Vanier Cup gameday blog

FINAL: Manitoba 28, Saint Mary's 14

This one will be more about the matchup that wasn't.

What would Erik Glavic, that ramblin' scramblin' man, have been able to do against the Manitoba defensive front with Simon Patrick, Justin Cooper and Justin Shaw?

That what-mighta-been stuff is more of a question for hardcore CIS nut than it is for the Saint Mary's Huskies. A coach or a player really can't think that way about a game. Fill-in quarterback Ted Abraham did reasonably well, but there are just things that a team can't have come to pass and expect to win. SMU without Glavic was like Earth, Wind and no Fire. The Huskies played hard, but this was, as noted below, Manitoba's Vanier to lose, and they weren't letting go.

Fans in the rest of country can gripe about the Bisons' veteran roster all they want, but Manitoba, which is hardly alone in having players past standard undergraduate age, was the superior team. John Makie ran an efficient offence that kept the sticks moving all night; game MVP Mike Howard took down three interceptions, and that was that in the two-touchdown win.

This won't rank as one of the most exciting Vaniers of the decade (that would still be Laurier's last-second 24-23 win over Saskatchewan in Hamilton two years ago), but it was a good enough game all things considered.

Twenty-six thousand fans in the Rogers Centre tonight, the most since 1995, but that's probably a mild disappointment given all the buildup, and that crowd did seem lost in the indoor stadium. How does playing a future Vanier at more intimate, outdoor BMO Field sound?


10:34: Saint Mary's just failed on third down... that's probably all she wrote it for the Huskies, who played pretty well against a favoured opponent and with scarcely little help from the Glavic-less offence. Manitoba's D-line, by the way, has played a great game... it's almost been boring for their linebackers.

10:28: Scott Dixon would be special teams MVP of this game -- along with four field goals, he's angled a punt out-of-bounds at the Huskies 1-yard line, leading to a conceded safety with just 4:34 left in the game, going down 28-14. In coachspeak, Dixon was a huge get in off-season recruiting for the Bisons after their kicking game, frankly, was garden-variety in 2006. He's about to collect his second straight national championship ring — he also won a CJFL title with the Nanaimo Raiders last season.

10:17: Does Saint Mary's really have the personnel to get a couple quick TDs, especially minus Erik Glavic? Not really. They have gone 2-and-out and will be kicking the ball back to the Bisons, who should be set up around midfield.

One contributor to the fatigue factor for Saint Mary's: The smaller rosters for the post-season mean putting more defensive starters on special teams. There were Tim St. Pierre and Andrew Paopao having to chase Brad Black around on a punt return just now. If anything, the rosters should be expanded for the bowl games and Vanier, probably to about 48 players.

The Huskies, now trailing 26-14, have to do a lot to make this matter, but Steve Sumurah's choice to go for two after his team scored a touchdown was a bit of a head-scratcher. Basically it means the Huskies need two touchdowns to win instead some combo of a field goal, TD and two-point convert or single.


(Obligations to the newspaper are getting in the way, so yours truly missed much of the third quarter... not a lot going on, other than Dixon kicking his third and fourth figgies of the game.)

9:47: Just give Mike Howard the Ted Morris Trophy as game MVP right now... he took down his third interception.

9:41: What was that about an eight-count? John Makie scrambles for a touchdown, and it's 20-8... Saint Mary's is ebbing; they aren't as deep defensively as the Bisons and that can hurt.

Brad Black, one of the fifth-year Bisons, has set up the U of M in plus territory for its second drive of the half, at the 52. Seven points here could put the Huskies down for an eight-count.

Here's a little sidebet for anyone versed in the deadline-driven world of the dead-tree medium (hat tip to Mr. Mirtle). Will this game end by 11 p.m. Eastern? The second-half kickoff flew at 9:27. It's good that the CIS is emulating some of the qualities of the NCAA, but long bowl games is not one of them.

HALFTIME: Manitoba 13, Saint Mary's 8

The general reaction is probably one of a surprise, seeing as the Bisons haven't pulled away in this game. Saint Mary's has played some friggin' defence in the first half, but its offence, with the two interceptions, hasn't quite been good enough to merit them being in the lead. They've been shut down since the first touchdown drive.

This is more Manitoba's game to lose than it is Saint Mary's to win.


9:02: Can someone who was there comment on this after the game? It seems church-quiet in the Rogers Centre... a far cry from the atmosphere that was projected during the past two title games, in Saskatoon in '06 and Hamilton in '05. Manitoba had a little drive going here, but Saint Mary's held thanks to a pass breakup in the end zone.

The crazy thing about Dixon hitting the upright on a FG try... this seemed to shape up a lot like the 1999 Laval-Saint Mary's final. The Huskies played great D, but ultimately lost a close game to a better team. Laval hit the upright on a field goal try at the same en do the field.

8:52: Some decent gains by Allister Blair, plus 30 yards' worth of penalties vs. the Bisons ("The Bisons have talent but must avoid putting themselves behind the eight-ball," Out of Left Field, Aug. 25, 2007 ) gave Saint Mary's a shot at field goal. It went for a single point, so it's 13-8.

8:47: What was that about momentum shifting? Manitoba's gone ahead for the first time, 13-7, on a long touchdown pass. Of course, they were ahead in the first half of the 2001 final against the same program.

8:40: The glass slipper has fallen off Ted Abraham: He's tossed two interceptions in a row to the U of M's Mike Howard, and on the second one it really looked like the Huskies were out of sync. SMU is playing some solid defence and their co-ordinator, Mike McLean, seems to have planned very well, but the Bisons are driving now, at the 39-yard line.


8:33: Manitoba's running back Matt Henry has suffered a "gruesome" injury (Tim Micallef's word) after being cut down by Jeff Zelinski at the end of a long run inside the Huskies 25. This is no doubt a real challenge for both teams, as it has become a 45-minute first quarter. Henry being out is the primary concern, but from a football standpoint the Bisons are deep in tailbacks. Apparently it's warm inside the Rogers Centre, which means a physical runner like Karim Lowen or SMU's Jacques Lumbala is going to be some kind of tired by the fourth quarter.

Scott Dixon has kicked a 27-yard field goal to cut the margin to 7-6 after one.

8:18 SMU has gone 2-and-out two drives in a row, with Justin Cooper having just forced a punt with a sack (he beat his man badly). Manitoba's taking over on its own 50, and SMU's early momentum has been quelled.

The "des jar deens," ad, we could stand not to see that next season. Even Don Cherry knows how it's pronounced. Manitoba has kicked a field goal to cut the margin to 7-3.

8:09: Did Duane Forde did just say "turnovers are for bakeries?" Stop trying to rip off Adnan Virk's act, Duane.

Well, talk about a terrifc start: Ted Abraham, the heretofore little-known backup quarterback, just authored an eight-play, 71-yard drive to stake Saint Mary's to a 7-0 lead. Remember, the Bisons have been slow starters even in their post-season blowouts.


Interesting debate during The Score's pre-game on the endless Canadian Quarterback debate (yes, it's capitalized now). Former Queen's standout Tom Denison had a good counter-point to the argument that CFL teams dn't have a window to let a Canadian passer develop: "How many chances did (Argos quarterback) Michael Bishop? have?" Bishop is in his early 30s, and he's still getting chances.

The one "out" CFL teams usually have is age and athletic ability. Eric Glavic still has to develop his arm strength, but there won't be questions about his physical ability and age if he plays two more seasons at Saint Mary's. With his size and speed, though, some teams could be eyeing him as a slotback.

Oh, and it goes without saying that yours truly was really regretting not being at the game even before a certain alma mater rented out the Steam Whistle Brewery for a party. D'oh. -- N.S.

Actual time of kickoff: 7:47 p.m. Eastern. Hey, it's not the NCAA.
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  1. If Chris Flynn didn't make it, I don't see anybody make it. The CFL is run by American, that is why we don't see any Canadian QB.

  2. Broken right femur for Henry.

  3. Micallef and Ford: annoying announcers or most annoying announcers?


  4. I dunno... I've grown to like them both well enough... it's The Score, so usually enthusiasm's enough.