QUEBEC CITY (CIS – Courtesy of John Edwards) – Third-year kicker Quinn van Gylswyk hit a 20-yard field goal as time expired to give the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds a 26-23 win over the Université de Montréal Carabins in the 2015 ArcelorMittal Vanier Cup presented by Promutuel Assurance in front of a crowd of 12,557 at TELUS-UL Stadium, Saturday.
The Victoria, B.C., native was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, as the Thunderbirds won their first CIS football championship since 1997, and the fourth in program history. He also hit from 45, 33 and 43 yards.
A year after blocking a field goal in the dying moments of a 20-19 victory over McMaster to claim their first Vanier Cup, the Carabins looked to have repeated the magic, when a bad snap foiled a UBC field goal attempt with 1:32 left. However, an interception by AJ Blackwell near midfield gave the T-Birds another chance at glory, and they took full advantage.
“It’s just incredible. I never thought this was possible,” said the former Westshore Rebel. “The defence got us the ball back at the end, which was huge. To be honest, I was devastated (after that bad snap). I knew it was going to come down to a last second field goal. Montreal is a strong team. It’s just awesome.”
Blake Nill, in his first season with UBC after long stints with Calgary and Saint Mary’s, becomes the first head coach to win the Vanier Cup with two different programs. He previously captured the title in 2001 and 2002 with Saint Mary’s.
“We make it tough on ourselves but that’s what you expect from a young team. This group of guys was not even picked to make the playoffs in Canada West this year,” said Nill, who was on the losing end of the first three Vanier Cup finals held in Quebec City while at the helm of the Calgary Dinos, against Queen’s in 2009 and versus Laval in 2010 and 2013. “What they have done is one of the most amazing things I’ve seen. This team has stood up to the best the country can offer and they have come out in front every time.”
Nill is now 3-5 overall at the Vanier Cup, having made four appearances with Saint Mary’s and three with Calgary.
The teams combined for over 1,000 yards of offence, with Montreal outgaining UBC 544-487, but a pair of interceptions proved to be the Carabins downfall.
UBC came out strong in the first half, moving the ball well on their first two possessions. However, the Montreal defence held and forced the Thunderbirds into a pair of field goals, and they led 6-0 after the first quarter.
UBC took advantage of Montreal’s first turnover early in the second quarter. After Dylan Chapdelaine picked off fifth-year pivot Gabriel Cousineau on the second-to-last play of the first quarter, UBC quarterback Michael O’Connor found Marcus Davis in the end zone on a six-yard pass four plays later, capping off a drive that went 33 yards in only 1:29. UBC extended their lead to 16-0 midway through the quarter on van Gylswyk’s third field goal of the half.
The Carabins got on the scoreboard with 2:59 left in the first half, on a 12-yard reception by Guillaume Paquet.
The momentum shifted to the Carabins side later in the half. UBC lined up for what would have been a 10-yard field goal, but ran a fake. Holder Trevor Casey, the T-Birds backup quarterback, could find nobody open and was sacked for a seven-yard loss. Montreal took over and drove 92 yards in seven plays, and David Deschamps kicked a 15-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, cutting the UBC lead to 16-10.
A 44-yard rumble to the end zone by UBC running back Brandon Deschamps put the Thunderbirds back up by 13 points, 23-10, with 9:23 left in the third quarter. The Prince George, B.C., native finished with nine carries for 79 yards.
However, the Carabins started to chip away at the UBC lead. They took the ensuing kickoff and marched down on a 12-play, 65-yard drive, but settled for David Deschamps’ second field goal of the day. He kicked his third field goal, this one from 12 yards, with 12 seconds left in the third quarter, to pull Montreal to within one score, 23-16, with 15 minutes left.
The Carabins tied the game at 23-23 on a six-yard pass from Cousineau to Samuel Nadeau-Piuze, with 7:45 left. The major was Cousineau’s second touchdown pass of the day.
After the teams traded punts, UBC drove 42 yards in eight plays, setting up what could have been the go-ahead field goal with 1:32 left. However, a bad snap resulted in the Thunderbirds’ third turnover of the day, giving the Carabins the ball on their own 35.
However, Montreal could not complete the comeback. Two plays later, Cousineau was intercepted by A.J. Blackwell at the Montreal 51 with 1:19 left. From there, O’Connor, who won the Ted Morris Trophy as the game most valuable player, took the Thunderbirds down to the Montreal 13 and set the stage for van Gylswyk’s heroics.
O’Connor finished 31-of-51 for 389 yards and is only the second rookie starting quarterback to win a Vanier Cup, and the first to do so since Terry Dolan of StFX in 1966.
“It feels amazing. We worked all year to get to this moment and to win it like we did, wow, it’s amazing,” said the Penn State transfer from Ottawa, who received the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as the game MVP. “Give our receivers a lot of credit today, they were making catches left and right. To win the Vanier Cup and still make a lot of mistakes shows how much potential we have and how bright of a future we have.”
Stavros Katsantonis won the Bruce Coulter Award as defensive MVP. The Bakersfield, Calif., native had 6.5 tackles, knocked down a pass and forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter, which he recovered himself.
“It’s a surreal feeling. We talked about it at the start of the season, working hard and competing. We came out every day and worked hard,” said the freshman cornerback. “That’s what got us here. I never thought at my first year that I’d be first of all playing in the Vanier Cup game, or winning the defensive MVP. I’ve just got to thank God for it, I’m blessed.”
Will Watson was O’Connor’s favourite target and his 12 catches tied a Vanier Cup record for receptions in a game. He finished with 171 receiving yards. Marcus Davis had 214 all-purpose yards for UBC, including 98 on nine receptions, 115 combined on kickoff and punt returns and one yard rushing. Alex Morrison had seven catches for 95 yards.
For Montreal, Cousineau went 31-for-45 for 391 yards with two interceptions and two touchdowns. Sean Thomas Erlington had 18 carries for 110 yards. The Carabins had two receivers over 100 yards, with rookie Louis-Mathieu Normandin making eight catches for 116 yards and Regis Cibasu adding five catches for 108 yards.
“We played much better in the second half but we ran out of time. In order to win a championship game, you need to play for 60 minutes,” said Montreal head coach Danny Maciocia. You have to give them credit. They played well. Their quarterback is one of the best I’ve seen in my five years in CIS. Overall, I’m very proud of our season.”
“We believed until the end. We came up just short,” said Cousineau. “I still had fun today. I’m proud of everyone, we gave everything we had.”
Defensively, Zacary Alexis led Montreal with seven tackles, while Jordan Perrin and Jonathan Boissoneault-Glaou each had 1.5 sacks.
For UBC, Taylor Loffler and Terrell Davis each had 7.5 tackles, while Chapdelaine had the Thunderbirds’ only sack.
UBC finishes with a 10-2 overall record, and are now 4-2 all-time in Vanier Cups, having won previously in 1997, 1986 and 1982. Montreal, meanwhile, finishes 9-3 overall, and have split their two Vanier Cup appearances.
NOTES: For its three previous Vanier Cup wins, UBC beat Western 39-14 in 1982, Western 25-23 in 1986 and Ottawa 39-23 in 1997… In their other two Vanier Cup appearances, the Thunderbirds lost 16-3 to Queen’s in 1978 and 47-11 to McGill in 1997… Nill’s two Vanier Cup triumphs at the helm of Saint Mary’s came against Manitoba, 42-16, in 2001 and versus Saskatchewan, 33-21, in 2002.
Online Stats: STATS
UBC 6-10-7-3: 26
MTL 0-10-6-7: 23
UBC – Quinn van Gylswyk 45 field goal, 2:16 (3-0 UBC)
UBC – Quinn van Gylswyk 33 field goal, 7:14 (6-0 UBC)
UBC – Marcus Davis 6 pass from Michael O’Connor (Quinn van Gylswyk convert), 1:09 (13-0 UBC)
UBC – Quinn van Gylswyk 43 field goal, 8:39 (16-0 UBC)
MTL – Guillaume Paquet 12 pass from Gabriel Cousineau (David Deschamps convert), 12:01 (16-7 UBC)
MTL – David Deschamps 15 field goal, 15:00 (16-10 UBC)
UBC – Brandon Deschamps 44 run (Quinn van Gylswyk convert), 5:37 (23-10 UBC)
MTL – David Deschamps 22 field goal, 10:49 (23-13 UBC)
MTL – David Deschamps 12 field goal, 14:48 (23-16 UBC)
MTL – Samuel Nadeau-Piuze 6 pass from Gabriel Cousineau (David Deschamps convert), 7:15 (23-23)
UBC – Quinn van Gylswyk 20 field goal, 15:00 (26-23 UBC)