The Montreal Carabins are off to the 55th Vanier Cup presented by Promutuel Insurance, following a decisive 38-0 victory over the AUS champion Acadia Axemen on Saturday afternoon in the Uteck Bowl at Raymond Field in Wolfville, N.S.
It will be Montreal’s third Vanier Cup appearance in the last six years, and first since failing to defend their 2014 national title, when they lost the 2015 championship game to the UBC Thunderbirds.
Leading just 7-0 at halftime, the RSEQ champion Carabins broke things open with 24 unanswered points in the third quarter, then added another major score early in the fourth to seal the victory.
Acadia held their own on defence in the first half, holding Montreal to just a pair of field goals and a rouge in the first half, but the Carabins responded with the wind at their backs in the third quarter to put the game away.
Statistically, Montreal had a wide edge in offence, with 29 first downs to Acadia’s 10 and 486 total yards to just 185 for the Axemen. The Carabins also dominated both on passing (215 to 61) and rushing (276 to 134) yards while making the plays they needed to on defence.
A key moment in the contest occurred when Carabins head coach Danny Maciocia replaced starting quarterback Frédéric Paquette-Perrault with Dimitri Morand late in the first half. Morand finished with 10 completions on 16 attempts for 141 yards and a touchdown to spark the second-half surge.
“We’re fortunate to have two pretty good quarterbacks,” Maciocia said after the game. “They both had a lot of success for us this year.”
The other difference for Montreal was the running game, led by Reda Malki, who finished with 160 yards on 15 carries and scored a pair of second-half touchdowns.
“I was just trying to do my best,” said Malki, who missed time both this season and last due to injuries. “The coaches had faith in me. It feels really good to be able to contribute like I did.”
Malki acknowledged it was “hard to throw” particularly against the wind which topped 50 kilometres per hour at times and made for blustery conditions. The industrial relations major credited the work of “our big offensive line (which) makes it easier to gain yardage. We stuck to our game plan, and it worked.”
On the Acadia side, Hunter Guenard never managed to get into a rhythm against the Montreal defence, finishing with just seven completions out of 18 attempts for 61 yards and throwing for one interception.
Dale Wright was Acadia’s main offensive threat, with 90 yards gained on 20 carries. Glodin Mulali was the top Axemen receiver with just 28 yards on four catches.
Defensively, the teams combined for seven fumbles, four by Montreal and three by Acadia. Brian Harelimana led the Carabins with six solo tackles, while Bailey Feltmate had a significant game defensively for the Axemen with 11 solo and four assisted tackles.
“(One of the keys was) stopping their running game, and especially Dale Wright,” Harelimana said. “(We were) well prepared, and stopped what (and when) we could.
“(We have) so much depth on offencem,” he added, highlighting that Morand “really stepped up to the challenge.”
Coach Maciocia agreed.
“I thought we came out really fast in the second half and took advantage of the wind,” he said. “The third quarter determined the final outcome.”
Nike Top Performers
MVP: Reda Malki, Montreal
Defensive MVP: Jean-Sébastian Bélisle