Golden Gaels Photos
Queen's Golden Gaellery by Jeff Chan
Laval at Queen's - 2009 Mitchell Bowl - 20091121
All photos are Copyright (c) Jeff Chan, but may be used for personal non-commercial use, and by Queen's University, the CIS and its member conferences, and by the Vanier Cup, so long as photo credits are shown or the photos are otherwise attributed to Jeff Chan. All other rights are reserved.
QUEEN'S 33, LAVAL 30
Queen's, Calgary to battle for Vanier Cup - Allin's long TD sparks Gaels' upset
By Chris Iorfida, CBC Sports
The powerful Laval Rouge et Or could not handle the heat in the Kingston kitchen, falling 33-30 in the Mitchell Bowl to Queen's on Saturday despite a late rally. With the upset, the fourth-ranked Golden Gaels advanced to the CIS Vanier Cup on Nov. 28 against the No. 2 Calgary Dinos.
Calgary was rarely threatened in a 38-14 Uteck Bowl win over Saint Mary's in Halifax. Matt Walter rushed for 235 yards and two scores to earn most valuable player honours.
The Vanier Cup will take place in Quebec City and pit two schools back in the big game after notable absences. Calgary hasn't been there since winning in 1995, three years after Queen's won in their last appearance.
No. 1 Laval was gunning for its second straight Vanier Cup and fifth in seven years. The Mitchell matchup was set up as an offensive showdown between top quarterbacks Benoit Groulx and Danny Brannagan, but it was defence and special teams play that made the difference for the winners.
Queen's pressured Groulx en route to seven sacks, four of them credited to Shomari Williams. The Golden Gaels contained the high-powered Rouge et Or in what was a close contest until Jimmy Allin thrilled the Richardson Stadium crowd with a 120-yard touchdown on a missed field goal return in the third. "That was electric," said Queen's head coach Pat Sheahan. "I thought if there was a backbreaker play, that was it."
On the ensuing kickoff, a gadget play backfired on Laval, resulting in a fumble. Brannagan made the opposition pay, finding Mark Surya for a touchdown and 33-13 lead. Queen's was much too passive late in the game, however, conceding a safety and allowing Groulx to bring Laval back to within a field goal after touchdown throws to Maxime Beland and Julian Feoli-Gudino, with a successful two-point convert thrown in.
The home team needed a pair of third-down conversions and a key pass deflection from defender Ben D'Andrea to hold off Laval. Fittingly, Groulx was pressured and stripped of the ball by Frank Pankewich to end all doubt in the final minute.
"I thought the better team won today," said Laval head coach Glenn Constantin, adding that Laval's running game never got on track. "We had our shots, but we didn't take advantage of all of our opportunities."
Laval was set up nicely early in the game when Maxime Berube intercepted a pass in Queen's territory. Chris Ioannides should have had the Brannagan pass, but it deflected off his hands and to the Laval defender.
The Gaels nearly turned the same trick on the next play, but couldn't come up with the interception. They settled for sacking Groulx to limit Laval to a Chris Milo field goal.
Brannagan was incomplete on his first four passes, but drove his side to a touchdown on the next drive. Devan Sheahan caught a pass within centimetres of the goal line, with Jimmy Therrien punching it in for a 7-3 score.
Control the clock
Groulx had been sacked three times by the end of the first, but he got untracked in the second. He hooked up with Beland on a 62-yard play to set up a short touchdown pass to J.S. Haidara. Brannagan was unbowed, leading his team on a 90-yard scoring drive later in the quarter to retake the lead. Ioannides atoned for the earlier miscue by capping off the drive with a two-yard touchdown reception.
The Gaels then controlled the clock late in the second to set up a Dan Village field goal with no time left in the half for a 17-10 lead. Queen's kept Laval pinned deep early in the third, leading to a conceded safety and 19-10 score.
Laval started to chip away, however, with a Milo field goal followed by Marc-Antoine Fortin's sack of Brannagan. Just when it seemed Laval was poised to take over, Milo's field goal miss was returned all the way back by Allin, irrevocably changing the course of the game.
QUEEN'S SHOCKS LAVAL IN MITCHELL BOWL
By Robert MacLeod, Globe & Mail
The feeling all week was that the Queen's Gold Gaels, while a decent football squad, stood little chance against the powerhouse Laval Rouge et Or, the nation's top-ranked outfit often referred to as the Canadian Football League's 10th team.
Good thing the Golden Gaels weren't paying attention. Sparked by an electrifying 120-yard touchdown romp by Jimmy Allin off a missed field goal, the fourth-ranked Gaels engineered a huge upset here this afternoon at rollicking Richardson Stadium, stunning Laval with a 33-30 victory in the Mitchell Bowl.
The victory, played out before 6,922 fans, vaults Queen's into next Saturday's Vanier Cup national championship in Quebec City against the No. 2 Calgary Dinosaurs, who toppled No. 6 Saint Mary's Huskies 38-14 in the Uteck Bowl in Halifax. Next week in Quebec City, we are going to the dance everybody,ï¿½ an elated Pat Sheahan, the Queen's coach, proclaimed after the game while cradling the championship cup.
Apart from the devastated Rouge et Or players, the Queen's triumph has probably left a queasy feeling in the stomach of organizers of the Vanier Cup, who were no doubt hoping for the local representation of Laval to ensure a full house.
It will be interesting to see what kind of a draw a Queen's-Calgary will generate in Quebec City. ï¿½It's going to be tough,ï¿½ Benoit Groulx, the fifth-year Laval quarterback, on the prospect of having two out-of-town teams battle for the national title on his home turf. ï¿½I just played the last game of my life. I don't even know if I'll watch the game.ï¿½ Queen's upset is also a triumph for smaller budget football programs in Canada as Laval represents the big business approach, with an operating budget believed to be close to $2-million per season.
It was an excellent football game, one that almost slipped away from Queen's which led 33-13 early in the fourth. Laval rallied with two touchdown drives, including an 11-yard TD catch Julian Feoli-Gudino with three minutes, 30 seconds left. Groulx then ran in from the five-yard line for the two-point conversion to make it a three-point Queen's lead.
Laval then got the ball back on its own 15-yard line with 1:19 left to play. But any thoughts of a last-second winning drive evaporated when Queen's Frank Pankewich stripped the ball from Groulx's grasp and it was recovered by defensive end Osie Ukwuoma at the Laval six.
We never doubted ourselves, said Shomari Williams, the Queen's defensive end who was a menace all game with 3 ï¿½-sacks. ï¿½You can't. This is a sport. The game starts at 0-0, they've got 12 guys we've got 12 guys. You've always got a fighting chance.ï¿½ You couldn't ask for a better day for a football game in late November; it was overcast but mild, with the temperature a very satisfying 9 Celsius at kickoff.
Queen's advanced into the Mitchell Bowl by virtue of a 43-39 win over the Western Ontario Mustangs in the Yates Cup last weekend. A sign was paraded in front of the grandstand before Saturday's game that read: ï¿½Last week a toasted Western, this week French toast.ï¿½ ï¿½If you can't win a referendum you can't win a football game,ï¿½ read another sign.
The Golden Gaels, paced by Danny Brannagan, their strong-armed quarterback, opted for a more conservative attack for the most part with many of his completions on the short side underneath the Laval secondary. Brannagan completed 24 of 41 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns.
By comparison, Laval tried continually to burn Queen's with long passing plays that more often than not fell flat. Groulx finished the game completing 26 of 42 passes for 425 yards and three TDs, but was also sacked eight times by the hungry Queen's defence. His receivers did do him many favours by dropping some easy catches.
Brannagan got off to a slow start and was picked off on his second throw of the game by Laval's Jonathan Laliberte but he was close to perfection after that. Queen's led 17-10 by half and 19-10 after Laval surrendered a safety with 3:50 gone in the third quarter.
Then came the game's biggest play when Allin, a defensive back, scooped up a wide 42-yard field goal attempt by Christopher Milo 10 yards deep in the end zone. Allin cut to his right and streaked down the side of the field with nary a Laval defender getting a hand on him for a key touchdown score that put Queen's ahead 26-13. It represented the longest missed field goal return for a touchdown in Canadian Interuniversity Sport bowl history.It was nice, Allin said. We needed a big play like that. But the guys up front you've got to give a lot of the credit to. They made it easy for me.ï¿½
Golden Gaels knock off Laval - Queen's edges defending national champions to reach Vanier Cup (CP
With Queen's leading 19-13 in the third quarter of Saturday's Mitchell Bowl, Laval lined up for a field goal that could have brought the Rouge et Or to within three points.
Instead, Laval missed the kick, Queen's defensive back Jimmy Allin returned the missed field goal 120 yards for a touchdown and the fourth-ranked Gaels hung on to beat the top-ranked Rouge et Or 33-30 to book a spot in next weekend's Vanier Cup. "That was electric," said Queen's head coach Pat Sheahan. "I thought if there was a backbreaker play, that was it."
Queen's, which needed another touchdown and some timely defence to seal the win after Laval made it close late, will face the No. 2-ranked Calgary Dinos on Saturday in Quebec City. The Dinos beat the No. 6-ranked Saint Mary's Huskies 38-14 in the other national semifinal in Halifax.
Allin's return of Christopher Milo's 44-yard field goal attempt gave Queen's a 26-13 lead. It was also the second-longest return in Canadian university football playoff history.
Despite scoring 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on touchdowns by Maxime Beland and Julian Feoli-Gudino to go along with a Queen's safety, the defending Vanier Cup champions ran out of time. On their own six-yard line in the final minute, Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx had the ball stripped by Queen's defensive lineman Frank Pankewich. Osie Ukwuoma recovered the fumble to seal the win.
Despite the loss, Laval head coach Glenn Constantin was proud of his team's performance in the fourth quarter. "I thought the better team won today," said Constantin, adding that Laval's running game never got on track. "We had our shots, but we didn't take advantage." The loss stings all the more for Laval since the Rouge Et Or will be forced to watch the Vanier Cup awarded on their home field. Queen's quarterback Danny Brannagan outduelled Groulx, going 24-of-41 for 306 yards, largely on short passes. "That's what they were giving us, and I think that's generally how they've played this year," said Brannagan. "They make you earn everything that you get."
Groulx, who went 26-of-42 for 425 yards, was sacked seven times. Defensive lineman Shomari Williams accounted for 3 1/2 of those sacks and was named the player of the game. "I watched films on the two offensive tackles and I knew how to beat them. I just tried to execute."
Queen's upsets Laval for berth in Vanier Cup - Allin's 120-yard missed field goal return propels Gaels to 33-30 victory
By Jake Edmiston , Queen's Journal
Predictions for today's Mitchell Bowl at Richardson Stadium assigned the Queen's Gaels to an unfamiliar status. For the first time this season, they were the underdogs. They won anyway and booked their ticket to next weekend's Vanier Cup in Quebec City. Las Vegas went bananas, I'm sure Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan said.
The No. 1-ranked L'Universite Laval Rouge-et-Or entered today's game as the defending Vanier Cup champions. The Gaels' 33-30 victory secured a trip to Quebec City to compete for their first national title in 17 years. You're going to find out in the first couple of minutes that you can play with them, Sheahan said. At halftime we knew we could beat them.
The Gaels led 17-10 at the half thanks to a last-second Dan Village field goal from 37 yards out. They expanded their lead to 26-13 late in the third quarter sparked off a Gaels returner Jimmy Allin returning a missed Rouge-et-Or field-goal attempt for an 120-yard touchdown-run. The run was the second-longest in CIS playoff history.
Allin said his run contributed more than just the seven points. The guys up front just made it easy for me. That was a big momentum boost for us, he said. It doesn't even seem like real life right now.
The Rouge-et-Or woke up in the fourth quarter. Two Laval touchdowns and a Queen's conceded safety made it 33-30 with a minute left in the game. A last-ditch attempt from Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx in the final minute was extinguished when Queenï¿½s defensive lineman Osie Ukwuoma recovered the fumble forced by defensive lineman Frank Pankewich. Groulx, the reigning CIS MVP, was sacked seven times in the game. Williams contributed three and a half sacks of his own, and earned game MVP honours.It's just football, you know, I try to stay as calm as I can, he said. I was going with the mentality that I'm not going to let any one stop me. I can only stop myself.
Williams said big game plays like sacks or Allin's touchdown-runs motivated the team because of the crowd's reaction. I could hear it in the crowd,he said. They get me all pumped up. It's definitely a momentum-changer. Every time we get a sack it's a great feeling.
Next weekend is the Gaels next game, regardless if they win or lose. The University of Calgary Dinos defeated the Saint Maryï¿½s Huskies 38-14 in the Uteck Bowl today in Halifax. The Dinos and the Gaels will travel to Quebec City for the Vanier Cup Canadian Championships in Lavalï¿½s Stadium. The Gaels probably won't be expecting much Laval fan support after a portion of the Queen's crowd that rushed the field taunted the melancholy Rouge-et-Or sidelines.
Queen's Golden Gaels going to Vanier Cup
By Mike Koreen, Kingston Whig Standard
The Queen's Golden Gaels have spoiled the Vanier Cup party and they couldn't be happier.
With the reigning national champion Laval Rouge et Or one win away from earning the right to play the national championship game in front of their rabid fans in Quebec City, the Gaels stepped up and stunned the country's top team. Queen's advanced to the Vanier for the first time since 1992 with an electrifying 33-30 win over the Rouge et Or Saturday in the Mitchell Bowl before 6,972 at Richardson Stadium.
Laval, winner of four of the past six Vanier Cups, was considered a significant favourite after outscoring teams by an average of 43-7 this year. "The only people that mattered were the 85 people in that dressing room," said Gaels star rush end Shomari Williams, who picked up 3 of the Gaels' eight sacks on Laval quarterback Benoit Groulx. "We all believed we could win. Everybody else didn't give us a shot, but we knew we could do it."
The 17,000-plus fans who have purchased tickets for next week's long-ago, sold-out Vanier Cup in Quebec will have to settle for a Queen's-Calgary Dinos title clash. The Dinos beat the Saint Mary's Huskies 38-14 yesterday in the Uteck Bowl in Halifax to advance to the national final.
The relentless Gaels, led by defensive ends Williams and Osie Ukwuoma, got up close and personal with Groulx, Canada's top player last season. With the Rouge et Or unable to run effectively (speedy tailback Sebastien Levesque gained just 53 yards on the ground) or keep the heat off their fifth-year quarterback for most of the afternoon, it opened the door for an upset. Behind consistent quarterbacking from the poised Danny Brannagan, strong defence and special teams heroics from Jimmy Allin, Queen's built up a 33-13 lead and then hung on as the Rouge et Or made a charge.
In the final minute, deep in Laval territory, Gaels defensive lineman Frank Pankewich stripped the ball from Groulx and Ukwuoma recovered to seal the victory. "Every D-lineman wants to get his hands on the ball," Ukwuoma said after the fans charged the field to celebrate. "The feeling I got when I got up and knew the game was iced was just one of the greatest feelings in the world."
The game turned late in the third quarter when Laval's Christopher Milo was wide left on a 44-yard field goal attempt. The dangerous Allin took the ball 10 yards deep in the end zone and hustled out, following his blocks all the way down field. He kept his footing on an attempted last-ditch tackle from behind, resulting in a thrilling 120-yard touchdown.
It was a 10-point swing, putting the Gaels up 26-13. "The guys up front did a great job blocking it up," said Allin, who has returned five kicks for majors this season. "They made it easy for me. All the credit to them. I just ran it back." Laval then fumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Gaels made them pay dearly as Brannagan hit Mark Surya for a 20-yard strike to give Queen's a 20-point cushion early in the fourth quarter.
Groulx didn't go down easily, throwing touchdown passes to Maxime Beland and Julian Feoli-Gudino in the fourth to make it interesting. But in the end, the swarming Gaels defence made the deciding play. "I wanted to finish my career in front of Laval's fans," said the classy Groulx, who made a point of congratulating Brannagan and wishing him well long after the final whistle sounded. "It's hard to accept the loss, but I had a great career with two Vanier Cups. My career was over my expectations."
Brannagan won his second contest in a row against a marquee quarterback ï¿½ last week he beat Ontario player of the year Michael Faulds of the Western Mustangs in the Yates Cup. The Gaels, who came into the post-season having lost their previous three playoff games, have had four games decided by a touchdown or less this year. They've won all of them. "The way our games have unfolded this year has made a big difference," Brannagan said. "We've had a couple win-on-the-last-play kind of games. I think that really pays dividends in a situation like this."
The Dinos have won the only game they have played against Queen's, beating the Gaels 31-21 in the 1983 Vanier Cup.
ON TO THE VANIER!! Gaels upset Laval to win Mitchell Bowl
By Michael Grobe, Queen's Communications & Sports Information
The No. 4-ranked Queens Gaels upset the No. 1 and defending national champion Laval Rouge et Or 33-30 on Saturday afternoon to capture the CIS semifinal Mitchell Bowl in front of 6,972 fans at Richardson Stadium.
The victory sends the Gaels to their first CIS final since 1992 where they will face the No. 2 Calgary Dinos next Saturday in Quebec City in the 2009 Desjardins Vanier Cup. Calgary defeated the No. 6 Saint Mary's Huskies 38-14 in the Uteck Bowl at Huskies Stadium in Halifax to also qualify for the title game.
The Rouge et Or, who were looking to advance to play for the Cup at their home field of PEPS Stadium, fall to 1-4 in CIS bowl games on the road. They were appearing in an all-time record seventh straight Bowl semifinal.
Danny Brannagan of Burlington, Ont., was 24-of-41 with two touchdowns and 306-yards passing, with only one interception. Fellow fifth-year senior Benoit Groulx of Montreal completed 26 passes on 42 attempts recording 425-yards, three majors and no interceptions. The telling statistic was the eight sacks put forward by Queenï¿½s defence. Defensive end Shomari Williams of Brampton, Ont., tallied 3.5 sacks and seven tackles to earn the Maury L. Van Vliet trophy as the BlackBerry player of the game.
Hats off to Laval. They are a really strong team and deserve all of the credit they get, said Williams. "We just executed our game plan perfectly. We came out here with a game plan, we stuck to it and we really worked hard to win this game. We really showed up today, added head coach Pat Sheahan, who took over the Gaels program in 2000 and who had previously led the Concordia Stingers to a Vanier Cup appearance in 1998. The kids played well, the offence did just enough today and defence won it in the second half. Laval is a great football team and it was an honour to compete against them.
With Laval coming into the game as heavy favourites, many pundits expected the Gaels to be in tough. However, despite the Rouge et Or's past success including four Vanier Cup victories in the last six years, it was the Gaels who took the lead after the first quarter of play.
After Laval grabbed an early 3-0 advantage on a 40-yard field goal by Christopher Milo of Montreal, the Gaels put together a six play, 77-yard drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Therrien, also of Montreal.
Despite the early deficit, Laval started off the second quarter with a bang as they went 67 yards on three plays to re-take the lead. Freshman Junior Seydou Haidara of Quebec City caught a five-yard pass from quarterback Groulx in the end zone after the 2008 Hec Crighton trophy winner had hit Maxime Bï¿½land of Neuville, Que., for a 62-yard gain to set up the score.
Queen's regained the lead late in the half on the strength of Therrien, who ran for a number of first downs to move the OUA champions deep into Laval territory. With Queen's at the Laval two-yard line, Brannagan faked the handoff to Therrien before hitting Christopher Ioannides of Toronto in the end zone to put the Gaels up 14-10.
After a defensive stop, kicker Dan Village of Abbotsford, B.C., connected on a 37-yard field goal to give the Gaels a 17-10 lead at the half. The defence came up big again early in the third quarter as the Gaels recorded two tackles for a loss deep in Laval's territory to force the Rouge et Or to concede a safety.
A 35-yard Milo field goal pulled Laval within six points before the game swung in Queen's favour.
Milo attempted a 44-yard field goal that missed wide left and star returner Jimmy Allin of Belleville, Ont., ran the ball back 120 yards for a touchdown.
The return gave the Gaels all the momentum heading into the fourth quarter and they capitalized once again when Brannagan connected with Mark Surya of Burlington in the corner of the end zone for a 24 yard touchdown.
With a 33-13 lead, the game appeared to be in control for the locals but the Rouge et Or quickly showed why they were the top-ranked team in the nation going into the duel. Less than two minutes after Surya's score, Groulx hit Bï¿½land for a 12-yard touchdown to give Laval life.
The Queen's offence, needing first downs to run down the clock, could not penetrate the Rouge et Or's defence as Laval cracked down on the Gaels rushing attack. Queen's was forced to take a safety after being pinned deep in the end and Laval was suddenly within 11 points. After getting the ball back following the safety, Groulx drove the Rouge et Or down the field again and connected with Julian Feoli-Gudino of Costa Rica for an 11-yard score. Laval went for the two-point conversion and Groulx ran in the ball from five yards out to cut the deficit to three.
Queen's, once again needing first downs, could only get one on their next possession and Laval got the ball back with just over a minute to go at their own 16. After a first down conversion, Groulx was pressured by the Gaels front three and Frank Pankewich of Thunder Bay, Ont., stripped the ball out of Groulx's hands. The ball was recovered by Osie Ukwuoma of Mississauga, Ont., on the Laval nine-yard line and the Gaels kneeled out the clock to pull off the upset.
We came close. Julian came close to making a catch to continue our final drive. We were centimeters away from making big plays all game, said Groulx, who seemed to have connected with Feoli Gudino at midfield on the first play of Laval's possession only to see his receiver drop the ball as he was tackled. I think the team showed great character right to the end, coming back from 20 points down and never giving up.
The Gaels return to the Vanier Cup the first time since 1992 when they defeated Saint Marys Huskies 31-0 at the SkyDome in Toronto. Queen's second last appearance in the Vanier Cup came against Calgary in 1983 when Calgary defeated the Gaels 31-21 at Varsity Stadium, also in Toronto.
NOTES: Allin's 120-yard field goal return was the longest in Queen's history and second longest in CIS playoff history. Allin eclipsed his own record of 115 yards in the OUA quarter-final game vs. Western on October 27, 2007. The Mitchell Bowl appearance marked the latest the Gaels have played at home since the 1922 Grey Cup when Queen's topped the Edmonton Elks 13-1 (Dec. 2)
Queen's: 7-10-9-7: 33
LAV-FG Christopher Milo 40 7:28
QUE-TD Jimmy Therrien 1 run 12:12
LAV-TD Junior Seydou Haidara 5 pass from Benoit Groulx (Christopher Milo kick) 0:43
QUE-TD Chris Ioannides 2 pass from Danny Brannagan (Dan Village kick) 12:49
QUE-FG Dan Village 37 14:59
QUE-SAFETY team 3:50
LAV-FG Christopher Milo 35 6:36
QUE-TD Jimmy Allin 120 MFG return (Dan Village kick) 13:19
QUE-TD Mark Surya 24 pass from Danny Brannagan (Dan Village kick) 0:13
LAV-TD Maxime Bï¿½land 12 pass from Benoit Groulx (Christopher Milo kick) 2:05
LAV-SAFETY team 9:12
LAV-TD Julian Feoli Gudino 11 pass from Benoit Groulx (2pt Groulx rush) 11:22
Rouge et Or are simply the best
By Mike Koreen, Kingston Whig Standard
Love them or hate them, the Laval Rouge et Or do one thing better than any other university football team in Canada -- win games. Sure, they have their advantages and could be compared to the free-spending New York Yankees because of their financial leg-up on the competition but while the Rouge et Or may not do things the old-fashioned way, the privately run franchise leads the way on and off the field year after year.
The Queen's Golden Gaels are the lone team standing in the way of what all of Quebec City expects -- the Rouge et Or in the Vanier Cup game at home next Saturday. Mighty Laval, with its $2 million football budget -- about four times as big as the well-supported Gaels' budget -- and four full-time coaches -- the home side has two -- faces Queen's in the Mitchell Bowl this afternoon at 1 o'clock at Richardson Stadium. "If you play for Laval, you're pretty much playing for a pro team," said Kingston-born, Concordia Stingers star linebacker Cory Greenwood, who is full of praise for the Rouge et Or after suffering playoff defeats against Laval the past four years.
"They have about 15,000 fans screaming for them at every home game and they sign autographs after each game. Then, they go down to Florida for a week of spring ball. Our team wakes up at 6:30 (in the spring) and travels down to an indoor soccer facility (in Montreal). "They pretty much have all the resources (they need) at their fingertips. It's too bad that not all teams are run like that." Quebec City businessman Jacques Tanguay, the team president, formed a non-profit group to run the football program, which first stepped on the field for regular season action in 1996.
Inside: Two of the nation's best passers square off. Page 21 Also a co-owner of the major junior hockey Quebec Remparts, the Memorial Cup champions in 2006, Tanguay created a business model that has produced wild success at the box office and on the scoreboard. Backed by rabid fans who often enjoy refreshments outside the stadium by 8 a. m. on game days, the Rouge et Or have averaged more than 10,000 fans each season this decade. The Rouge et Or, who have close to 9,000 season-ticket holders this year, also are supported by corporate giants like Budweiser, Bell and Samsung. And like all Quebec teams looking to keep local athletes in province, the Rouge et Or are aided by a relatively low tuition cost -- averaging less than $2,000 -- for any Quebec student who attends a Quebec university.
The football team certainly makes its clients and customers happy. They have lost just four of their past 56 games and have won a record seven Quebec championships in a row, giving them a record seven consecutive appearances in a national semifinal. With wins today and next week, the Rouge et Or would claim a record-tying sixth Vanier Cup. The fabled Western Mustangs, who have been around a little longer than the Rouge et Or are the the record-holders. Laval has been ranked No. 1 nationally in 47 of 50 weekly poles dating to the start of the 2005 season.
"They strive for the best for all their athletes," said Napanee native Leroy Blugh, coach of the Bishop's Gaiters, a Quebec rival of Laval. "I look past all the amenities. They have a great coaching staff that does a great job preparing their players. That's what a lot of people forget. Sure, they have money and they have facilities, but they run an outstanding program." With the National Hockey League Nordiques long gone, the Rouge et Or tend to be the big show in good-sized market. All their games are on live television and they have a large travelling media contingent.
Tanguay is a master cross-promoter, showcasing all of his products when he gets the opportunity.
"He's kind of like the Bad-boy of that area," said Wilfrid Laurier University athletic director/ Peter Baxter, who is also football convenor for Ontario University Athletics. "Not that he is a bad boy," xter, who was referring to the Ontario furniture company that is known for its omnipresent advertising campaign that asks: "Who's better than bad-boy? Nooooobody. "He's a pretty creative guy."
All 17,500 tickets for the Vanier Cup have been sold out for a month. It's the first of two national finals in a row in Quebec City. It would be a stunner if Laval doesn't win at least once in front of its home fans. "You have to be perfect (to beat the Rouge et Or)," Greenwood said. "You can't make any mistakes. They're very well coached and they're definitely a dominant team."
Since Laval started playing, two more francophone schools -- Montreal and Sherbrooke -- have joined the Quebec league as youth football continues to rise in popularity in the province. Located in a football hotspot, Laval recruits the best Quebec talent and churns out countless victories. "They don't rebuild, they reload," said Queen's coach Pat Sheahan. While the Rouge et Or, like all dominant teams, have their detractors, the team certainly did not get to the top of the charts by luck. Sharp minds shaped the franchise as a team Quebec could be proud of -- with locally-groomed players taking on all comers and succeeding.
"When you have a good plan, you're well-resourced, you've got good coaches and good athletes, that puts you in the best possible to win the majority of the time, whether you're the Laval Rouge et Or or the New York Yankees," Queen's director of athletics and recreation Leslie Dal Cin said. "I think it's a tremendous model. Quebec City seems to have embraced that football program."
- - -
Some facts and figures about the Laval University football team, in town to play the Queen's Golden Gaels in the Mitchell Bowl today:
* Laval was 7-1 this year, outscoring opponents 333-61. Twenty-eight of those 61 points were surrendered in the only loss, which means the average score in victories was 47-5.
* Nine times in 10 regular-season and playoff games this year Laval held an opponent to eight points or less.
* The week after losing 28-7 to Montreal Oct. 4, Laval took it out on Mount Allison 73-7; in the first round of playoffs, Laval defeated Concordia 63-1.
* Laval was ranked No. 1 in Canada 9 of 11 weeks this year, and was No. 2 in the others; Laval has been ranked No. 1 nationally in 47 of 50 polls dating to the start of the 2005 season.
* Laval has had three perfect (8-0) regular seasons since then, and was 7-1 in the other two (38-2 altogether); the Rouge et Or is 16-2 in playoffs since 2004, which means Laval has lost just four of its last 56 games.
* Laval has won four of the last six Vanier Cup games, and has been national champion five times since 1999, when it won its first Canadian university title in just the fourth year of the program. Laval is 5-0 in the national final (though it has lost two of the last four national semifinals).
* Laval has won seven straight Quebec conference championships; therefore tomorrow's appearance in the Mitchell Bowl will be its seventh straight year in a national semifinal, an all-time record.
* Laval didn't play at home before fewer than 12,000 fans this year; in six home games the Rouge et Or averaged 13,713 spectators.
Time for the arms race
By Mike Koreen, Kingston Whig Standard
They are remarkably similar quarterbacks who have taken totally different paths to the Mitchell Bowl. Not known for their athleticism or their physical builds, Benoit Groulx of the Laval Rouge et Or and Danny Brannagan of the Queen's Golden Gaels have been two of the best in the business since joining their respective teams in 2005. Today's Canadian Interuniversity Sport semifinal at Richardson Stadium is old hat for the five-foot-nine, 190-pound Groulx, who makes his fifth appearance in a bowl game in as many years. But for the six-foot, 200-pound Brannagan, it's a semifinal debut in his final crack at a national championship.
"They are very similar," said Gaels defensive co-ordinator Pat Tracey, an assistant coach on an East all-star squad that featured Brannagan and Groulx last year at the CIS East-West Bowl. "They both wait in the pocket and have great protection and talented receivers. They get the call, they calculate what they want to do and, zip, the ball's out so fast. They play extremely well under pressure. "They are almost mirror images. They have seen it, watched it, calculated it." Both quarterbacks have seen their teams post strong records during their careers. The Rouge et Or are 52-4 in Groulx's five years, while the Gaels are 30-16 in the Brannagan era. But Groulx has enjoyed far more time in the national spotlight. The reigning player of the year in Canada, Groulx is nominated for the Hec Crighton Trophy for the third time this year. He also has won a pair of Vanier Cups.
Brannagan was named Ontario University Athletics rookie of the year in 2005, but he's been overshadowed by other quarterbacks around the country in recent years. Even this year, a banner year for the Burlington native, Brannagan was overtaken by Michael Faulds for the CIS career passing record and edged out by the Western Mustangs pivot for Ontario player of the year honours. However, Brannagan made himself familiar to fans across Canada last week by throwing for an astounding 515 yards in a nationally-televised Yates Cup victory over Faulds' Mustangs.
"I see the same thing as I see in Benoit (with Brannagan)," Rouge et Or coach Glen Constantin said. "They're both undersized quarterbacks and they don't seem to be the most mobile guys. Their strength resides in their understanding of the game. They're both very smart and their decision-making process is extremely quick. They are both generals out there."
The end of one career will come today. Brannagan has said he's going into the accounting world, while Groulx hopes to be a coach. "I've coached university for 19 years and I've never seen a kid understand football the way this kid understands it," Constantin said of Groulx. "He picks up things in coverage, he's a good leader and a mature kid. We go as Ben goes. He's going to be a great coach."
But, of course, Constantin would like to delay Groulx's job interview until after the Vanier Cup, which Laval hosts in Quebec City next Saturday. The national championship already is a sellout. It would be a large disappointment for the fans if the Rouge et Or are not playing. "For sure, that puts a little bit of extra pressure on us," Groulx said. "But for us, our goal has always been to be at the Vanier wherever it is. ... For me, it would be perfect to finish my career in front of our fans in Laval at the Vanier Cup. But Queen's is a really good team and we've got to take care of them first."
While one could come up with a few advantages for Queen's -- the game is on grass (Laval plays home games on artificial turf ) and the Rouge et Or are 1-3 on the road in bowl games -- the visitors have to be considered significant favourites. The Rouge et Or have won five Vanier Cups in the past 10 years. The Gaels, conversely, haven't won one since 1992.
Being an underdog, however, can be a motivating factor for a team. Queen's star defensive end Shomari Williams might want to think back to 2007 to get himself pumped up. As a member of the Houston Cougars, Williams travelled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to face the powerful Alabama Crimson Tide before a crowd of 92,138. No one gave Houston a chance, but the Cougars took the Crimson Tide right to the wire before losing 30-24. "We lost in the last minute," said Williams, who registered his first NCAA Division I sack that day, taking down John Parker Wilson, now a member of the Atlanta Falcons. "They were all saying 'Roll Tide Roll' and singing Sweet Home Alabama after the game. It was just a crazy experience."
What did Williams learn from that memorable afternoon? "Honestly, the only people that matter are the people in the dressing room," he said. "Other people are just noise. You have to believe in yourself and believe in the coaches and believe in what we can do. I think the guys in our room all believe. That's what we need."
- - -
Long association:Laval coach Glen Constantin first met Pat Sheahan in 1983. Sheahan was an assistant coach with the Montreal Junior Concordes and Constantin was a defensive lineman. "I'm facing a mentor," Constantin said. "He's been really, really good to me." Lights out:The last time Sheahan beat the Rouge et Or in a playoff game -- as coach of the Concordia Stingers in 1998 -- certainly was memorable. The game, a triple overtime win for Concordia, took place over two days as darkness forced officials to suspend play in Montreal.
The road to the Vanier continues: Queen's set to battle Laval
By Jamie Howieson - Queen's Sports Information
After securing their first conference title since the 1997 Dunsmore cup, the No. 4 Queenï¿½s Gaels take to the field on Saturday in search of their first bowl victory since 1992. The Gaels opponent will be the Quebec champions, the Laval Rouge et Or, who are currently ranked No. 1 in Canada.
Queenï¿½s, whose Yates Cup victory gives them two more conference titles than the Western Mustangs for the most in Canadian history, will also be looking to advance to their first Vanier Cup since 1992 when they shutout the St. Maryï¿½s Huskies 31-0.
The Gaels enter this Mitchell Bowl matchup after defeating the Western Mustangs 43-39 in one of the greatest games in Yates Cup history. In a game that saw the lead change hands on seven different occasions, it was a Danny Brannagan completion to Scott Valberg in the endzone with less than three minutes to play that gave the Gaels the win.
Brannagan, of Burlington, Ont., was named the gameï¿½s MVP after he threw for 515 yards and five touchdowns. His passing yardage was the fourth most in a playoff game in CIS history. Valberg, of Kingston, Ont., also had an outstanding game has he had 139 receiving yards and two touchdown. Both Chris Ioannides of Toronto, and Devan Sheahan of Kingston, Ont., also had over 100 receiving yards in the game.
As for the Laval Rouge et Or, they are coming off a 31-7 victory in the Dunsmore Cup over the Montreal Carabins. Hec Crighton trophy nominee Benoit Groulx of Montreal completed 13 of 17 passes in the game for 216 yards and a touchdown. Sï¿½bastien Lï¿½vesque of Richelieu, Que., was Lavalï¿½s leading rusher with 120 yards and a touchdown. For Laval, it was their seventh consecutive Dunsmore Cup championship and ninth in their last 11 seasons.
Saturdayï¿½s matchup between the Gaels and le Rouge et Or marks the first time these two teams have met since 2000, when Queenï¿½s was a member of the OQIFC. In that game, Laval came out on top by a score of 33-14. These teams have met a total of five times in their history, with the Rouge et Or winning three and the Gaels winning the remaining two. Queenï¿½s has not beat Laval since a 32-7 win back in 1997.
Golden memories of Rouge et Or
By Mike Koreen, Kingston Whig Standard
While the Laval Rouge et Or are the big, bad bullies at Queen's University this week, one Golden Gael didn't always feel that way. When Queen's rookie quarterback Justin Chapdelaine was a child, his father, Jacques, was coach of the Rouge et Or. Justin recalls running around the field at SkyDome in 1999 as an eight-year-old, celebrating his father's historic Vanier Cup win -- the first for the Quebec juggernaut. "That was my first Vanier Cup experience," said the Gaels backup, who remembers putting his hands on the goblet at his dad's office at the university. "Hopefully, another one is coming soon."
What a difference 10 years can make. When the Gaels square off against the Rouge et Or in the Mitchell Bowl football game Saturday at Richardson Stadium, Jacques says he won't have divided loyalties. "It's a no-brainer at this point in time," Jacques, now a coach with the B. C. Lions of the Canadian Football League, said from Vancouver where his team is preparing for the Lions' East division final against the Montreal Alouettes on Sunday. "I do hope that Queen's has a very good game, but Laval is a very imposing adversary."
For father and son, the memories of Laval are good ones. When Jacques became head coach of the Rouge et Or in 1997, the team was in just its third season of existence. With Chapdelaine at the helm, the program started climbing the charts and in 1999, Laval won its first of five Vanier Cup titles. Justin spent plenty of time after school hanging out at Rouge et Or headquarters. He remembers star offensive lineman Pascal Cheron, who spent eight years in the Canadian Football League, being "a very nice guy."
Justin even has a connection with a member of the current Rouge et Or coaching staff -- Francesco Pepe Esposito, a player under his dad during Jacques' four years with the program. "Sometimes we'd watch the game in the first half and go play around with the football at halftime," Justin said. "As kids, you always wanted to go to the concession and get something to eat." As well as enjoying the food at PEPS Stadium, Justin got to experience the beginnings of a football dynasty.
Jacques Chapdelaine, who has gone on to work with the Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Eskimos and Lions in the CFL, never will forget that 1999 triumph. "It cannot compare to anything else, it was so unique," he said. "There was just that sense we were at the doorstep of something that was going to be huge. The Nordiques (of the National Hockey League) had stopped operating a year or two before and the city was looking for a sense of affiliation and tradition.
"These kids came out of programs that were not always known by Quebec City residents, but at the same time they were local kids and the names were easy for people to know. People, emotionally, really bought into it." With private investors running the university team, the Rouge et Or used a new model to achieve success beyond anybody's wildest dreams. The first moment in the national spotlight came with Justin Chapdelaine in the stands -- along with 17 busloads of Laval students -- in Toronto for the 1999 Vanier Cup game.
If dad didn't have his own playoff game Sunday in La Belle Province, there would be a wild role reversal tomorrow -- Justin in a Queen's uniform with Laval as the opponent and Jacques in the grandstand cheering on the Gaels. "Queen's has been great for Justin," Jacques said. "He chose to go to Kingston because of the feel of the campus. "I've always said a student athlete is looking for three parameters -- athletic, academic and social. I don't think Justin could have picked a better place."
Bleeding Tricolour: Mitchell Bowlapalooza; How Queen's might have a puncher's chance
By Neate Sager
Who knows if Queen's coach Pat Sheahan has been memorizing the pep talk from Miracle ("If we play them 10 times, they might beat us nine, but not now, not today") heading into Saturday's Mitchell Bowl vs. Laval.
Even the biggest Golden Gaels partisans know it's a privilege just to have Laval coming to Richardson Stadium, but like the one-time namesake of the national semifinal game, "The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
The Big Red Machine is the gold standard for CIS football. Most buzz puts the Rouge et Or at somewhere around a 14- to 20-point favourite. They have the coaching, size, speed and swagger. The history of college football, on both sides of the border, is strewn with teams which had long winning streaks and took on the air of seeming unbeatable ï¿½ think of USC vs. Texas in 2005, Miami vs. Ohio State in 2002, Nebraska-Miami in Orange Bowl. Eventually, someone comes along and realizes they're mortal, reputations forged in previous seasons count for nothing, and that these guys can be had.
Is Queen's that team? Here's 5 keys for the Gaels:
1. Survive the first quarter: Laval has a way of making opponents crumble inch by inch, play by play.
Queen's has the crowd behind it. If it's a zero- to three-point margin after the first 15 minutes, we might be in for a game. The Golden Gaels have had slow starts, but last week they gave up an early TD to Western and came back with a three-play scoring drive. It's their 12th game of the season and third week in a row at home; it should not take time for this group to expel the butterflies.
2. Force the R&O out of their routine: Laval will have filled its boots with everything it needs to know about Queen's passing game, which has been borderline unstoppable (their five TD drives against Western covered all of 17 plays). They won't get fooled like some of the OUA defences, who have left receivers wide open on seam patterns (three of the five TDs were on seam routes vs. Western).
Laval's used to stuffing a first-down run, then playing straight D and getting a second-down hold, then coming out with a favourable exchange on the punt and giving the offence a short field.
Queen's will have to run when Laval's expecting pass, pass when a run is expected. They'll probably need to complete a few underneath routes where the receiver to run for the first down (this is where running back Marty Gordon and tight end Chris Ioannides come in), and perhaps be willing to go for broke on a few second-and-mediums.
The big question is how well the offensive line, which barely let Western get a fingernail on Dan Brannagan (47 pass attempts, zero sacks), can hold up against Laval.
3. Turnovers and field position: It's blatantly obvious, but Benoit Groulx is going to have put together 70- and 80-yard drives, not 35 to 40. Queen's Dan Village has been punting well and the Gaels cover and return teams are pretty tight.
4. Get off those blocks: What makes Laval's running game is so dangerous is that on top of having speedy Sï¿½bastian Lï¿½vesque, the Rouge et Or seem to clone 6-foot-1, 6-2, 200-plus lb. receivers who are very good at holding their blocks downfield. That's why you see those long, weaving rushes on The Score's recaps every week.
Queen's held Western's running backs to 35 rushes for 105 yards last week (3.0 per carry), with DBs Jimmy Allin, Josh Sultana, Ben D'Andrea, Dave Rooney and Matt Vickers made a lot of plays in run support vs. Western. They'll have to come up and cut down Lï¿½vesque or string him out. A lot of teams have also had trouble accounting for their outside 'backers, Chris Smith and Alex Daprato.
5. Pressure the passer without overblitzing: Laval QBs have been sacked a surprisingly high 25 times this season. Queen's D-line, led by future CFLers Shomari Williams and Osie Ukwuoma, can get a rush off the edge, plus the Rouge et Or O-line has had bumps and bruises. They'll have to avoid going to the well too often, since the Rouge et Or receivers are good at catching short passes in stride and running for a while.
Again, go ahead and say this reeks of wearing Tricoloured glasses, but there's a small hunch people will still be tuned in come the fourth quarter. That's all, just a hunch.
Yates Cup win over Western sets the football team up for a date with Quebec champions Laval for the Mitchell Bowl
By Jake Edmiston, Queen's Journal
Celebrations surrounding the Gaelsï¿½ Yates Cup victory over the Western Mustangs last weekend have died down as their playoff campaign continues tomorrow afternoon.
Lï¿½Universitï¿½ Laval Rouge-et-Or are heading westward from Quebec City to Richardson Stadium for a Mitchell Bowl meeting with the football team. The winner earns a trip to next weekendï¿½s Vanier Cup at Laval. The Quebec giants bring some significant baggage that wonï¿½t be packed in their bus. Theyï¿½ve won four Vanier Cup titles in six years and were ranked first nationally this year by the CIS almost every week, with the one exception following their only loss of the season to Lï¿½Universitï¿½ du Quï¿½bec ï¿½ Montrï¿½al Carabins in October.
The Gaels havenï¿½t seen the Rouge-et-Or since they were part of the Quebec University Football League (QUFL). They joined the OUA in 2001. The regular-season game in 2000 at Laval saw the Gaels lose a 33-14 decision. Gaels head coach Pat Sheahan said itï¿½s difficult to prepare for a team his players havenï¿½t seen before. ï¿½Letï¿½s face it, when you play Western, probably everyone on our team has a buddy there. Thereï¿½s no problem knowing your opponent when you play Western, Laurier or McMaster,ï¿½ he said.
In their 15 years of existence, the Rouge-et-Or have played in the Vanier Cup five times and havenï¿½t lost. In 127 years, the Gaels have won three. The Laval football program runs a budget of about $2 million a year, largely thanks to private financing. Their home crowds usually count at least 10,000-strong. Sheahan said the Laval program should be used as a model for all Canadian university sport programs. ï¿½Theyï¿½ve definitely raised the bar. I think that level of professionalism is where all CIS teams should be at,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½While a lot of universities are talking about making improvements, these people are doing it. Anything they need, they get. They take good care of their players and anyone whoï¿½s played there has loved it.ï¿½
If this yearï¿½s performance is any indicator, Laval definitely has the ability to attract quality personnel. The Rouge-et-Or defence was ranked first in the CIS, while their offence was second. Sheahan said the Gaels know the challenge they face. ï¿½Our players are certainly aware of their rise to prominence,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Lavalï¿½s going to be the best team weï¿½ve played all season.ï¿½
Lavalï¿½s fifth-year quarterback Benoit Groulx, the reigning Hec Creighton Trophy winner, will pose a different challenge to the Gaels defense than Western quarterback Michael Faulds did last week. ï¿½[Grouxl] may not have the arm strength that Danny Brannagan has but heï¿½s very accurate in short to intermediate range,ï¿½ Sheahan said. ï¿½When youï¿½ve got a few good receivers that you have to give a bit of space so you donï¿½t get burned deep.ï¿½
Tomorrowï¿½s game marks the furthest the Gaels have been in the post-season since 1992. Sheahan said the long season can erode players. ï¿½At this point in the year every team is using a few more rolls of tape,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Last weekï¿½s game against Western was a tough game. It was physical.ï¿½
Tomorrowï¿½s game will decide whether or not the Gaels need hotel rooms booked for next weekendï¿½s Vanier Cup in Quebec City. A Laval win would put them in front of a home crowd for a third-straight appearance in the Canadian championship.
Sheahan said the hardware his team hoisted last weekend will provide the necessary ego-boost. ï¿½Our guys are confident,ï¿½ he said. ï¿½Letï¿½s face it, theyï¿½re the league champions. Theyï¿½re the best our province has to offer.ï¿½
In Williams, Gaels have big plus in playoff against Laval
By David Grossman
As a teenager, Shomari Williams could hardly wait to leave his Brampton home to study and play football at the University of Houston.
Caught up in the hype of wanting to play in the NCAA, and also having gone on to compete but lose in both the Liberty and Texas Bowl games, Williams said he had fulfilled a dream come true. Close to four years later, and with a business degree, Williams was ready to come home. well, almost. Call it a slight detour via Kingston.
An outstanding player who is good enough to be on the top-15 list for the 2010 CFL college draft, the 6-foot-2, 236-pound defensive end also wants to be a teacher. Through a wave of contacts that started in Houston, he ended up at Queen's University.
Football was part of the package and the 24-year-old has been a huge force with his speed and toughness on the defensive line and a big factor in the Gaels winning the Yates Cup for the first time since 1978.
But Williams, with six quarterback sacks and a couple of forced fumbles, isn't about to finish his university football career so fast. He's looking for two more wins ï¿½ and that would mean victories against against Laval on Saturday in the Mitchell Bowl and then pulling off the cream of the crop ï¿½ the Vanier Cup set for Nov. 28 in Quebec City.
To get to the national university final, Williams and the Gaels have a home-field crowd as an advantage in trying to knock off Laval, the two-time defending Vanier Cup champs. The Uteck Bowl has Calgary playing Saint Mary's in Halifax.
"There's a chance to make it to the CFL and by also playing in Canada, I thought it would help my chances," said Williams, a former Toronto star high school all-star while at North Park Secondary. He has been scouted by Edmonton, Montreal and Toronto.
"Queen's has a great academic reputation and their football success speaks for itself. It was the right match." Williams, who sat out the first two games for eligibility reasons, is one of 28 players on the Queen's roster from the Greater Toronto Area. He wanted to be associated with a winning team rather than pitch in to help the troubled programs at the U of T and York.
The migration of players is not something coaches in Toronto like to see, but do admit they are powerless to stop for now. "We have to address it and try prevent the best kids from leaving this city, but that can only happen if we have a successful and winning program," said U of T head coach Greg DeLaval, whose school owns a national record 49-game losing streak.
"Toronto is one of the best universities in the country, we have a superb stadium, a first-class football training facility and we're doing a great recruiting job. Still, it is success measured on the field that's the key."
York head coach Mike McLean is not far off. "They want to leave home and have the experience of college somewhere else," said McLean. "When it comes to football, not a lot of kids want to dig and shovel and build. Instead, they want to go where the roads are paved. Until we start winning, not a lot of good players will want to be with us."
The addition of Williams to an already stacked Queen's lineup was like Christmas coming early for Gaels coach Pat Sheahan. "He's been unbelievable and what has amazed me is how he's fit in," said Sheahan, upset that Williams was overlooked as an OUA all-star. "Guys coming back from Division I teams might think nothing here is good enough. Not him. He's just been a tremendous asset. There were high expectations."
Mitchell Bowl: A head-to-head look
A pair of dream match-ups are set for Saturdayï¿½s CIS football national semifinals. At Richardson Stadium in Kingston, Ont., the top-ranked and defending Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge et Or (9-1) square off against the No. 4 Queenï¿½s Gaels (9-1) in the Mitchell Bowl. The duel between the QUFL and OUA champions gets under way at 1 p.m. Eastern and is live on TSN and Radio-Canada. The winners advance to the Desjardins Vanier Cup, Saturday, November 28 in Quebec City, live on TSN and Radio-Canada.
The Rouge et Or, who last year captured an unprecedented fourth national title in six years, go into the weekend with the best Bowl record among the four contenders with five wins in eight tries since their first semifinal appearance in 1999. The Dinos are 5-4 all-time, the Huskies 9-11 and the Gaels 4-7.
Laval and Queenï¿½s have never met in the postseason but battled five time in conference play between 1996 and 2000 when they were part of the defunct OQIFC. The Rouge et Or had a 3-2 advantage including wins in the last three meetings.
Saturdayï¿½s Mitchell Bowl sees Lavalï¿½s CIS-leading defence go head-to-head against an explosive Queenï¿½s offence that lit up Western for 43 points and 598 yards last Saturday in one of the most exciting Yates Cup finals in recent history.
The Rouge et Or led the nation for least points allowed for the second straight season and the fifth time in seven years in conference play, allowing only 61 points in eight contest (7.6 per game). Lavalï¿½s D was number one in CIS both against the pass (162.4 yards per game) and the run (76.9 per game). In 10 overall outings, Laval has held its opponents to eight points or less nine times.
The Quebec championsï¿½ offence was no slouch either finishing second in the country with 333 points (41.6 ppg), a mere two points behind Western (41.9 ppg). Reigning Hec Crighton trophy winner Benoit Groulx was as good as ever in 2009 en route to his third QUFL MVP title. The fifth-year senior from Montreal had an 18-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in conference play ï¿½ his 18 TDs tied for the nationï¿½s lead - and has been intercepted in only one of eight overall games. He had a CIS-best 73.2 completion percentage, marking the fifth time in five seasons heï¿½s led the nation in that category. .
His counterpart on Saturday, fellow fifth-year senior Dan Brannagan, simply had one of the best seasons in CIS history. The Burlington, Ont., native was second in the nation averaging 369 passing yards per outing over seven conference matches and finished his career second on the all-time list with 10,714 yards. In the OUA final, he racked up 515 yards and five TD passes to lead the Gaels to a 43-39 win over archrival Western and a first Yates Cup title since 1978.
Queenï¿½s is making its first national semifinal appearance since a 23-16 Churchill Bowl win over Guelph in 1992. That victory was followed by a 31-0 shutout of Saint Maryï¿½s for the programï¿½s third and last Vanier Cup triumph.
Laval travels to Kingston with a 1-3 all-time road record in Bowl games. The Rouge et Or have lost semifinals away from home to Saint Maryï¿½s in 2007 and Saskatchewan in 2005 since beating McMaster in Hamilton in 2003.
SMU to host Calgary, Queenï¿½s to host Laval in Bowl games
OTTAWA (CIS) ï¿½ The CIS football national semifinals are set following wins by the Saint Maryï¿½s Huskies, Calgary Dinos, Queenï¿½s Gaels and Laval Rouge et Or in Saturdayï¿½s conference finals.
Saint Maryï¿½s will host Calgary in the Uteck Bowl next Saturday at 1 p.m. Atlantic Time (12 p.m. Eastern) at Huskies Stadium in Halifax, while Queenï¿½s will play host to reigning Vanier Cup champion Laval in the Mitchell Bowl at 1 p.m. Eastern at Richardson Stadium in Kingston, Ont.
Saint Maryï¿½s has an all-time record of 9-11 in CIS semifinals, Calgary is 5-4, Queenï¿½s is 4-7, and Laval is 5-3.
The Huskies and Dinos have met in two Bowl games over the years - both Atlantic Bowls at Halifax - with Calgary winning 37-23 in 1993 and Saint Maryï¿½s prevailing 21-11 in 1992.
The Gaels and Rouge et Or have never squared off on the national stage but met five times in regular-season action when Queenï¿½s was playing in the now defunct OQIFC. Queenï¿½s took the first two head-to-head duels in 1996 and 1997, while Laval won the last three in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
The winners of next weekï¿½s Bowl games will advance to the 45th Desjardins Vanier Cup final on Saturday, Nov. 28, at PEPS Stadium in Quebec City.
All photos on this site are Copyright © Jeff Chan, and may be used for personal non-commercial applications including by Queen's University, and U Sports Canada and its member conferences, other participating teams, so long as photo credits are shown or the photos are otherwise attributed to Jeff Chan.
All other rights, including for all corporate and media use, are strictly reserved.