The Laval Rouge et Or have been reminded of their crushing 2011 Vanier Cup loss every day for the last year.
They got their revenge, and then some, on Friday night in Toronto.
Maxime Boutin rushed for a staggering 253 yards and two touchdowns, including an electrifying 84-yard run in the third quarter, as Laval defeated the McMaster Marauders 37-14 in the 48th Vanier Cup.
The Laval players, who took the rematch of last year's 41-38 double overtime loss to McMaster to win a record seventh Canadian university football title, said all week revenge wasn't on their minds heading into the rematch.
But the sting of that defeat has clearly been their focus since that night in Vancouver.
"All the stats that they had against us at the Vanier Cup were written [in our locker-room]," said Laval linebacker Frederic Plesius, who finished with two tackles and two sacks. "The 500 yards that [Marauders quarterback Kyle Quinlan] had against us ... it was something that we had to stop this year."
And stop it they did.
The Rouge et Or defence, led by Plesuis and defensive lineman Arnaud Gascon-Nadon, held McMaster's potent offence to a season-low 14 points and just 376 yards.
"You always try to prepare for a game not thinking about the outcome of the last game," said Gascon-Nadon, a fifth-year player who recorded 3.5 tackles and half a sack to earn defensive MVP honours. "Of course there was revenge, of course it was a rematch but we were aware of that and focused on the game in hand.
"It's nice to know you're going to end your career and no one's going to say that I was a better team than [you]. Two Vanier Cups in three years, I'm part of this family for life."
Laval head coach Glen Constantin, whose team trailed 23-0 at halftime in 2011 before coming all the way back only to lose in double OT, said the entire program has been working towards righting last year's wrong.
"This is the first time we've been able to bring it back against the one that took it away," Constantin said. "It's special."
McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek said his team didn't have what it took to keep up with a determined Laval squad.
"They brought their 'A' game," he said "They were razor sharp and we needed to bring our best and we were something short of that."
Boutin, who was named game MVP, recorded the second highest rushing total in Vanier Cup history with his 24 carries.
'The offensive line was incredible. We worked very hard this week and focused all year.' —Rouge et Or quarterback Maxime Boutin
"It's incredible. The offensive line was incredible," said Boutin, who started the season as Laval's third running back before being pressed into action two weeks ago because of injury. "We worked very hard this week and focused all year."
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 top-ranked Marauders 25-0 in the second half to snap McMaster's CIS-record 21-game winning streak.
"We're packed with great players and it's just a question of time before everybody gets their opportunity to play and Maxime just jumped on it," said Grenon.
Quinlan, who was named the Hec Crighton Trophy winner as the MVP of CIS football a night earlier, threw for 335 yards on 25-for-40 passing and one touchdown in front of a Vanier Cup record crowd of 37,098 at Rogers Centre. He also ran in another score but was intercepted twice.
Turning point came in 3rd quarter
The 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.
"When he got the edge, the angles got worse and worse and he made some big plays," Ptaszek said. "They controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides and it's tough to play football against a good team when they're beating you up inside."
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.
Trailing Laval 12-0 late in the first half, Quinlan capped a much-needed six-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard plunge. The Marauders' undisputed leader was mobbed by his teammates in front of the McMaster fans seated at the south end of the stadium to make the score 12-7 with 1:41 left in the half.
The momentum shifted further as the Marauders' defence forced a two-and-out on the ensuing Laval possession.
After a Rouge et Or punt, Quinlan found Ben O'Connor on a 42-yard pass play to get McMaster to its own 51. The fifth-year pivot then hooked up with Dahlin Brooks on a 59-yard catch-and-run TD that sent the McMaster supporters into their second frenzy in just over a minute. The three-play, 96-yard drive that took just 24 seconds gave the Marauders their first lead at 14-12.
After the ensuing kickoff, Grenon hooked up with Haidara on a 75-yard catch and run that brought the Rouge et Or to the McMaster two with 13 seconds left. But after a Grenon incomplete pass, the clock ran out and Laval didn't get a chance to attempt a short field goal.
"We got hit in the mouth. Adversity struck. What are you going to do? The kids responded well," Constantin said. "I told them we were down by two to the best offence in the country. Supposedly the best team in history and we're just 30 minutes away from our goal."
Great atmosphere at Rogers Centre
Fans from both teams showed up early, with the smaller Laval contingent doing its best to be heard against the backdrop of a pro-Marauders crowd that also included a rainbow of jersey-clad CFL fans in town for Sunday's 100th Grey Cup.
McMaster supporters young and old came out in maroon to support the university, whose campus is just 70 kilometres from Rogers Centre.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Rouge et Or took the lead on their first drive of the second as their offence finally found its rhythm on a five-play, 69-yard drive that was capped by a 28-yard touchdown pass by Grenon to Matthew Nozil.
Quinlan got the Marauders to midfield on the next possession but McMaster was forced into its fifth straight punt. Laval also punted on its next possession but a great tackle by Luke Ricard on Joshua Vandeweed pinned McMaster on its one-yard line.
The Laval defence stood tall and forced the Marauders into conceding a safety on third down as the Rouge et Or grabbed a 9-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, the Rouge et Or's pounding running attack behind their mammoth offensive line took over but stalled in McMaster territory and had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Bede before McMaster exploded for two late touchdowns in the half.