HAMILTON - One of the most exciting games in Canadian university football history is having an encore performance.
The defending champion McMaster Marauders and Laval Rouge et Or will reprise their Vanier Cup final played last year in Vancouver when the Marauders defeated the Rouge et Or 41-38 in double overtime.
Anticipation for the rematch has been building all year but first both teams had to take care of business.
Early Saturday Laval did their job and later in the day the Marauders turned what was supposed to be a close football game into a solo dance performance in the Mitchell Bowl by hammering the Calgary Dinos 45-6 in front of 5,442 at Ron Joyce Stadium in Hamilton.
“All season it’s kind of been building up to that and each week you try and be careful not to look past any opponent,” said McMaster quarterback Kyle Quinlan. “This was kind of a collision course since Day 1 and guys were thinking maybe this will shape up in a rematch. We’re excited.”
McMaster certainly didn’t look past Calgary. Both teams were highly touted. Both teams were supposed to have great offences and great defences.
In the end only one team was great, the other was badly outplayed.
How dominant was McMaster?
It was their CIS record 21st win in succession.
“This is as low as I’ve felt in a long time. I don’t know what else to say,” said Dinos’ coach Blake Nill. “Each week we prep the same, we have the same expectation for our players . . . Coming in I really thought we had an opportunity and I was wrong.
“It’s very disheartening. I really felt the program was a competitive program. We just could not get any momentum going offensively . . .”
His club didn’t look ready. They were undisciplined committing 17 penalties for 127 yards, 14 in the first half.
After breaking the game open with two touchdowns late in the second quarter, a one-yard run by Quinlan and the killer, a 61-yard strike from Quinlan to Brad Fochesato, the game became a clinic on how to play the game of football by McMaster.
They moved the ball against the No. 1 defence in the country smartly. They dominated one of the top offences limiting the Dinos to 200 yards.
“I was proud of all the team’s effort,” Quinlan said. “Watching the defence go out there and dominate was exciting. That part was awesome. We expect a lot of ourselves offensively but to see the defence fly around like that was exciting.”
The more experienced Quinlan looked unflappable no matter what situation he found himself in. He scored three rushing touchdowns including an 11-yard run early in the third quarter. He threw for three hitting Fochesato, Robert Babic and Michael DiCroce.
He finished 25-of-35 for 412 yards.
“What more can you say about (Quinlan)? He is the best player in the country,” said McMaster receiver Robert Babic. “He makes all the right reads, he can run and he pass and he’s putting the ball right where it needs to be.”
Not even Calgary’s early attempts at intimidation bothered Quinlan.
“He’s not only the best player in the country, he’s one of the toughest,” Babic said. “You get in his grill like that, he gets right back at it. He feeds off it.”
Quinlan found Babic with 10 catches for 156 yards and a touchdown.
St. Mary’s, Western and Laval are the only three teams that have won back-to-back Vanier Cups. Now McMaster has a chance to do it.
Marauders’ head coach Stefan Ptaszek says Laval “scares” him.
The truth is McMaster scares a lot of people.
“I think there could be some history here,” Ptaszek said. “A couple of programs have won two in a row but no program has won two in a row and 22 straight. They could set themselves up for old guys like myself in the bar talking about the greatest team ever. They deserve to be in that conversation. They know the stakes are big and we have done nothing yet.”
If they do win though, it’s going to make for quite a discussion for a long time to come.