CIS football Uteck Bowl: Carabins survive Manitoba comeback, advance to first Vanier Cup

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2014 Uteck Bowl Champs – Montreal Carabins / Photo credit James Hajjar Nov 22, 2014

MONTREAL (CIS) – The Montreal Carabins are off to the Vanier Cup for the first time in program history thanks to a thrilling 29-26 win over the visiting Manitoba Bisons in the Uteck Bowl, Saturday afternoon.

The first CIS football national semifinal was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,100 at CEPSUM Stadium and the Carabins will have home-field advantage once again next Saturday in the 50th TELUS Vanier Cup at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. Kickoff for the milestone game is set for 1 p.m., live on Sportsnet, Sportsnet 360 and Radio-Canada.

Montreal (10-1) awaits the winner of the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Mitchell Bowl between Mount Allison (9-0) and McMaster (9-1).

The first-ever meeting between the Montreal and Manitoba programs started as a shootout with the Carabins jumping out to a 20-7 lead after the opening quarter and the Bisons closing the gap to 27-21 at halftime.

At the break, Montreal quarterback Gabriel Cousineau was 17-of-21 passing for 335 yards and two touchdowns, and had also scored on a six-yard run. After being sacked for an eight-yard loss on the Carabins’ first offensive play of the contest, the Montreal native completed an 89-yard TD pass to speedster Mikhaïl Davidson to give the first-time RSEQ champions a 7-0 advantage only 79 seconds in.

“It’s an amazing feeling. Once again, this was a total team effort,” said Cousineau, who was named game MVP after he ended up going 24-of-35 for 421 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. “We weren’t satisfied with our win in the Dunsmore Cup. We have great leadership on this team and we’re hungry for more. It’s going to be exciting to play for the Vanier Cup in our backyard.”

The Bisons didn’t seem fazed by Montreal’s quick strike and responded with a touchdown of their own 5:10 into the contest, on an eight-yard pass from Jordan Yantz to Matt Sawyer. In a 27-15 upset win over Calgary in the Canada West final last Saturday, Manitoba had allowed an 81-yard TD run 35 seconds in.

The Bisons righted the ship after a tough first quarter and exchanged blow for blow with the Carabins for the next 45 minutes. They actually had a chance to take the lead in the last minute of the game when they drove 84 yards to reach the Montreal 12-yard line with 42 seconds to go, but on second-and-10, Yantz was chased from behind by Anthony Coady who stripped him of the ball, which was recovered by teammate Byron Archambault.

The Carabins were able to run out the clock, giving up a safety on the last play of the match.

“That was an unbelievable football game. It was two equal teams going-head-to-head,” said Manitoba head coach Brian Dobie, whose team was trying to win a third straight playoff game on the road and ends the season with a 6-5 overall record. “The turning point was their big defensive stop. They made one more play and it got them to the Vanier Cup. My hat’s off to Montreal but I’m also extremely proud of our guys, not only for their effort today but throughout our post-season run on the road.”

Montreal head coach Danny Maciocia had a similar message after his team’s historic win, praising his troops for a remarkable effort while acknowledging Manitoba’s performance in a hostile environment.

“We often talk about our team being a family and today was another example of that. Everyone contributed. Our offence got off to a great start and our defence took over in the second half,” said the fourth-year U of M bench boss, who helped the Edmonton Eskimos with the Grey Cup as offensive coordinator in 2003 and as head coach in 2005. “I’m really proud of our guys. They faced a great team today. Manitoba gave us all we could handle and we managed to pull out a great win.”

After Davidson opened the scoring with his long TD catch, Félix-Ménard Brière immediately tacked on a kickoff single to make it 8-0 Montreal.

Sawyer’s major cut the Manitoba deficit to 8-7 but the Cousineau-Davidson tandem struck again four minutes later, this time for a 14-yard score, to restore Montreal’s eight-point advantage at 9:20.

Louis-Philippe Simoneau kicked a 40-yard field goal at 12:00 and Manitoba conceded a safety on the final play of the first frame to make it 20-7 for the locals.

In the second, Yantz connected with Sawyer for a 30-yard TD pass at 2:22, Cousineau ran it in himself from six yards out at 12:12, and Yantz responded with a 10-yard TD run of his own at 14:15 for the 27-21 scoreline heading back to the locker rooms.

The duel would turn into a defensive battle in the final 30 minutes.

A safety conceded by Manitoba was the only scoring play of the third stanza. With 2:08 left in the third quarter and facing a third-and-10 at the Montreal 33, the Bisons elected to kick a field goal and Ryan Jones cut the deficit to 29-24 with a 40-yard boot.

The Canada West champs still needed a big defensive stop to get the ball back and they got it, forcing the Carabins to punt with 1:32 left on the clock.

Starting at his own 14-yard line, Yantz completed five straight passes, including three to Dustin Pederson, to get his team to the Montreal 12. After an incompletion, Coady and Archambault combined for the defensive play of the game that sent the crowd into a frenzy, and “Les Bleus” to the Vanier Cup.

Freshman Régis Cibasu was Cousineau’s favourite target on the day and he finished with a game-high eight catches for 90 yards. Davidson (5-142) and Philip Enchill (4-108) but went over the century mark in receiving yards.

On the other side of the ball, Archambault, the defensive player of the year in Quebec, was as dominant as ever with a match-high 7.5 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, two forced fumbles and the huge fumble recovery. In addition to his game-saving forced fumble, Coady had 4.5 tackles, one sack and a fumble recovery.

Yantz was as impressive as Cousineau despite the loss and finished with 320 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on 22-of-35 passing. Sawyer (5-80), Pederson (5-87) and Zach Regert (5-88) all caught five passes from Yantz.

NOTES: Montreal and Manitoba were both coming off upset wins on the road in their respective conference final last Saturday… The Carabins beat Laval 12-9 in overtime to put an end to the Rouge et Or’s 11-year stranglehold on the Dunsmore Cup, while the Bisons defeated Calgary 27-15 to end the Dinos’ six-year Hardy Cup championship streak.

SCORING SUMMARY

MAN 7-14-0-5: 26
MTL 20-7-2-0: 29

First Quarter
MTL – Mikhaïl Davidson 89 pass from Gabriel Cousineau (L.-P. Simoneau convert), 1:19, 7-0 MTL
MTL – Félix Ménard-Brière 71 kickoff single, 1:19, 8-0 MTL
MAN – Matt Sawyer 8 pass from Jordan Yantz (Ryan Jones convert), 5:10, 8-7 MTL
MTL – Mikhaïl Davidson 14 pass from Gabriel Cousineau (L.-P. Simoneau convert), 9:20, 15-8 MTL
MTL – Louis-Philippe Simoneau 40 field goal, 12:00, 18-7 MTL
MTL – Team safety, 15:00, 20-7 MTL

Second Quarter
MAN – Matt Sawyer 30 pass from Jordan Yantz (Ryan Jones convert), 2:22, 20-14 MTL
MTL – Gabriel Cousineau 6 run (L.-P. Simoneau convert), 12:12, 27-14 MTL
MAN – Jordan Yantz 10 run (Ryan Jones convert), 14:15, 27-21 MTL

Third Quarter
MTL – Team safety, 11:05, 29-21 MTL

Fourth Quarter
MAN – Ryan Jones 40 field goal, 12:52, 29-24 MTL
MAN – Team safety, 15:00, 29-26 MTL

Attendance: 5,100 (sellout)

Mikhail Davidson had a fantastic game for the Universite de Montreal Carabins, but he knows it just sets the stage for next week’s all-important Vanier Cup appearance.

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