over the Laval Rouge et Or at B.C. Place Stadium Friday night (Nov. 25) in the 47th Canadian Interuniversity SportsI football final in front of 24,935 fans.

Laval suffered its first national championship loss in school history, and now has a 6-1 record at the Vanier Cup. They lost just one other time this season, 17-12, to Montreal on Oct. 8. They had a chance to become the winningest program in CIS history in their quest for a seventh national championship but remain tied with the Western Mustangs for the honour.

With the win, McMaster earns its first Vanier Cup win in two tries. The Marauders only other appearance was in 1967, a 10-9 loss to the Alberta Golden Bears at Varsity Stadium in Toronto.

Kyle Quinlan of South Woodslee, Ont., was named the Ted Morris memorial trophy winner as offensive Most Valuable Player, going 36-for-55 for 482 yards and two touchdowns in the air and adding 106 yards on 14 rushes on the ground. His 36 completions ties him for the second-best in Vanier Cup history and his 482 passing yards is second best as well.

McMaster’s 41 first downs also tie a Vanier Cup record and their 675 total offensive yards is second best in Vanier Cup history.

Freshman linebacker Aram Eisho of Hamilton was named the defensive MVP and recipient of the Bruce Coulter Award, leading the Marauders with 11.5 tackles and one forced fumble.

It’s only the second time in Vanier Cup history the national championship game was decided in overtime and the most points the Rouge et Or surrendered all season.

Crapigna had a chance to win it for McMaster on a 25-yard attempt with three seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. However, he missed wide to the left. On his redemption opportunity in the second overtime period, he split the uprights for the winning points.

“I had a feeling I was going to get used again in overtime, so I just wanted to get right out and there kick it,” Crapigna said. “Obviously, I wanted another shot. It felt good to finally get that.”

He finished four-for-six on field goal attempts, connecting from 20, 24, 26 and 37 yards but missing from 30 and 40 yards out.

“I had a feeling the past couple of days it was going to be a close game,” he said. “I was on the bus ride here 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, said he was proud of his team and his kicker.

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

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.”

Early on, McMaster built a solid lead exposing the middle of the Laval secondary and with effective running from Quinlan.

The Marauders scored on their second drive after a fumble from Laval’s offensive star Sébastien Lévesque, as Crapigna booted a 26-yard field goal. The sophomore kicker – who missed McMaster’s previous three playoff games with illness – had just returned for the national final. His first of four field goals gave McMaster the early 3-0 cushion.

A fake punt by backup quarterback Marshall Ferguson late in the first quarter allowed the Marauders to keep a drive alive just inside Laval territory on a third-and-eight gamble when he connected with rookie receiver Ben O’Connor. The gamble led to a 32-yard Crapigna field goal to push the lead to 6-0 late in the opening quarter.

In just under two minutes, following an interception from defensive back Justin Daly late in the first quarter, the Marauders extended the lead to 13-0 on a six-play, 60-yard drive. Quinlan struck senior receiver Matthew Peressini from 21 yards out to make it first and goal and then completed a three-yard touchdown strike to sophomore running back James Hill with 13:38 to go in the half.

A Michael DiCroce grab off one of Quinlan’s 12 consecutive completed passes led to a rushing major from rookie Marauders tailback Chris Pezzetta to stretch the lead to 20-0 with 9:35 remaining in the opening half. The freshman scampered in from 13 yards out on a delayed draw play with good blocking and the help of a few missed tackles from Rouge et Or linebackers. He finished it off by diving into the end zone to cap off a six-play, 82-yard drive that lasted just 2:25.

Laval kicker Boris Bede missed a 35-yard field goal attempt and then Crapigna added his third field goal of the game with less than two minutes remaining in the half to put McMaster up 23-0.

In the third quarter, Laval came back with a purpose – and they got some help from a brief run of undisciplined McMaster play. The Rouge et Or went on a 17-0 third-quarter run, started off on a 62-yard punt return by Guillaume Rioux to cut the lead to 23-7. Then a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by Laval’s Frédéric Plesius on a poorly thrown Quinlan pass attempted on second-and-five cut the McMaster lead to 23-14.

On the next McMaster drive, DiCroce appeared to have scored on a 101-yard bomb from Quinlan but it was called back as he was ruled offside. The play would have made the score 30-14, but instead Laval responded with an 18-yard Bede field goal with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter to trim the lead further to 23-17 McMaster.

Lévesque gave Laval its first lead of the night, 24-23, on a 44-yard touchdown run with 13:03 left in the fourth quarter, dazzling the crowd with a nice cutback up the middle with good blocking and then zigging and zagging with a nice change of direction, capping off an eight-play, 107-yard drive that ate up just 3:06 on the clock.

Robert Babic made a couple of key catches in the early part of the fourth quarter to get the ball into Laval territory – he tied a Vanier Cup record for catches with 12 – to set up a Matthew Peressini nine-yard touchdown run to give McMaster the lead again, up 31-24, after a two-point conversion with 5:53 left.

Julian Feoil Gudino tied the game at 31-31 with 2:13 left on a five-yard catch, and then a solid McMaster drive set up a chance to win it for Crapigna late in the fourth quarter, but he missed and Yannick Morin-Plante returned it to avoid conceding a rouge.

Both teams scored touchdowns on their first possessions in overtime – McMaster first on a Brad Fochesato 26-yard touchdown catch from Quinlan and then Laval on an Adam Thibault 33-yard catch from Prud-homme.

It seemed fitting for the game to be decided in an extra period.

“AIl 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 said. “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 alive 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 Ontario University Athletics 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 gonna enjoy it. I suspect we’ll wake up tomorrow and start building and maybe not wait 44 years for the second one.”

NOTES: With the Laval loss, Guelph is now the only team with an undefeated record in Vanier Cup history… Quinlan had 128 yards passing and nine first downs in the opening quarter. Only two teams in Vanier Cup history had no points at the half and came back to win (Saskatchewa in 1996 and Laval in 2004)… Only one other Vanier Cup game went to overtime, the 1994 contest which was won 50-40 by the Saskatchewan Huskies over the Western Mustangs… It’s the final game for seven Laval players (Prud’homme, Lévesque, Feoli-Gudino, Jonathan Laliberté, Michel Boudreault, Pascal Baillargeon and Marc-Antoine Louis-Fortin) and five McMaster players (Ryan Chmielewski, Mackenzie Dent, Jarred Jones, Joey Nemet and Peressini)