Head-to-head preview of 51st Vanier Cup

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vaniercupheadtohead

OTTAWA (CIS) – In one of the most intriguing matchups in recent memory, the defending national champion University of Montreal Carabins face-off against the upstart University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in the ArcelorMittal Vanier Cup presented by Promutuel Assurance, Saturday in Quebec City.

Kickoff for the 51st CIS football final is set for 1 p.m. EST at the 12,800-seat TELUS-Université Laval Stadium, which will host the event for the fourth time in seven years after highly successful editions which drew crowds of 18,628 in 2009, 16,237 (2010) and 18,543 (2013). 

Coverage on TVA Sports and Sportsnet / Sportsnet 360 gets underway with pre-game shows at noon and 12:30 pm, respectively. The championship match will also be streamed live on the web at CIS-SIC.tv.

Storylines are aplenty ahead of the first head-to-head contest in history between Montreal and UBC, who are both on the road for the third straight week after winning their conference finals and national semifinal Bowl games away from home.

The two head coaches alone have resumes that are the envy of most of their peers across the country, whether at the university or professional level. 

In the blue corner, the reigning heavyweight champion from Montreal, Danny Maciocia. The only person in history to win Grey Cup and Vanier Cup titles as a head coach, he could become only the fifth bench boss in CIS history to lead his program to back-to-back Vanier Cup triumphs, following in the footsteps of Manitoba’s Henry Janzen (1969-1970), Western’s Darwin Semotiuk (1976-1977), Laval’s Glen Constantin (2003-2004 / 2012-2013), as well as his opponent on Saturday, Blake Nill, in his Saint Mary’s days (2001-2002).

In the other blue corner, Nill, the seasoned challenger from Vancouver. Nicknamed by many as “the turnaround artist”, the first-year T-Bird sideline boss is the first head coach to lead three different programs to Vanier Cup appearances, adding to his four trips with Saint Mary’s (2000 to 2003) and a trio with Calgary (2009, 2010, 2013). With eight appearances in the national final as a head coach (and a 2-5 record thus far), he is now tied with Constantin (7-1) for second place all-time, one behind Saskatchewan’s Brian Towriss (3-6).      

Interestingly enough, Maciocia is looking to capture back-to-back CIS banners in his fourth and fifth campaigns at the helm of the Carabins… a feat Nill accomplished with Saint Mary’s in 2001 and 2002.

Then there are the starting quarterbacks: Cool, calm and collected fifth-year senior Gabriel Cousineau for Montreal versus 19-year-old freshman Michael O’Connor for UBC.

Cousineau, a Montreal native, could become the fourth starting pivot in history – and the first in almost four decades – to lead his team to two consecutive Vanier Cup victories. Bob Kraemer of Manitoba (1969-1970), Bill Robinson with Saint Mary’s and Western (1973-1974) and Jamie Bone of Western (1976-1977) are currently the only members of that elite club.

O’Connor, the highly-recruited Penn State transfer from Ottawa, hopes to become only the second rookie to claim the national title as a starter, after StFX’s Terry Dolan in Vanier Cup II, way back in 1966. 

“Not many teams have won consecutive Vanier Cup titles over the years,” said Maciocia, who notes Cousineau is the first player he recruited when he took over at the U of M. “It’s not an easy challenge and we see it more as an opportunity. We have many returning players from a year ago and of course we hope the experience from 2014 will help us on Saturday.”

For his part, Nill credits his players for turning around a program that finished last in Canada West a year ago with a 2-6 record and that, before this fall, had won a total of two playoff games since its last Vanier Cup conquest in 1997.

“The resiliency that these boys have shown all year is key. First, you have a core group of veteran players that have had to adjust to a change in coaching philosophy. More than that, due to a lack of depth, they have been asked to do so much more, in terms of practice and game-day roles, yet throughout all this, they’ve managed to come together as a team and, now, are one win from the national championship.

“Throughout the year, I have referred to this group as ‘heroes’ because they are on the frontline of this change in UBC football culture. They’re the ones who are giving us the foundation for success that we need to go out and recruit the top student-athletes down the road. These kids have shown that UBC has the potential to be a national contender, and in doing so, they’ve expedited the so-called rebuild of UBC football.”

While Maciocia hopes home field will be an advantage on Saturday despite the game being played at the stadium of archrival Laval, Nill knows his young T-Birds are in tough against the defending champs.

“We have the advantage of playing in familiar territory and we know we’ll have the support of not only many Carabins fans, but also fans of Quebec university football,” said Maciocia, whose team has already played at TELUS-UL Stadium twice this season, including a 12-9 league-opening loss on Sept. 5 and a thrilling 18-16 Dunsmore Cup win on Nov. 14. “We’ll have to manage our emotions and try to feed off of the crowd’s energy.”

“Montreal is a typical RESQ football program. They are built on a foundation of defence and a strong run game, both of which are necessary for success in November,” said Nill, whose squad also visited Quebec City earlier this season, back on Aug. 29, when UBC sent an early message to the rest of the country with a stunning 41-16 exhibition win over the powerhouse Rouge et Or. “Coach Maciocia is a veteran coach and is now making his mark in the CIS. We expect a very physical game, one that will require our absolute best effort of the year to compete.”

The run game was indeed a big part of Montreal’s and UBC’s success in their national semifinals last Saturday.

In a comfortable 25-10 Carabins win over Guelph in the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Mitchell Bowl, Sean Thomas Erlington racked up 170 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. The third-year standout from Montreal has a mind-boggling 581 rushing yards in three playoff games after amassing 517 in eight regular season contests.

In the Thunderbirds’ 36-9 Uteck Bowl victory against StFX in Antigonish, N.S., Brandon Deschamps was named game MVP following his a 178 all-purpose yards effort, including 128 yards and one major on 20 rushes. The fifth-year veteran from Prince George, B.C., has gained 329 yards on the ground in three post-season outings after collecting 613 in seven league games.

If the Vanier Cup proves to be a low-scoring affair, Montreal probably has the advantage thanks to a defensive unit that ranked first in the country in conference play against the run (93.5 yards per game), second in points allowed (13.6) and third in total yards (332.1). Leading the way is linebacker Jonathan Boissonneault-Glaou of Lyster, Que., the RSEQ defensive player of the year, and 300-pound defensive lineman Junior Luke of Montreal, fresh off his MVP performance in the Mitchell Bowl.

If the game turns into a shootout, UBC should feel right at home after a wild Canada West season that saw them place third in the six-team conference despite their stellar average of 35.1 points per contest. O’Connor averaged 297.9 passing yards per game in his CIS debut thanks to an arsenal that includes the likes of sophomore Will Watson of Surrey, B.C., who led the young receiving corps during the regular schedule with 515 yards on 39 catches, as well as sophomore Marcus Davis of Victoria, junior Alex Morrison of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and freshman Trivel Pinto of Brampton, Ont.

NOTES: Following a rotation system between Uteck and Mitchell Bowl winners, UBC will be the home team on Saturday… The Carabins edged McMaster 20-19 a year ago at Montreal’s Percival Molson Stadium in their lone previous Vanier Cup appearance… UBC is 3-2 all-time at the Vanier Cup, including wins in 1997 (vs. Ottawa), 1986 (Western) and 1982 (Western) as well as losses in 1987 (McGill) and 1978 (Queen’s), all games played in Toronto… Blake Nill  has ended up on the wrong side of each of the first three Vanier Cup finals held in Quebec City – all while leading the Calgary Dinos – with losses to Queen’s in 2009 and host Laval in 2010 and 2013… Nill has an 0-1 career coaching record against the Carabins, a 39-11 interlock loss at Montreal on Oct. 22, 2005, his last season with Saint Mary’s… A Montreal win on Saturday would make it four straight Vanier Cup triumphs for the RSEQ conference, equaling the record set by Canada West from 1995 to 1998 (Calgary, Saskatchewan, UBC, Saskatchewan)… The last quarterback to lead the T-Birds to a Vanier Cup win, in 1997, was Shawn Olson, the man Nill replaced as UBC head coach.

51st VANIER CUP: A LOOK AT THE CONTENDERS

When: Saturday, Nov. 28, 1 p.m. EST 
Where: TELUS-Université Laval Stadium, Quebec City
Visiting team: Montreal Carabins (9-2)

Home team: UBC Thunderbirds (9-2)
TV (English): Sportsnet & Sportsnet 360 (pre-game show at 12:30 p.m.)

TV (French): TVA Sports (pre-game show at noon)

Web: CIS-SIC.tv
Radio: 91.9 Sport (Montreal) CISM (U of M), CITR-FM (UBC), CHYZ (Quebec City)

UNIVERSITY OF MONTREAL CARABINS (Mitchell Bowl champions)2015 season summary 
Overall record: 9-2
Regular season record: 6-2
Regular season standing: 2nd     
Playoff record: 3-0
Top 10 final ranking (Nov. 3): No. 4 
Top 10 best ranking: No. 1 (poll #1) 
Top 10 lowest ranking: No. 4 (8 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (10 polls): 10

Regular season offence points (29.0 ppg): 3rd RSEQ / 14th CIS 
Regular season offence total yards (395.4 ypg): 4th RSEQ / 17th CIS

Regular season offence passing (245.6 ypg): 5th RSEQ / 18th CIS

Regular season offence rushing (149.8 ypg): 2nd RSEQ / 13th CIS

Regular season defence points (13.6 ppg): 2nd RSEQ / 2nd CIS

Regular season defence total yards (332.1 ypg): 1st RSEQ / 3rd CIS

Regular season defence passing (238.6 ypg): 2nd RSEQ / 7th CIS

Regular season defence rushing (93.5 ypg): 1st RSEQ / 1st CIS

2015 results

Sept. 5 (away): Laval 12, Montreal 9

Sept. 11 (home): Montreal 42, McGill 2

Sept. 19 (home): Montreal 32, Sherbrooke 13

Sept. 26 (away): Montreal 41, Concordia 29

Oct. 3 (away): Sherbrooke 17, Montreal 12

Oct. 17 (home): Montreal 22, Laval 16

Oct. 24 (away): Montreal 52, Bishop’s 3

Oct. 31 (home): Montreal 22, Concordia 17

Nov. 7 (home): Montreal 31, Sherbrooke 24 (RSEQ semifinal)

Nov. 14 (away): Montreal 18, Laval 16 (Dunsmore Cup)

Nov. 21 (away): Montreal 25, Guelph 10 (Mitchell Bowl)

2015 RSEQ individual honours
Major awards: Jonathan Boissonneault-Glaou (defensive MVP)
All-stars offence: Sean Thomas-Erlington (RB), Louis-Mathieu Normandin (REC), Marc Glaude (OT)

All-stars defence: Jonathan Boissonneault-Glaou (DE), Junior Luke (DT), Jean-Christophe Touchette (LB), Maiko Zapeda (DB), Zacary Alexis (CB), François Hamel (FS)

All-stars special teams: Félix Ménard-Brière (P)All-time head-to-head vs. UBC
Overall record: 0-0

Vanier Cup history
All-time record: 1-0

2014 (Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, Montreal): 20-19 win vs. McMaster

Head coach: Danny Maciocia
Season: 5th  
Career regular season record: 32-10 (.762)  
Career playoff record: 9-3 (.750) 
Career overall record (season & playoffs): 41-13 (.759) 
Career overall record vs. UBC: 0-0
Vanier Cup record: 1-0
Vanier Cup wins: 2014
Vanier Cup losses: None

 

UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA THUNDERBIRDS (Uteck Bowl champions)2015 season summary 
Overall record: 9-2
Regular season record: 6-2
Regular season standing: 2nd      
Playoff record: 3-0
Top 10 final ranking (Nov. 3): No. 6
Top 10 best ranking: No. 6 (2 weeks)
Top 10 lowest ranking: No. 10 (3 weeks)

Top 10 number of weeks ranked (10 polls): 10
Regular season offence points (35.1 ppg): 3rd CW / 9th CIS 
Regular season offence total yards (450.6 ypg): 6th CW / 13th CIS

Regular season offence passing (307.1 ypg): 5th CW / 9th CIS

Regular season offence rushing (143.5 ypg): 5th CW / 15th CIS

Regular season defence points (29.9 ppg): 2nd CW / 15th CIS

Regular season defence total yards (494.6 ypg): 2nd CW / 19th CIS

Regular season defence passing (324.1 ypg): 2nd CW / 23rd CIS

Regular season defence rushing (170.5 ypg): 4th CW / 19th CIS

2015 results

Sept. 4 (away): Calgary 49, UBC 16

Sept. 12 (home): UBC 27, Regina 20

Sept. 19 (away): UBC 51, Manitoba 48

Sept. 25 (home): Saskatchewan 45, UBC 29

Oct. 3 (away): UBC 38, Alberta 21

Oct. 17 (home): UBC 54, Alberta 10

Oct. 23 (away): UBC 41, Saskatchewan 36

Oct. 31 (home): UBC 24, Manitoba 10

Nov. 7 (home): UBC 52, Manitoba 10 (CW semifinal)

Nov. 14 (away): UBC 34, Calgary 26 (Hardy Cup)

Nov. 21 (away): UBC 36, StFX 9 (Uteck Bowl)

2015 Canada West individual honours
Major awards: None
All-stars offence: Alex Morrison (WR)
All-stars defence: None
All-stars special teams: Quinn van Gylswyk (P)All-time head-to-head vs. Montreal
Overall record: 0-0

Vanier Cup history
All-time record: 3-21997 (SkyDome, Toronto): 39-23 win vs. Ottawa

1987 (Varsity Stadium, Toronto): 47-11 loss vs. McGill

1986 (Varsity Stadium, Toronto): 25-23 win vs. Western

1982 (Varsity Stadium, Toronto): 39-14 win vs. Western

1978 (Varsity Stadium, Toronto): 16-3 loss vs. Queen’s

Head coach: Blake Nill
Season: 18th (1st with UBC / 9 with Calgary / 8 with Saint Mary’s)
Career regular season record: 108-36 (.750) / 6-2 with UBC (.750)
Career playoff record: 31-13 (.705) / 3-0 with UBC (1.000)
Career overall record (season and playoffs): 139-49 (.739) / 9-2 with UBC (.818)
Career overall record vs. Montreal: 0-1 (with Saint Mary’s)
Vanier Cup record: 2-5  
Vanier Cup wins: 2002, 2001
Vanier Cup losses: 2013, 2010, 2009, 2003, 1999

ALL-TIME VANIER CUP RESULTS 

2014    Montreal 20, McMaster 19                   (Percival Molson Memorial Stadium, Montreal)

2013    Laval 25, Calgary 14                           (TELUS-UL Stadium, Quebec City)

2012    Laval 37, McMaster 14                        (Rogers Centre, Toronto)

2011    McMaster 41, Laval 38 OT                  (BC Place Stadium, Vancouver)

2010    Laval 29, Calgary 2                             (PEPS Stadium, Quebec City)

2009    Queen’s 33, Calgary 31                       (PEPS Stadium, Quebec City)

2008    Laval 44, Western 21                           (Ivor Wynne Stadium, Hamilton)

2007    Manitoba 28, Saint Mary’s14               (Rogers Centre, Toronto)

2006    Laval 13, Saskatchewan 8                   (Griffiths Stadium, Saskatoon)

2005    Wilfrid Laurier 24, Saskatchewan 23   (Ivor Wynne Stadium, Hamilton)        

2004    Laval 7, Saskatchewan 1                     (Ivor Wynne Stadium, Hamilton)        

2003    Laval 14, Saint Mary’s 7                      (SkyDome, Toronto)

2002    Saint Mary’s 33, Saskatchewan 21      (SkyDome, Toronto)   

2001    Saint Mary’s 42, Manitoba 16              (SkyDome, Toronto)   

2000    Ottawa 42, Regina 39                          (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1999    Laval 14, Saint Mary’s 10                    (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1998    Saskatchewan 24, Concordia 17          (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1997    UBC 39, Ottawa 23                             (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1996    Saskatchewan 31, StFX 12                  (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1995    Calgary 54, Western 24                       (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1994    Western 50, Saskatchewan 40 OT       (SkyDome, Toronto)

1993    Toronto 37, Calgary 34                        (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1992    Queen’s 31, Saint Mary’s 0                 (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1991    Wilfrid Laurier 25, Mount Allison 18 (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1990    Saskatchewan 24, Saint Mary’s 21      (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1989    Western 35, Saskatchewan 10             (SkyDome, Toronto)   

1988    Calgary 52, Saint Mary’s 23                (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1987    McGill 47, UBC 11                              (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1986    UBC 25, Western 23                            (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1985    Calgary 25, Western 6                         (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1984    Guelph 22, Mount Allison 13              (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1983    Calgary 31, Queen’s 21                       (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1982    UBC 39, Western 14                            (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1981    Acadia 18, Alberta 12                          (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1980    Alberta 40, Ottawa 21                          (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1979    Acadia 34, Western 12                        (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1978    Queen’s 16, UBC 3                             (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1977    Western 48, Acadia 15                        (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1976    Western 29, Acadia 13                        (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1975    Ottawa 14, Calgary 9                           (CNE Stadium, Toronto)         

1974    Western 19, Toronto 15                       (CNE Stadium, Toronto)                    

1973    Saint Mary’s 14, McGill 6                    (CNE Stadium, Toronto)                    

1972    Alberta 20, Waterloo Lutheran 7         (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1971    Western 15, Alberta 14                        (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1970    Manitoba 38, Ottawa 11                      (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1969    Manitoba 24, McGill 15                       (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1968    Queen’s 42, Waterloo Lutheran 14      (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1967    Alberta 10, McMaster 9                       (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1966    StFX 40, Waterloo Lutheran 14           (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

1965    Toronto 14, Alberta 7                          (Varsity Stadium, Toronto)     

NOTE 1: Rogers Centre was formerly called SkyDome (1989-2003 Vanier Cups)

NOTE 2: TELUS-UL Stadium was formerly called PEPS Stadium (2009-2010 Vanier Cups)

NOTE 3: Waterloo Lutheran now Wilfrid Laurier

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