50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: Régis Cibasu, Montreal Carabins (2014)

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Régis Cibasu, wide receiver, University of Montreal Carabins / Photo credit James Hajjar

50TH VANIER CUP INTERVIEW SERIES: 2014

A conversation with…

Régis Cibasu, wide receiver, University of Montreal Carabins

In Vanier Cup 50, the first one held in Montreal, the hometown Montreal Carabins captured the first national title in program history thanks to a dramatic 20-19 triumph over the McMaster Marauders in front of a near-capacity crowd of 22,649 at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium. Holding on to a slim one-point lead, the Carabins blocked a 31-yard field goal attempt in the final minute of regulation to send the local crowd into a frenzy. Régis Cibasu, a freshman wide receiver born in Kinshasa, Congo, was named the game MVP and received the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy thanks to his six catches for a match-high 90 yards.

If you think back to training camp in August, in your wildest dreams, could you have imagined that you would not only hoist the Vanier Cup at the end of November, but that you would also be named the game MVP?

We knew we had a good team this season. Winning the Vanier Cup was our common goal and we believed from day one that we could achieve it. We worked hard all season to make it to the top. However, it had never crossed my mind that I could be named MVP of the national final. When I received the trophy, I was in shock.

Tell us about the atmosphere in the Carabins locker room before the game.

We were all extremely focused. It was very calm and many players were listening to their own music. It was the same preparation as for any other game. For my part, I also like to do visualization while listening to music.

You got the chance to play the Vanier Cup in front of your fans in Montreal. What did you feel when the team ran onto the field in front of over 22,000 screaming fans at Molson Stadium?

It was obviously an important game and the atmosphere was different. We felt people were cheering for us, that they were on our side. We felt like we were at home and we had a lot of family members and friends at the game, and it was great to see them there.

(Note: The Carabins became the third program to win the Vanier Cup in their own city, joining the Toronto Varsity Blues, who accomplished the feat in 1965 and 1993, as well as the Laval Rouge et Or, who triumphed in Quebec City in 2010 and 2013)

To what extent did the crowd carry the team during the game?

As soon as the game started, we stopped thinking about anything that was outside the football field, including the crowd. I was only talking to our offensive unit and we remained focused on the task at hand.

You trailed by 10 points at halftime. What was the message from the coaches in the locker room? Did veterans address the team as well?

We remained very calm. We all knew we could come back. No one stood up to make a speech. The coaches told us to just get out there and play like we’re capable of, to play like we had played in all the games we had won during the season. That’s what we did and that’s what allowed us to come back in the second half.

(Note: Montreal’s offence was held in check the entire first half and the Carabins trailed 13-3 after 30 minutes of action. A nine-yard touchdown pass from Gabriel Cousineau to Philip Enchill 2:15 into the third quarter cut the deficit to 13-10. Following a pair of McMaster field goals later in the third, the Carabins dominated the fourth frame 10-0 thanks to a three-yard touchdown run by Sean Thomas Erlington at 4:12 and a 13-yard Louis-Philippe Simoneau field goal at 12:15)

Early in the fourth quarter, you made a spectacular catch at the McMaster three-yard line, which led directly to a touchdown that cut the Marauders’ lead to 19-17. Tell us about that play, which is considered by many as the key play of the game for the Carabins offence.

I knew I’d find myself in a one-on-one situation. With the coaches, we were saying that it was bound to happen. On that play, everyone did their job. The offensive line did a great job protecting our quarterback, Gabriel Cousineau, who threw a perfect pass. I did everything I could to complete the play. When our running back, Sean Thomas Erlington, scored on the ensuing play, I was ecstatic and I ran towards him and grabbed him in my arms.

(Note: Three of Cibasu’s six receptions came on Montreal’s two scoring drives in the fourth quarter. In addition to his 32-yard catch that led to Thomas Erlington’s touchdown, the super freshman caught 13 and 19-yard passes to help set the table for Simoneau’s game-winning field goal)

What was going through your mind as the McMaster kicker lined up for his field goal attempt in the last minute of play? Were players talking to each other on the sidelines?

I wasn’t watching. On the sidelines, we were all quiet and we kept our hand up, making our rebellion sign as we had done throughout the playoffs. When we heard the blocked kick, we started screaming and we rushed the field.

(Note: Mathieu Girard, an all-star defensive tackle, blocked the field goal attempt from Tyler Crapigna, who had been successful on his first four tries in the contest and who holds the CIS record with 84 career field goals)

Tell us about the celebrations on the field at the end of the game. Who was by your side when the final whistle went off?

At the end of the game, it was crazy. All members of the team were hugging each other. Philip Enchill and Maxime Fournier-Rioux were beside me, along with veterans, coaches. We were screaming on the field and everyone surrounded us. It was a great feeling.

Did you have family members at the game with whom you had the chance to share this victory?

My entire family was there and they were obviously very happy. We took a group photo with the cup. It was the biggest win of my career and I got the chance to win in front of them, in my town.

This triumph against McMaster will be linked for a long time to your first Dunsmore Cup win, on the home turf of archrival Laval in Quebec City. Can you compare the emotions you felt following those two historical wins?

Those two games were obviously very special. It was my first season and I hadn’t experienced the previous conference finals against the Rouge et Or, but I could feel it was a very important game for the veterans, and also for everyone around the team, including our alumni. A lot of people shed tears of joy after that final. That win paved the way for our next two games.

(Note: With their dramatic Vanier Cup win, the Carabins capped a thrilling playoff run that saw them upset nationally-top-ranked Laval 12-9 in overtime to claim their first RSEQ banner, and hold off a late charge by Manitoba in the Uteck Bowl to prevail 29-26 on home turf)

There are nine months left before the start of the 2015 season. Are you counting the days already?

Right now, we’re focused on school, but we’re slowly getting ready for the next season in the training room. We want to come back stronger next fall, like we do every year.

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