Start fast. Play hard. Finish strong.
That’s exactly what Laval did in Saturday’s Vanier Cup, which they easily won over the Calgary Dinos 29-2 in front of 16,237 fans at PEPS Stadium in Quebec City.
“That was our motto all year. It was very important to us, especially today against such a good football team,” Constantin said after the game. “When you play a good team like that, it’s important to break down their will.”
Constantin certainly got a fast start from his troops who scored 17 points in the first quarter off a 41-yard Sebastien Levesque run, a 40-yard pass from quarterback Bruno Prud’homme to receiver Yannick Morin Plante and a 12-yard Christopher Milo field goal.
Next came the hard play, as the Rouge et Or held the Dinos to just two yards offensively in the second quarter, adding three more Milo field goals from 23, 24 and 27 yards to extend their lead to 24 points.
Finally — the strong finish. Laval’s defence forced Calgary into four punts, three turnovers and a missed field goal on their eight second half drives, while adding a fifth and final Milo field goal from 18 yards to seal the victory.
“That’s what we did today and all season — we stuck to our motto,” Milo said. “We knew we had to score points fast to demoralize them and then we came out hard in the second half and that was all it took.”
Milo was extraordinary in the playoffs for the Rouge et Or, hitting 16 of his 17 field goal attempts and never missing an extra point. It was his second Vanier Cup championship with the Rouge et Or.
“It was great. My whole family is here. Just to do this at home in front of our fans was great,” Milo said. “It’s something I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life.”
The Rouge et Or were having so much fun in front of their home fans that they decided to give Calgary their only points on the day — a conceded safety in the second quarter.
The Dinos would finish the game with just 140 offensive yards after Laval shut down their highly touted ground attack, limiting running backs Anthony Woodson and Matt Walter to just 47 yards on 10 combined carries.
Dinos quarterback Erik Glavic — playing in the final game of his CIS career — struggled to move the ball through the air, completing just six of his 27 passing attempts for 69 yards and no touchdowns.
“It’s tough — it’s really tough,” Glavic said after walking off the field for the last time in his career. “They’re a good team. They just beat us. Weather played a little bit of a role but they’re a good defence. They earned it.”
It’s the second year in a row the Dinos have made it to the national championship but come up short after losing last year’s Vanier Cup 33-31 to the Queen’s Gaels.
Calgary’s longest drive of the day, a six play, 38-yard march in the third quarter, ended with a missed field goal.
“We wanted to make sure we took away their resources. We wanted to take away the run game and force them into passing situations,” Constantin said.
Laval was paced on the ground by Levesque who rushed for 172 yards on 30 carries despite playing with a badly injured knee. He was rewarded for his efforts with the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy as the Vanier Cup MVP.
“Today is very special for me. For me this is my second Vanier Cup in three years — it’s crazy,” Levesque said amid a mob of hysterical Rouge et Or faithful. “Playing at home for the Vanier Cup just gave us so much momentum. The fans, the crowd — it’s really special to play for Laval.”
Levesque — who injured his knee off the field, working at a bar — repeatedly went down and hobbled to the sidelines after carries.
“I don’t think I have an ACL anymore,” Levesque said with a grin after the game, clearly favouring his right leg. “Nothing could stop me from playing today. I was ready to blast my knee and give it all I could.”
It was the sixth Vanier Cup for the Rouge et Or in the past 12 seasons, tying them for the most wins with the Western Mustangs who needed 23 years for their six championships.
It also means Laval remains undefeated in the Vanier Cup. The Rouge et Or are the only team with more than one appearance that has never lost in the national championship.
“We’re always very well prepared — all six times. Our coaches they take the time to tell us how important the game is and that the opportunity isn’t there every year so we’ve got to take it,” Rouge et Or receiver Guillaume Rioux said.
Rioux provided the Rouge et Or with good field position all afternoon, returning six punts for 111 yards, including a 43-yard return in the second quarter on a punt that rolled all the way into the Laval end zone.
“My blocking was excellent today. I look like the guy who made all the big plays but it would be nothing without the guys in front of me making those blocks,” Rioux said.
Weather played a factor for both teams as snow fell for practically the entire game, creating a slick field surface and a slippery football.
Calgary seemed to have the worst of it, however, as several receivers dropped passes and kicker Aaron Ifield lost the handle on a second quarter punt attempt, turning the ball over to Laval deep in Calgary territory.
“I think both teams knew it was going to be a game like that with the snow and the wind and everything,” Rioux said. “We prepared well. We did what we had to do on the field.”
Of course, playing in front of 16,000 of their own screaming fans didn’t hurt Laval’s chances either.
“It was really special to win this game in front of our fans. We’re so happy about that,” Rioux said. “They’re the greatest fans in Canada and they proved it again today.”