In Vanier Cup XLVII, the first one played in Vancouver, McMaster captured the first national title in Marauders football history thanks to a thrilling 41-38 overtime victory against the Laval Rouge et Or in front of 24,935 at BC Place Stadium in2011.
In what is considered by many Canadian Interuniversity Sport football fans ‘The Best Game Ever’, McMaster quarterback Kyle Quinlan had the performance of a lifetime, completing 36 of 55 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns, and rushing for a team-leading 106 yards. The South Woodslee, Ont., native capped a brilliant playoff run with the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy, adding to the game-MVP awards he received at the Yates Cup and the Mitchell Bowl.
Leading up to this weekend’s Vanier Cup, Quinlan looks back on that game.
What is your memory of the Vanier Cup experience in 2011 in Vancouver?
My greatest memory is the crazy environment at the game. It felt like such a foreign spot, in B.C., and yet there was an amazing crowd and it seemed to be pro-Mac. I think part of that was due to the fact the unbiased fans in town for Grey Cup decided to root for the underdog. We definitely welcomed the support. It made for a great atmosphere in a beautiful venue, but I remember it was just a wild crowd.
Can you describe the moment when Tyler Crapigna made the field goal in overtime to win the championship?
I actually didn’t watch the kick. I watched the first one, when we missed at the end of regulation time, so being a little superstitious I turned away for the second one. There was a surrealness about it. It didn’t hit me immediately. I needed a moment to pause and take it all in, and then everyone was rushing the field and that’s when it finally set in.
(Note: The Marauders had a chance to win the game in regulation but Crapigna, an all-Canadian kicker who had already made three field goals earlier in the contest, missed a 30-yard attempt on the final play of the fourth quarter. Crapigna, a draft pick of the Calgary Stampeders in 2014, redeemed himself in extra time with the game-winner from 20 yards out)
Is there any one moment in the game that stands out?
There’s not one specific play that stands out, but many that spring to memory. There’s the “pick-six” I threw to linebacker Frédéric Plesius, who is a heck of a player and one of the best I’ve ever played against. On the positive side, one of my proudest plays was one that didn’t count. It was the long pass I threw to Michael DiCroce right after that pick… which got called back because of an offside. In a game like that, there are so many huge plays from both teams that come to mind.
(Note: Trailing 23-0 at halftime, Laval came out strong in the second half and cut the deficit to 23-7 three minutes in on a 62-yard punt return by Guillaume Rioux. On the ensuing McMaster drive, Plesius, now a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, returned an errant Quinlan pass 37 yards to make it 23-14. As soon as he got the ball back, Quinlan connected with DiCroce for a 101-yard pass-and-run play than never made it into the record book)
After building a big lead in the first half, what was going through your mind as Laval started to make their comeback?
To be honest, I was having fun the whole game. We had so much respect for Laval and one of the best things for us was playing them in the pre-season. It gave us a sense of the kind of team they were and we knew when we got up early that they would come back with everything they had. At that point in the season, you have to expect whoever you’re playing will leave everything on the field. We knew they weren’t going to fold up.
(Note: Laval had prevailed 24-10 in the head-to-head pre-season tilt in Quebec City. In the Vanier Cup, the Rouge et Or stormed all the way back from 23 points down to take a 24-23 lead on their first possession of the fourth quarter. They later erased 31-24 and 38-31 deficits before suffering their first loss in seven Vanier Cup appearances)
What did it mean to the team to be the first Vanier Cup winner from McMaster?
That was something the entire team took a lot of pride in. Not so much going into the game because, while we knew about the 1967 team and were proud to be the second Mac team to get there, we were more focused on executing the game plan. After we won though, I think we were pretty proud to be Mac’s first Vanier Cup winner.
(Note: In its lone previous Vanier Cup appearance, back in 1967, McMaster had lost a 10-9 heartbreaker against the Alberta Golden Bears at Varsity Stadium in Toronto)
How special was it for you to have you family at the game?
It was a great moment. Obviously, the amount of stuff I had been through personally that year, it was so up and down. Having their support, being beside me through thick and thin, it made it really special to have them at the game with me. In addition to my immediate family, I had some cousins who made the trip and stayed with friends and family in B.C., so we had a great group there.
Describe the reaction of Marauder Nation when you got back on campus with the Vanier Cup?
I’m still incredibly impressed to this day with the amount of support we saw within McMaster and within the Hamilton community. There was just an incredible outpouring of support directed at the team. That’s when the magnitude of the accomplishment really sunk in, not just on campus but in the city, and with our alumni across Canada. It was pretty amazing and created momentum that carried all the way through 2012.
Do you reminisce about the game?
I reminisce about the entire run, although that game was definitely a highlight. We had some incredible games during those two years, in 2011 and 2012, and we played some solid football over that span. I had some great friends on those teams and we had a lot of fun. I do think back on games with Calgary in the 2012 Mitchell Bowl and Yates Cups against Western and Guelph. I have a ton of great memories that come back from that run.
(Note: The Marauders tied an all-time CIS record with 21 straight wins overall from 2011 to 2012. Their magical run ended at the 2012 Vanier Cup, when they dropped a 37-14 decision in a rematch against Laval. Quinlan capped his university career by winning the Hec Crighton Trophy as well as the BLG Award, as the CIS male athlete of the year)
You now work for the McMaster Alumni office and you’re also on the Marauders’ football staff. What does the future hold for Kyle Quinlan?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to stick around McMaster. I can’t thank people enough for offering me opportunities and time to sort things out in my life, stay involved with the football program and work on campus. I do see coaching in my future and this is a great place right now, with the staff in place, for me to soak up the knowledge that these guys have. I plan to stay as long as I’m welcome.