No one expects the Acadia Axemen to beat the Laval Rouge et Or.
That should relieve most of the pressure going into Saturday’s Uteck Bowl at Stade Telus in Quebec City.
In fact, most will be surprised if the Axemen keep it within three touchdowns.
That doesn’t include Axemen pivot Kyle Graves, though. The Barrie native was the Atlantic MVP and is entering his second consecutive Uteck Bowl.
“We’re not done yet,” he said during pre-game press conference in Laval. “We want to go to the Vanier Cup. We want to go to Toronto. We want to end up winning that whole thing. We prepared the same way we do every other week and we’re just getting ready to play a game.”
It’s what you’d expect to hear from an athlete. History, though, is not on Acadia’s side.
Laval leads Acadia 6-0 in their all-time series. It beat the Axemen 31-7 in September. The Rouge et Or have won 57 consecutive games on their home field with their last loss coming in 2004. There will be more than 15,000 screaming fans when the Axemen take the field Saturday.
“We want to come out and play our game and play the best we can,” Graves said. “The experience we had in front of their crowd the last time we played Laval will help us out this time. There is no doubt that playing in front of 2,500 fans at home doesn’t compare to 15,000 here. (It) will be a good game.”
On top of the no-pressure situation, the Axemen have added rookie running back Thomas Troop. He didn’t play in the first game because of injury. Troop, whose father played in the CFL, is averaging 100 yards per game in his first six CIS games, including a 181-yard day against Saint Mary’s in the Loney Bowl.
But for every good point, Laval seems to have something to negate it. The Rouge et Or led the nation in defending the run, giving up just 58 yards per game.
Laval has won 10 Quebec titles in succession, along with six Vanier Cups. They are led by first-year starter Tristan Grenon.
Laval’s biggest concern may be fighting overconfidence.
“Our veterans have done a great job this week at showing the way for the younger guys, keeping everyone focused on Acadia,” said defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon. “Sometimes when you get to this point, it’s easy to start thinking about the big game (Vanier Cup). But there’s no chance of that happening with this group.”