A heavily McMaster-favoring crowd of 37,098 spotted the Rogers Centre with Maroon for the 48th Vanier Cup against the Laval Rouge et Or Friday night.
In a rematch of last year’s game, which the Marauders won 41-38, the Rouge et Or came out firing on all cylinders. Without question, the nation’s second-ranked team had not forgotten about their loss from a year ago.
The first quarter of the game was scoreless for both teams, as neither seemed willing to give up the first points.
Running a strong ground game in the second frame, Laval went out to a 12-0 lead. It looked as though Mac was outmatched by their opponents. Suddenly, a drive was sustained, which ended in an all too familiar Kyle Quinlan rushing touchdown.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Laval took possession of the ball to be promptly shut down by Mac’s defense.
What happened next was unthinkable. Pinned to their own 14, Quinlan led his team up the field for a 24-second, 96-yard scoring drive capped by a 52-yard Dhalin Brooks touchdown reception.
The Maroon and Grey entered half time with a 14-12 lead as a result.
When both teams returned to play in the third quarter, Laval looked determined to take the Vanier Cup away from the defending national champions.
The Rouge et Or went up 18-14 and never looked back. It was not the day for Mac to repeat as champions, and Rouge et Or tailback Maxime Boutin made sure of that. The second-year player, who only recently moved into a starting role, rushed for over 287 yards, including an 84-yard run that marked the third longest play from scrimmage in Vanier Cup history.
As the crowd thinned out and the clock wound down, it was clear that the spirits of Mac,s fans had been broken. But the players on the field continue to battle, persevering through tough calls and plenty of time wasted by Laval injuries.
Regardless of the 37-14 loss, Mac’s run to the 48th Vanier broke CIS records, and they carried their school the entire way through.
For all the players, coaches and fans of McMaster football it was a difficult day. One loss is certainly not enough to break the spirits of this program.