After a crushing Vanier Cup defeat at the hands of the Laval Rouge et Or, heads hung low in the McMaster dressing room. Tears were shed.
But Marauder head coach Stefan Ptaszek was having none of it.
"This is not better or worse than last year — it's different," Ptaszek said. "And we're tighter and closer than I've ever seen anyone."
"I am so proud of you, and I love you. Mac men forever."
The 37-14 loss was a tough pill to swallow for the Marauders. Playing in front of a record Vanier Cup crowd of 37,098, the McMaster squad just couldn't stifle a potent Laval offence.
Laval's Maxime Boutin rushed for a staggering 253 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, including an electrifying 84-yard run in the third quarter.
Boutin's rushing total was the second best ever in a Vanier Cup as Laval avenged last year's thrilling 41-38 double overtime loss to McMaster to win a record seventh Canadian university football title.
The performance earned Boutin the game's MVP honour.
Tristan Grenon was 11-for-25 passing for 234 yards and a touchdown as the Rouge et Or rolled up 605 yards of total offence and outscored the Marauders 25-0 in the second half to snap McMaster's CIS-record 21-game winning streak.
Laval's Seydou Junior Haidara was the top receiver on the night, hauling in three catches for 106 yards.
Hec Crighton Trophy winner Kyle Quinlan threw for 335 yards on 25-for-40 passing and one touchdown in his final collegiate game. Quinlan also ran in another score but was intercepted twice.
Turning point came in 3rd quarter
McMaster Linebacker Arim Eisho said the painful loss shouldn't rest on Quinlan's shoulders.
"We can't point fingers at anybody," Eisho said. "He's a champion, and he only takes us as far as we go."
"Kyle does what he has to do to win us games. We've been riding him all season."
Coach Ptaszek was also quick to defend his star quarterback. "Kyle is one of the best players in Canada, and nothing he did tonight would make me think any less of him."
"He was doing the best he could with what was in front of him."
The game's turning point came in the third quarter after McMaster scored two quick touchdowns late in the first half to grab a 14-12 lead heading to the locker-room.
Laval took the opening kickoff of the second half and looked to be stopped at midfield, but a Rouge et Or fake punt and an unnecessary roughness penalty brought the offence back on the field at the McMaster 19-yard line.
Boutin then ran in untouched from 11-yards out two plays later as Laval regained the lead at 19-14 and the Rouge et Or stretched their advantage to seven when McMaster conceded its second safety midway though the quarter.
Boutin was at it again with under five minutes to go in the third, taking a handoff from Grenon and weaving his way through the Marauders defence for a stunning 84-yard TD run that silenced the pro-McMaster crowd. Laval's No. 1 saluted Marauders fans seated behind the end zone for good measure after the third-longest touchdown run in Vanier Cup history.
Boris Bede booted a 37-yard field goal to make the score 31-14 heading to the fourth quarter, before adding kicks from 20 and 31 yards in the final period.
McMaster's offence, which had its lowest point output of the season, couldn't get anything going in the second half against a tough Laval defence led by linebacker Frederic Plesius and defensive lineman Arnaud Gascon-Nadon.
"The just made plays and we didn't," Eisho said. "When it came down to it, I needed to step up, and others too."
"They were just the better team today," coach Ptaszek said after the game. "We were outcoached and outplayed."
"But you did everything right," he reassured his squad.
"You are a championship caliber team."
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