Last week, in Quebec City, it wasn't even close. Two drives, four plays, 107 yards, 2:05. And just like that, less than half of the first quarter was completed and it was already 14-0 Laval against the Montreal Carabins.
The Carabins learned quickly that in order to have a chance against Laval, you need to control the ball and, especially when you have Rotrand Sene, if you fall behind you lose a portion of your attack. In this past Saturday's game, the Carabins got off to a balanced start. Sene fumbled a ball in the first quarter, but the Carabins also got to establish the run and then by extension, open up the pass.
When Montreal is able to mix the run and the pass and not play from behind and get away from their game plan, they can be successful. Alex Nadeau-Piuze went 20/27 for 262 yards and two touchdowns while Sene had 25 carries for 130 yards. Montreal had 140 yards more than the Rouge et Or and still, this game came down to one thing. A blocked punt.
In the fourth quarter, Laval was forced to punt with just over 5 minutes to go and they were clinging to a two-point lead. The snap went to the right of punter Boris Bede. He went to punt it and Jonathan Gagnon practically took the ball right off of his foot. The ball went out of bounds and Montreal took over in field goal range for what ended up being the game-winning field goal.
If you watch the punt, Montreal was sending men from both sides of the ball. Laval had three men back. The Carabins had five men past the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped. Gagnon went free because two of the Laval blockers were chipping other guys or distracted by players who were on the other side of the ball. Montreal has blocked punts in other games this season, and in a key spot like that you would have maybe expected Laval to make sure they had enough guys to block all of the Carabins. Instead, the Carabins didn't even need to move the ball and they would have had a 30-yard field goal attempt. They moved it nine yards and made it a 21-yard attempt.
Two weeks ago, we were talking about how Montreal would be able to beat Laval. It seemed like a hard task. Montreal always performs better at home. That we know. We also can assume that every team can't play at their best all of the time. That is something to take into account as well. Also, you have to make adjustments. Montreal did by playing a more ball-control game to avoid falling behind early. These two teams are clearly the class of the Quebec conference. I expect a second game in Laval in the Dunsmore Cup—if it happens—to be a lot more like the second game in terms of final score than the first one.
Is it easy to beat Laval at home? Absolutely not. But if the Carabins are able to shut down the Laval offence like they did in the first half and are able to out-gain them by over 100 yards again, you never know. But that is not an easy task. I was absolutely impressed with the mix of run and pass Montreal showed and this may have been one of the better games I have seen from Nadeau-Piuze in terms of throwing the ball.
Laval has players, too. But when Montreal's weapons step up, and get a good play mixture, they are tough to beat. Even if you're the Rouge et Or.