Semi-final Sunday wrapup: Nill says Laval '08 better than SMU '01

Last thoughts on semi-final Sunday:

  • Calgary coach Blake Nill told Québec reporters that the Rouge et Or are better than his 2001 Saint Mary's team, which won the first of back-to-back Vanier Cups:
    "Comme nous à l’époque, le Rouge et Or est une équipe rendue à maturité qui se frottait à une jeune équipe. Je pense que Laval est encore meilleur que l’édition 2001 de Saint Mary's." (emphasis mine)
    Laval has outscored its opposition 456-94 this season. That stacked 2001 Saint Mary's team ran up a 608-66 tally against much weaker regular-season opposition (this was the last season before the Atlantic-Québec interlock began). Both of them had a veteran QB (Ryan Jones in the role of Benoit Groulx), great offensive and defensive lines, some options in the running game and they rolled over their bowl opponent: Saint Mary's beat Laval 48-8.

    Laval still has a game yet to play, but they're right up there be in the pantheon of the best teams over the past 20 years, with their 2004 team, 1994 Western, 1995 Calgary and any number of Saskatchewan teams.
  • The tipping point in Western's win, obviously, was the first interception, Adrian Kaiser's pick that set up a touchdown which put the Mustangs ahead for good. It was a well-disguised coverage, with Kaiser showing blitz and going into his pass drop; Huskies QB Jack Creighton and receiver Carl Hardwick, who ran his route behind the linebacker, might not have seen him.

    Paul Gleason's defence had a very good game. It was almost like they conceded the 200-plus rushing yards to Saint Mary's and just worked on making them sustain eight- or 10-play drives, which is tough in three-down football in bad weather and with a young QB.

    Laval's controlled passing game is unlike anything Western has seen in the OUA, where teams generally go for the long strike more.
  • Western running back John Leckie, who might have to carry a larger load depending on Nathan Riva's status, also coughed up a fumble. Ball security was an issue for Western when it lost to Queen's. It could creep up again.
  • The pipedreamers who want an interconference seeding for the playoffs probably have more ammunition after what Laval did to Calgary.

    This was the third straight season, and fourth time since 2003, where a team scored 50-plus points in a semi-final. It's a showcase weekend for Canadian university football, with a lot more eyeballs on the league -- wouldn't it have been better for the sport if Laval had had a close game like it did against Concordia?

    Granted, people might have been unable to turn away just seeing how fast the score got out of hand.
  • It is after 4 a.m., and Western fullback Dan Duff still has not crossed the goal line with the ball, unless it was moved up a foot just for him.

    The third team on the field, the officials, rated their own thread for their dismal showing.

    (Editor's note: A SID has sent a FYI about the officials, so I've made some corrections. The referee for the Mitchell Bowl is from the Lakeshore association, not the London association. We regret the error. It was also a split crew for the games.)

    It was an a split crew headed by referee, Ron MacVinnie, who is head of the Lakeshore officials' association. No doubt everyone who worked the game is as honest as the day is long, but in the NCAA, when it's a big bowl game, the crew is not from one of the conferences involved, let alone from the same city. It. Does. Not. Happen.

    Split crews (four from the OUA, three from the AUS for the Mitchell; a 4-3 split for Québec over Can West in the Uteck) can be problematic.

    The argument that you should have refs who have worked a team's games before is bogus. Have them watches the coaches' game film if they don't know what to look for from each team. It would seem to make more sense to keep a crew intact, but then again, that's just an outsider opinion.
  • Duff's non-touchdown was presaged by bailout pass interference call on Saint Mary's Saleem Borhot on a second-and-10. Borhot got another P.I. flag in the second quarter. It was in the same corner of the field where the same Mustangs wideout, Zach Bull, drew a flag against Ottawa's Chayce Elliott in the Yates Cup. In both cases, it was on the type of deep ball that was either underthrown or thrown late, receiver slips as he tries to change course and come back to the ball, and boom, out comes the flag.

    On a day when NFL refs hornswoggled the Pittsburgh Steelers out of a touchdown and caused bettors to lose millions on the game, the OUA and CIS officials also had some egg on their faces. Point being, fans have to be able to trust that the officiating is solid and everything is on the level.
  • As far as fifth-years go, Saint Mary's loses receivers Shawn White and Ryean Warburton, fullback Tyler Schussler, linemen Bryan Jordan and Tom Elinesky from its offence; LB Ryan Benjamin and DB Al Birthwright are the only defensive starters certain to not return.
  • Nill's post-game quote in the Calgary Herald needs no commentary:
    "The thing that I feel the worst about, is that we were representing a lot of people in this game: the University of Calgary, the athletic department, Canada West. We certainly didn't play our best. But people have to understand this is a true going into the lions' den type thing and our kids experienced something they never had before. We'll be a better football team for this."
  • Next fall's bowl matchups are Québec-Ontario and Can West-Atlantic. Laval and Western could end up meeting again, just one round earlier. There's also a chance of a Blake Nill Halifax homecoming.
  • Wild guess on a Vanier Cup final score: Laval 34, Western 17.
Le R et O dévore les Dinos (Richard Boutin, le Journal du Québec)
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1 comment:

  1. "the OUA and CIS officials also had some egg on their faces."

    no "officials" from these "organizations" will notice any egg or other embarrassing substance on any of their body parts because these people simply don't care even if they say they do because what they say and how they behave almost always is different (if they say anything at all). Perhaps you should consider saving yourself the emotional effort of thinking about what these groups can/should do to improve Canadian/Ontario university sports because I can almost guarantee that no one of any authority in those groups wants anything but to make this go away like Homer does when he's stuck and asks Marge.