The Laval University Rouge et Or confirmed its spot in the 52nd ArcelorMittal Dofasco Vanier Cup by defeating the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks by a score of 36-6 Saturday afternoon at TELUS-Université Laval Stadium.
Glen Constantin’s men won a seventh U Sports national semifinal game at home in as many tries, bringing their overall record to 10-4. The Rouge et Or reached the national final for the first time since 2013, when they hoisted the Vanier Cup in front of their supporters in a 25-14 win over the Calgary Dinos.
On Saturday, the RSEQ champions scored 29 unanswered points in the first half, forcing the Hawks to play catch-up football for the second consecutive week. Laurier was not able to pull the spectacular comeback this time, scoring their only points of the game with only 27 seconds remaining, allowing Laval to engrave its name on the Uteck Bowl for the sixth time after previous titles in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
The Rouge et Or’s head coach did not hesitate to call his team’s performance a “very good” one.
“In my opinion, this was one of our best game plans of the year. The execution followed. It was not perfect, but we played a very good game,” said Constantin, who is now 42-10 in playoff action.
Constantin was also delighted to be able to play for a national title, with a relatively young squad.
“There was a fairly significant youth in our team last spring. We added a good recruiting class, and we have seen them progress and gain maturity from week to week all season long. Every moment with this team is a special one, because it’s a team that grows up in front of us,” he said.
“The task was enormous, and I am very pleased with the effort of the whole organization,” added Constantin, at the helm since 2001.
As expected, Laurier head coach Michael Faulds was disappointed with his team’s performance, while praising Laval’s impressive work on the field.
“Obviously we thought we would have executed better,” he said. “Laval played outstanding, and Hugo Richard, his ability to run the ball early in the game was very effective. And we just couldn’t get enough first downs to keep their offence off the field, so we needed to do better on both sides.”
Among the Rouge et Or veterans who contributed to the victory, receiver Félix Faubert-Lussier, who was playing the final home game of his university football career. The fifth-year student-athlete also saw precision kicker duties being added to his tasks this week. Faubert-Lussier did well in both, with four catches for 86 yards and a touchdown and two made field goals in three tries, which earned him the player of the game award.
“He shows exceptional maturity and composure. He is quite special,” said Constantin.
Faubert-Lussier was pleased to be able to return to Hamilton, where he spent last summer. The 2016 fifth-round Tiger-Cats draft pick took part in training camp, before coming back to Quebec City to play his fifth and final season at Laval.
“Such an ending at home, I couldn’t ask for better,” he said. “We’re going back to the Vanier Cup! It will be a big week of preparation, but I am where I wanted to be.”
Laval had 445 offensive yards, while Laurier had 268. The Rouge et Or limited U Sports’ top rushing attack to only 121 yards.
“It is our pride to be able to stop the run. It was a little different from what we are used to in our conference, but it was not totally unknown. They also had excellent receivers, so the goal was to maintain a good balance,” said Glen Constantin.
The home team stroke first. Starting the drive from its own 10, Laval’s offense made 10 plays for 100 yards, a series that ended with a 23-yard pass from Hugo Richard to Faubert-Lussier for the touchdown. After the convert, it was 7-0.
On its next possession, Laval added another touchdown when rookie receiver Jonathan Breton-Robert, the Dunsmore Cup player of the game a week earlier, added a six-yard catch-and-run play for the TD, completing a 60-yard series.
Laval then blocked a Laurier punt and recovered deep in the Hawks territory. The turnover allowed the Rouge et Or to add three points on a 27-yard field goal from Faubert-Lussier at the start of the second quarter. The visitors then conceded a safety to put Laval ahead 19-0.
With just under four minutes to play in the first half, the RSEQ champions added a touchdown when running back Sébastien Serré carried the ball, a three-yard play that put the Rouge et Or ahead 26-0. Faubert-Lussier kicked another field goal before the end of the half, and Laval was already up 29-0 after 30 minutes.
Laval crossed the field in the middle of the third quarter after a fumble was recovered by linebacker Marc-Antoine Varin. The Rouge et Or couldn’t take advantage of it though, as they dropped the ball themselves deep in Laurier’s territory.
The Rouge et Or would add to its lead on its next possession. At the Hawks’ 37-yard line, Laval took three plays to score the fourth touchdown of the game on a 2-yard rush by Hugo Richard. Laval was in control, 36-0.
The Hawks would not give up, even though time started to become a factor. Laurier managed to avoid the shutout thanks to a touchdown on a 26-yard pass from Michael Knevel to Brentyn Hall. Laurier missed the two-point conversion, leaving the score at 36-6 at the final whistle
Online Stats: STATS
WLU 0-0-0-6: 6
LAV 14-15-7-0: 36
LAV – Félix Faubert-Lussier 23 pass from Hugo Richard (Félix Faubert-Lussier convert), 8:30 (7-0 LAV)
LAV – Jonathan Breton-Robert 6 pass from Hugo Richard (Félix Faubert-Lussier convert), 13:34 (14-0 LAV)
LAV – Félix Faubert-Lussier 27 field goal, 1:38 (17-0 LAV)
LAV – Safety, 3:03 (19-0 LAV)
LAV – Sébastien Serré 3 run (Félix Faubert-Lussier convert), 11:06 (26-0 LAV)
LAV – Félix Faubert-Lussier 34 field goal, 13:46 (29-0 LAV)
LAV – Hugo Richard 2 run (Félix Faubert-Lussier convert), 13:03 (36-0 LAV)
WLU – Brentyn Hall 26 pass from Michael Knevel (Michael Knevel 2-pt convert missed), 14:33