Classic Canadian university football was on display in the 52nd Vanier Cup. Let’s get to the five biggest takeaways from Canada’s national football championship:
Backup plays hero
Raphael Robidoux was listed as a backup defensive back for the 52nd Vanier Cup, but he’ll go down in Laval lore for what he did at Tim Hortons Field in the final 15 minutes.
After Calgary took a 26-24 lead midway through the fourth quarter, No. 26 pushed through the middle, jumped and blocked Adam Sinagra’s punt which flipped momentum in Laval’s favour. That play led to the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Then with less than 30 left seconds on the clock, Calgary on Laval’s 23-yard line and down five, on third and 10 Sinagra throws for Kelton Bailey, who if he caught the ball would’ve had a first down, but Robidoux delivered a hit that knocked the ball loose and clinch the victory for the Rouge et Or.
Out of nowhere, Robidoux came up with the two largest plays in the game. Both will never be forgotten by Laval followers.
Best coaching job in Laval history
In the lead up to the Vanier Cup, Rouge et Or head coach Glen Constantin said that the group he had was the youngest in his tenure at Laval. Eleven true starters were lost from the 2015 edition, including three first-round offensive linemen and one to graduation, with eight total players picked in the CFL draft,
Offensive line coach Carl Brennan, who some say is the best at what he does in Canada university or pro, did a wonderful job getting almost an entirely new set of blockers ready to play and helping them grow throughout the season. Fourth-year senior Jean-Simon Roy, a top CFL prospect, anchored the group at left tackle.
A lot of talent was lost and instead of rebuilding, Laval rebuilt on the fly.
NFL prospect performs on Vanier stage
Antony Auclair has drawn interest from a number of NFL teams—including the New England Patriots—and that buzz will continue to grow after the Vanier Cup.
The six-foot-six, 254-lb. target led Laval with 70 yards receiving on six receptions and added a touchdown grab. The Rouge et Or used him in-line as a tight end, at slotback and out wide at receiver. Auclair’s size jumps out and it was a problem for Calgary as defenders were getting dragged along each time he caught the football.
Talent evaluators want to see potential pros rise to the occasion in the biggest games and Auclair did just that.
Arrow pointing up for Calgary’s first-year QB
Even though the Dinos dropped a heartbreaker there were positives to takeaway from the defeat. Adam Sinagara’s performance off the bench was admirable.
The Pointe Claire, Que. native showed poise and precision against a stout Laval defence. He was calm in the pocket and read the field very well. Sinagra’s only blemish on the stat line was an interception that came on a deep throw just before the first half ended, it didn’t cost the Dinos anything.
Jimmy Underdahl, who was playing on a torn ACL, graduates and the reigns of Calgary’s offence will be put in the capable hands of the cerebral Sinagra. A young Calgary ‘O’ returns in 2017 and it could be highly entertaining.
Rouge et Or back on top
There is real pressure to win a Vanier Cup every season at Laval. Coach Constantin gets asked about the team at gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants in Quebec City—it’s the biggest game in town. And a two—potentially three—year national championship drought would’ve been scrutinized in Quebec’s capital city.
Instead Constantin’s group stayed strong in the face of adversity – Laval doesn’t trail by 14 points in a game too often—and came back to win their ninth Vanier Cup. The Rouge et Or’s head man now has eight himself—that’s more than double any other head coach in Canadian university football history.
Those chats with faithful followers around Quebec City will be much more fun on the off-season.