47th Vanier Cup Preview

In 1965 the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Alberta Golden Bears faced off at Varsity Stadium and started a tradition. After the game ended The Blues were the first team crowned as Vanier Cup Champions. This tradition continues in its 47th year as the Vanier Cup will be up for grabs again this year with one familiar face and an old friend. The Vanier Cup will also be entering a new agreement with the CFL as they will start to follow the Grey Cup. This means that the Vanier Cup will be played in a big weekend of Canadian Football. The Vanier Cup will be played the Friday before the Grey Cup in the newly renovated B.C. Place in Vancouver. This will be the farthest West any Vanier Cup has been played as many of them have been in Toronto. They will return to Toronto next year for the 48th Vanier Cup but for now the Biggest game in College Football will be played out west. This will mean that the defending champion Laval Rouge et Or will travel further west than ever to take on the McMaster Marauders. The RSEQ and OUA will again face off in the Vanier Cup with a potential record on the way. With the big game on Friday it is time to look at both teams in The Sport Addiction’s Vanier Cup Preview.

 

McMaster Marauders

 

 

 

 

 

The McMaster Marauders have been around for a very long time as the team has been established since 1901. As one of the older schools in the CIS McMaster has seen its share of success but not as much as one would think. The Marauders have won 5 Yates Cups that were all within the last 11 years, including this year. They have only appeared in one Vanier Cup in 1967, the 3rd Vanier Cup, which they lost to Alberta 10-9. Since 2000 the Marauders have been a serious challenger but their influence ended at the conference level. From 2000-2003 the Marauders were the team to beat in the OUA winning the Yates Cup four straight years. After a short fall off after 2003, the worst coming in 2008 when they went 4-4 and finished 6th in the OUA, the Marauders began climbing back into title contention. In 2011 the Marauders were looking to bring the success back to McMaster and take it a step further than teams of the past. The 2011 Marauders were led by sixth year coach Stefan Ptaszek and his powerful offence that had them finishing in 2nd place in the OUA. With the second place finish the Marauders got the first round bye and waited to face Queen’s University in the OUA Semi-Finals. With a 40-13 win against a very stingy defence they moved on to face the defending champion Western Mustangs and the #3 ranked team in the nation the Western Mustangs. The Marauders proved that their #4 ranking was not justified as they beat the higher ranked Mustangs 41-19. That gave them their 5th Yates Cup and a berth in the Uteck Bowl against the Acadia Axemen. The Marauders survived an early game scare and came back from 14-0 down to win the game 45-21 to earn the second Vanier Cup berth in their long history.

The Marauders do not have the best overall team in the CIS but they do one thing better than anyone else in the nation. McMaster has the top offence in the league, as evident by their +40 points in every playoff game, as they have been able to overwhelm other teams. They scored the 5th most average points, 34.6 ppg, had the most yards in the CIS, 530.5 ypg, the best passing offence in the league, 329.9 ypg, and the 4th most rushing yards, 200.6 ypg. Behind the arm of Kyle Quinlan (64.7% cmp, 1,708 yds, 13 TD, 2 INT) and the hands of Michael DiCroce (48 rec, 904 yds, 6 TD), OUA Hec Crighton Nominee, the Marauders were able to dominate teams through the air. Their running back Christopher Pezzetta (67 rsh, 468 yds, 7.0 avg, 5 TD) is a safety valve in the offence who is used to prove that they are willing to run the ball but can also be a valuable player given the chance. The McMaster defence is the one possible weakness for the Marauders but it is not a very big weakness. They ranked among the top 15 in every category but ranked 6th in overall points allowed in the CIS. They are far from a sieve with a solid linebacking corps that knows how to step up when they need to. Led by Presidents’ trophy nominee Ryan Chmielewski (40 tkl, 4 sck, 0 INT), aka Chummer, the defence is far from terrible but they are built to play with a lead that their offence can easily provide. The Marauders are an offensive team first and will hope to overwhelm the Rouge et Or defence to make a 1-1 record in the Vanier Cup. With only their second attempt at a Vanier Cup the Marauders are very inexperienced in a game of this size and especially with a game that will be nationally televised in front of a close to capacity crowd, there are still 1,000 tickets left, at B.C. Place. They will be taking on a much more experienced and what some consider a much better team as they hope to win their first ever Vanier Cup in their long history.

 

Laval Rouge et Or

 

 

 

 

 

The Rouge et Or come nowhere near the history of their opponents in the Vanier Cup this year but in their short time they have made an impact. The Rouge et Or program was created in 1996 and has completely changed the face of the school and the face of the CIS. The Big Red Machine was no more a machine than a flower in the first three years of their program which was to be expected for a brand new program. Then came a shift in the RSEQ as the Rouge et Or won their first conference title and their first Vanier Cup in 1999. This began the era of Laval as they continued to be at the top of the league every year from 1999 on. Since 2003 the Rouge et Or have eliminated all challengers in the RSEQ only finishing outside of the top spot once. They have managed to do something that no other college has been able to do as they have overcome the usual graduating class fallout. Laval has somehow been able to avoid this fallout and remained strong for years. The past nine years have been hell for other teams in the RSEQ as Laval has won the Dunsmore Cup every year. They have not slowed down at all as this year they repeated their dominance in the RSEQ losing only one game all season. They finished the season ranked #1 in the nation and earned the top spot in the RSEQ again. With the first place spot in the RSEQ Laval faced off against Concordia and made an easy game out of it winning 33-7. They moved on to the Dunsmore Cup and faced their archrival the Montreal Carabins who they handled easily winning 30-7. With the win the Rouge et Or captured their 9th straight Dunsmore Cup and another berth in the National Semi-Finals. They took on the Calgary Dinos in a rematch of the 2010 Vanier Cup and repeated their performance beating Calgary 41-10 and proving that they should be considered the best team in the CIS. They earned another berth in the Vanier Cup and will go for their second straight championship and their record-setting 7th overall championship.

The Rouge et Or have a formula for winning in the CIs and that is creating a stingy defence that allows their offence to find a groove. The defensive minded Glen Constantin has used this formula to win 6 Vanier Cups and has never lost in the Vanier Cup. The defence for Laval is led by defensive end Arnaud Gascon-Nadon (13.5 tkl, 7 sck, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 TD) and defensive tackle Jean-Aelxandre Bernier (18.5 tkl, 4.5 sck, 0 INT, 0 FR). Their strong defensive front has been able to put a lot of pressure on opposing QBs and prevent them from finding a rhythm. The Rouge et Or defence was ranked first in total points allowed, 12.0 ppg, 2nd in total yards allowed, 186.2 ypg, and 1st in rushing yards allowed per game, 53.7 ypg. Their one weakness is their pass defence although it is no slouch as they are ranked 10th in the CIS for total passing yards allowed per game, 232.6. The defence for Laval is the best defence in the CIS and will hope to give their offence time to get into a rhythm and allow their play makers to adjust. The offence is led by two players who are easily the stars of their team and the leaders of the whole team not just the offence. Laval quarterback Bruno Prud’homme (65.1% cmp, 1,924 yds, 11 TD, 7 INT) and running back Sebastien Levesque (132 rsh, 1,059 yds, 8.0 avg, 10 TD) are the offensive stars who give Laval life. Nobody is more important to the team than Leveque who finished second in the rushing race. Levesque represents the bread and butter of the team as he continues to lead the attack and tends to wake the offence up with at least one big run every game. The offence is not overpowering though as they do not crack the top 5 in any CIS stats category. Their best ranking is their point total, 32.6 ppg, that ranks 6th in the CIS but it is clear that defence and the running game are the basis of the Laval team. Laval will be entering familiar territory as defending champions and will be looking to surpass the Western Mustangs for the most Vanier Cups with 7.

 

The Matchup

The series between these two teams is very lopsided as Laval has a 2-0 record against the Marauders. They have also played each other this year in a preseason game that saw Laval win 24-10 at home against the Marauders. Of course with their #1 ranking and their history against McMaster the Laval Rouge et Or are favorites to win the game but it may not be as easy as many think. In a classic matchup of the best defence vs. the best offence there may be some things that McMaster can capitalize on. Laval is very good on defence that can shut down the run game but their defensive backfield is not their best quality. This works well for McMaster who does not have a very powerful rushing offence but has the best passing offence in the league. McMaster fits against this defence as they are the best against the weakest part of the Laval defence. There is of course some ways that Laval can shut down the powerful offence as they will need their defensive line to get to the QB. Shutting down the run game will not be hard and if they can limit McMaster to only one aspect of their attack the Rouge et Or can focus on getting to the QB. The Marauders have allowed 10 sacks against Quinlan this year and if the defensive line of Laval can get through it might be a long day for the best offence in the CIS. The defence will need to figure it out fast as the Laval offence is one of the slowest starting offences in the CIS. They have the ability to put up a lot of points but they do not do it fast in the start of the game. The offence depends on Levesque to wear down the defence and break through for a big run. When Levesque can do that the offence begins to roll but it takes a while for Levesque to wear on the defence. This could give the McMaster defence an opportunity to stop Laval and give their offence the opportunity to make the game a track meet. If the game does turn into a track meet will give McMaster the upper hand in an offensive war. The 47th Grey Cup will be a classic matchup of offence and defence as the best defence will take on the best offence in the CIS. If the Laval defence can get to Kyle Quinlan it may be a long day for the McMaster offence but they may be able to capitalize on a less than great secondary. Laval will have to hope that their defence can hold down the McMaster offence if they hope to get rolling on offence and avoid a track meet. It will be a great matchup that could go anyway but there are too many holes that the McMaster offence can take advantage of. I believe Laval will end their 6 game win streak in the Vanier Cup as McMaster will be able to turn the game into a track meet that the Rouge et Or will not be able to keep up with.

 

Prediction:

McMaster Marauders 38 – 31 Laval Rouge et Or

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