Using defence and a strong running game, Mac bested the Mount Allison Mounties 24-12.

The score line does not reflect how one-sided this game was. McMaster’s line play made the difference and put the Marauders through to their third Vanier game in four years. Outside of Laval, Saskatchewan made three Vanier trips in four years from 2003 to 2006.

Winning a Mitchell Bowl is a weird scenario, akin to knowing that you get a high mark in a course but the class is pass or fail. There’s a trophy that says they won something, but the feeling of accomplishment isn’t there. The players were not overly eager to hoist the trophy or take a ton of pictures with it. It’s a ticket to the Vanier, which is the real goal.

It was the quintessential McMaster football performance. In the past, Marauder teams may have been a bit more predictable in that you knew who was going to be making the big plays and lighting up the scoreboard. This isn’t a bad thing — that group has a Vanier Cup ring that says otherwise. But Mac is deeper and it is clearly more difficult to plan for. When Sportsnet broadcasts games, they put the names on the back of player jerseys. So many players contributed today that the change was a welcome one.

Mount Allison put up a good fight, but you could see how one conference has outgrown the other. Mac sacked Mountie quarterback Brandon Leyh nine times and hit him at least 19. Mount Allison’s offensive line got blown up on the first two plays of the game, one resulting in a pass that hit the back of a receiver and the other ending in a sack. They could not open holes for rookie running back Chris Reid either — he finished with 53 yards on 11 rushing attempts. Reid finished third in the CIS for rushing yards per game, tallying up 123 per contest.

Mac did not escape from the game unscathed. On the first rush of the game, running back Chris Pezzetta seemed to injure his knee on a non-descript play and did not return. That knee has suffered two ACL tears between 2012 and 2013. Officially, Pezzetta was listed as questionable to return with a lower-body injury. Running back Wayne Moore took a hard hit in the third quarter but returned, while receiver Josh Vanderweerd suffered a hit to his head and did not play for a few series.

It was the defence and special teams that gave Mac the win, causing the injury to Pezzetta to be minimal. Mark Mackie logged three sacks and won the Most Valuable Player award. Tyler Crapigna had three field goals and two punts inside the 20-yard line. One of those caused a safety after the Mount Allison possession.

The scene afterwards was the polar opposite of the Yates Cup celebration. Players lined up behind the stage, Sportsnet did the bowl presentation and the team moved on. It was pouring rain, so that would have forced people to get off the field pretty quick. But there was no real celebration because the players and coaches didn’t think they have anything to celebrate.

Next week, they might. McMaster takes on the Montreal Carabins in Montreal, after the RSEQ representative topped Manitoba 29-24 in the Uteck Bowl. With a deep roster lead by players with Vanier experience, Mac has a real shot at bringing the championship back to Hamilton.

Photo Credit: Sarah Janes

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