Kyle Quinlan was quick to share the credit, but his numbers don't lie.
The fifth-year quarterback rushed for three touchdowns and threw for three other scores Saturday as the defending Vanier Cup champion McMaster Marauders demolished the Calgary Dinos 45-6 in the Mitchell Bowl to advance to their second straight national title game.
"I'm proud of the whole team effort," said Quinlan, who finished 25-of-35 yards passing for 412 yards. "We expect a lot of ourselves offensively but to see the defence fly around like that was really exciting."
With the win, the No. 1 Marauders (11-0) extended their record Canadian university football winning streak to 21 games and set up a rematch of last year's thrilling Vanier Cup that saw McMaster defeat the Laval Rouge et Or 41-38 in double overtime.
"[Quinlan] is one of the best I've ever seen at this level. He does it so many different ways and the bigger the game, the better he plays," said Marauders head coach Stefan Ptaszek. "He comes up big on the biggest stages."
The dagger came late in the second quarter on Saturday when Quinlan hooked up with Brad Fochesato on a 61-yard touchdown pass to make the score 24-4 with 2:25 to play in the half.
That touchdown came just under a minute after Quinlan scored on his second one-yard TD run of the game to make the score 17-4 following a McMaster fake punt that saw kicker Tyler Crapinga find Ben O'Connor on a five-yard passing play.
Quinlan, who finished with 50 yards rushing, then capped a clinical 82-yard drive to start the second half with an 11-yard touchdown run to make the score 31-4.
"The whole philosophy for the whole game was to turn these guys loose. We've been reigning them in to get through our OUA season," Ptaszek said. "Today the philosophy was make plays from start to finish and don't stop."
Robert Babic was Quinlan's top target through the air, snagging 10 passes for 156 yards and a touchdown, while Fochesato caught four passes for 113 yards. Ben D'Aguilar led the way for the relentless Marauders defence, finishing with three of McMaster's five sacks.
Calgary quarterback Eric Dzwilewski was 10-of-21 passing for 114 yards for the No. 3 Dinos (9-2), who saw their top-ranked offence stifled time and again. Dzwilewski was replaced by backup Andrew Buckley in the fourth quarter.
"It's very disheartening. I really felt our program was a competitive program," said Calgary head coach Blake Nill, whose team was held to just 200 yards on the day. "We just could not get any momentum established offensively. Basically what happened is the defence hung strong for a while and eventually started to break a bit."
Calgary kicker Johnny Mark was good on 1-of-2 field goals to provide all the offence for the Dinos.
"This is as low as I've felt in a long time," Nill added. "Coming in, I really thought we had an opportunity but after tonight's performance, I was wrong."
Calgary put together a decent drive late in the third quarter but the threat was snuffed out because of a Steven Lumbala fumble. Quinlan then hooked up with Babic on a 31-yard TD pass early in the fourth to give the Marauders a 34-point lead.
"They were out of sorts all day and that was a tribute to the game plan and the kids playing their hearts out," Ptaszek said.
Sluggish start for both teams
Quinlan added insult to injury by hooking up with Michael Dicroce for a 16-yard TD with under five minutes to go in the game before McMaster conceded a safety with less than 90 seconds to play.
"I thought going in we could limit Quinlan through the air. That may sound unusual but I thought in the back end we could limit him," Nill said. "I was concerned with his running. We had to make a few changes in the secondary and he was just too good for us tonight."
Both McMaster and Calgary started sluggishly on offence in the first quarter. The Dinos were stuffed on a third and one at midfield before Quinlan lost a fumble on the ensuing possession.
Mark opened the scoring with a 37-yard field goal at 5:39 but Quinlan scored on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line on the final play of the quarter to give the Marauders a 7-3 lead. The drive included a 39-yard pass to Dahlin Brooks and a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the Dinos.
McMaster then added a single point in the ensuing kickoff.
Mark missed a 27-yard field goal to make the score 8-4 at 12:13 of the second but Calgary conceded a safety midway through the quarter to stretch the Marauders' lead to 10-4.
The McMaster defence stepped up after that, sacking Dzwilewski on consecutive plays to force a punt before Quinlan led back-to-back touchdown drives late in the half.
McMaster will take on Laval in the 48th Vanier Cup at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Friday night after the No. 2 Rouge et Or demolished the No. 9 Acadia Axemen 42-7 in the Uteck Bowl in Quebec City.
"It will be our hardest football game hands down," Ptaszek said. "[The players] know the stakes are big. It is not going to be easy and we have done nothing yet because there's a very talented Laval team awaiting us."
Both Quinlan and Dzwilewski are up for the Hec Crighton Trophy as the top player in Canadian university football.