With a huge comeback, a thrilling overtime and a classic story of redemption, it will be more than just a first Vanier Cup title the McMaster Marauders will remember in a game few spectators will ever forget.
Kicker Tyler Crapigna, the would-be goat who missed a 30 yard field goal attempt on the final play of regulation time, made good on a 20-yard try in double overtime as the Marauders dethroned the defending champion Laval Rouge et Or 41-38 at B.C. Place on Friday night.
That was after the Marauders had blown a 23-0 halftime lead.
"I can't even put into words what that means for me and for the rest of my teammates," quarterback Kyle Quinlan said. "This is first one in McMaster history, so it's incredible to be a part of."
Past Vanier Cup champions
- 2011 — McMaster
- 2010 — Laval
- 2009 — Queen's
- 2008 — Laval
- 2007 — Manitoba
- 2006 — Laval
- 2005 —Wilfrid Laurier
- 2004 — Laval
- 2003 — Laval
- 2002 — Saint Mary's
- 2001 — Saint Mary's
- 2000 — Ottawa
Quinlan, named the game's MVP, completed 36 passes for 482 yards, the second highest total in Vanier Cup history, to pace a team that piled up 675 yards of offence against what was considered the top defence in the country.
The avid scrambler also carried the ball 14 times for 106 yards, while Robert Babic, with 12 catches, and Michael DiCroce, with seven, each passed the century mark with 135 and 102 receiving yards respectively.
"We weren't comfortable with that lead, to say the least," said Quinlan. "This is as good as it gets in the country.
"We knew that they would make a game of it. Every time they had something, we had to respond and respond and respond."
McMaster was in the Vanier Cup for the first time since 1967 and produced only the second overtime win in the trophy's 47-year history after Western's win over Saskatchewan in 1994.
The Rouge et Or, who beat Calgary in Quebec City in last year's CIS football championship game, lost a Vanier Cup game for the first time in six visits since their first victory in 1999.
"I'm proud of our kids," said Laval coach Glen Constantin. "The comeback they put together when they could easily have folded the tent shows the character of our kids.
"We just got beat by a better football team."
Linebacker Aram Eisho was named top defensive player of the game.
Laval erased McMaster's big lead, gave the Marauders back the advantage and then tied it when Bruno Prud'homme hit Julian Feoli-Gudino with a five-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 left to play.
The Marauders marched back, but Crapigna's game-winning attempt sailed wide and was run out of the end zone.
"It's over with," Crapigna said. "I got the win in overtime. That's all that matters.
"I'm not really sure (what happened). It's really just a blur. It's out of my head right now. All I remember is the last one."
The teams traded touchdowns on their first overtime attempts, then Steven Ventresca picked off a Prud'homme pass on Laval's second overtime possession to set up Crapigna's game-winning effort.
The mostly pro-McMaster crowd of 24,953 at the domed stadium roared their approval as the No. 4 ranked Marauders mugged one another on the field after the upset of No. 1 Laval.
They had watched in astonishment as McMaster's halftime lead evaporated in only 17 minutes in the second half.
Sebastien Levesque's 44-yard weaving run 1:57 into the fourth quarter put Laval ahead 24-23.
Quinlan marched back with a drive that produced Matthew Peressini's nine-yard TD run, then got a crucial two-point conversion on a pass to Peressini to snatch back the lead.
The Rouge et Or came back again and tied it at 31-31 on Feoli-Gudino's catch.
James Hill and Christopher Pazzetta also scored touchdowns for McMaster, while Crapigna added three field goals in regulation.
Gillaume Rioux scored on a punt return, Frederic Plesius got one on and interception and Boris Bede added a field goal for Laval.
Laval seemed to give up momentum early in the game, as Levesque wasted good field position when he was stripped of the ball by Eisho and Ryan Chmielewski recovered on the McMaster 33. The Marauders turned that into a field goal.
A fake punt by backup quarterback Marshall Ferguson kept McMaster's next drive alive for another Crapigna field goal.
It was all McMaster for the rest of the half. Quinlan completed 12 straight passes to set up a three-yard TD pass to Hill 1:22 into the second quarter and Pazzetta's 13 yard TD on a draw play up the middle at 5:25.
Crapigna added another field goal for a 23-0 half time lead. Laval's best chance died when a Bede field goal attempt struck the uprights.
The Rouge et Or adjusted at the intermission and, after a solid stop, Rioux ran a punt back 62 yards for a TD at 3:03 and Plesius picked off a Quinlan pass and ran it in 37 yards for a score only 1:14 later.
The Marauders looked to have struck back decisively when Quinlan hit OUA player of the year DiCroce with a 101-yard TD pass, but what would have been a Vanier Cup record for longest touchdown came back on an offside call.
After Laval added a field goal, Quinlan led another fine drive that died on the Laval three-yard line on a Maxilien Ducap interception that turned into a 107-yard TD drive.
"It was a tale of two halves," added Constantin. "The first half we were rattled by the turnovers and in the second we made adjustments. At one point, we had the lead but we fell short. My hat's off to McMaster."
"We've got the rest of our lives to think about what this means to us," said McMaster coach Stefan Ptaszek as his players whooped and hugged one another on the stadium turf. "We barely know what we've done right now."
Levesque carried 17 times for 139 yards for Laval, while Feoli-Gudino caught 10 passes for 106.