Welcome to Monday Morning Quarterback, a weekly look at all the best U SPORTS stories from the week.
Rouge et Or bounce back from early deficit to down Vert & Or
U SPORTS regular season football kicked off in three of the four conferences this week, and there were some notable early results. One came from RSEQ play, where the defending Vanier Cup champion Laval Rouge et Or kicked off their regular season campaign with a 41-10 home win over the Sherbrooke Vert & Or Sunday.
This game marked the start of Laval’s 25th season of football, but it came with some challenges for the Rouge et Or. Star quarterback and Vanier Cup MVP Hugo Richard (now with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes) and star linebacker Matthieu Betts (now with the NFL’s Chicago Bears) were among the numerous key figures Laval lost from last year’s team, and there were questions about how newer players would step up. The Vert & Or also made the conference semifinals last year, and while the Rouge et Or beat them 41-0 there, a rematch without those former Laval stars seemed like it might be more even. And it was just that early on, with Sherbrooke leading 7-0 after the first quarter and 9-0 late in the half.
From there, though, it was all Rouge et Or. Christian Dallaire gained 29 yards on a fake field goal to set up a short touchdown plunge from backup quarterback David Pelletier that brought Laval back within two points, and the Rouge et Or then struck again 71 seconds later to take a 14-9 lead into the half. They then outscored Sherbrooke 27-1 the rest of the way.
Joanik Masse led the way for Laval on the ground with 17 carries for 108 yards and a touchdown (an average of 6.4 yards per carry), while Samuel Chénard completed 12 of 17 passes (70.6 per cent) for 120 yards and three touchdowns, albeit with two interceptions. On defence, Adam Auclair had seven tackles for the Rouge et Or, while Laurence Poirier-Viens and Alec Pourier each had interceptions. For Sherbrooke, Sébastien Béland picked up 53 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Elsewhere, the reigning OUA champion Western Mustangs got off to a good start of their own Sunday, collecting a 32-19 road win against the Laurier Golden Hawks. That extended Western’s regular-season winning streak, which is now at 23 games. The last time the Mustangs lost a regular-season game was in the second week of the 2016 season, against the Carleton Ravens.
Other notable OUA action Sunday saw the McMaster Marauders with a 25-10 road win against the Guelph Gryphons and the Ravens with an 18-12 road victory against the Queen’s Gaels. And in Atlantic Canada Saturday, the defending AUS champion StFX X-Men beat the Mount Allison Mounties 16-6 at home, while the Acadia Axemen picked up a 53-13 home win against the Bishop’s Gaiters.
Thunderbirds start with wins over Vikes and Spartans
The U SPORTS men’s soccer season began with some Canada West action this weekend. The UBC Thunderbirds won the conference title the past two years, and they started their title defence with a clash against the UFV Cascades (who finished fourth in the conference last year) Friday and then a tough test against the Canada West finalist Trinity Western Spartans (who also wound up finishing fourth at nationals, ahead of UBC). But UBC came out on top in both matches, picking up a 2-0 road win against the Cascades and then a 3-2 home win against the Spartans.
Against UFV Friday, UBC was held scoreless in the first half despite a 12-2 edge in shots. However, in the 59th minute, Cascades’ keeper Ethan Duggan came out to grab a Thunderbirds’ throw-in, but the ball deflected off him to UBC’s Victory Shumbusho, who buried it with a bicycle kick. Logan Chung then added an insurance marker in the 81st minute.
In Sunday’s clash against TWU, Sean Einarsson opened the scoring with a great 35th-minute strike from the top of the 18-yard box:
TWU’s Tristan Torresan tied the match three minutes later, though, and Cody Franson put the Spartans ahead in the 50th minute. But Mackenzie Cole evened things for UBC in the 68th minute with a slide to knock a Jordan Haynes cross home, and 11 minutes later, Ryan Arthur fired home a winner off a long-distance free kick from Haynes:
Some other notable Canada West action this weekend saw the Saskatchewan Huskies edge the MacEwan Griffins 3-2 Friday, the Mount Royal Cougars down the Calgary Dinos 5-0 at home Saturday, and the University of Victoria Vikes beat the Cascades 2-0 Sunday. The other conferences begin regular-season play next week.
Social media posts of the week
The Canadian Elite Basketball League wrapped up its first season this weekend with the championships in Saskatoon, and the Saskatchewan Rattlers claimed the inaugural championship with a 94-83 win over the Hamilton Honey Badgers Sunday. The Rattlers have seven players with U SPORTS connections on their roster, including Windsor Lancers alum Alex Campbell, who was named championship MVP after a 20-point, 11-rebound performance.
Elsewhere in basketball, the Canadian men’s senior basketball team edged New Zealand 103-100 in overtime Wednesday to improve to 3-1 in a tune-up series in Australia ahead of the FIBA World Cup (which begins Saturday). Carleton Ravens alum Phil Scrubb led the way in that game with 24 points:
Elsewhere in international sports, the Canadian men’s senior rugby 15s team fell 38-35 to Irish team Leinster Saturday in Hamilton. Canada’s second try came from team captain Tyler Ardron, who has plenty of previous experience in Hamilton from his time playing for the McMaster Marauders.
Back in U SPORTS and back on the football front, one of the best highlights of the week came from Western receiver Brett Ellerman’s blocked punt touchdown:
That’s a great play, and one that proved crucial in the Mustangs’ 32-19 road win.
Andrew has been covering university sports in Canada since 2005 at outlets such as The Queen's Journal, The CIS Blog, and Yahoo Canada, where he also served as the editor of the Canadian football blog 55-Yard Line. He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from Queen's University with a major in history, and currently works as a staff writer and editor for Awful Announcing and The Comeback.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewBucholtz