Neither the Carabins nor the host Rouge et Or looked Vanier-worthy on Sunday. But they only had to beat each other.
Laval continued their run-heavy attack, gaining 200 on the ground and more yards rushing than passing, each for the third time in four games. It was enough to win, 16 to 9, in a weird but fun game in Quebec City.
The first half only occasionally resembled football. No offensive points were scored and neither team had a first down inside their opponent's 35.
Laval conceded a safety on their first drive, then Montreal conceded two of their own after being on the wrong end of some deep punts. (Both times they could have conceded the single on the return and moved out from their goalposts, saving themselves two points directly and even more points based on maintaining possession, but no matter.) Then Boris Bede, perfect on the year on field goals but not having attempted one longer than 29 yards, missed one from 37. Antoine Pruneau took it back all the way, 119 yards, on what was—easily—the only exciting play of the first 30 minutes. Montreal had a 9-4 lead at the half.
It was fairly even at that point but didn't seem like it would be that way for very long. Even after the first quarter, the Rouge et Or had taken control of the game. Late in the third, Laval drove 55 yards almost to the Montreal end zone. But running back Pascal Lochard fumbled inside the 5 and Montreal recovered. Proving that you don't get to a 9-4 score after 43 minutes of football unless both teams are making mistakes, though, les Carabins gave it right back on a blocked punt. A quick TD followed, and Laval missed the two-point conversion.
We stayed at 10-9 for almost a full quarter more while the teams exchanged perfunctory punts. Carabins fans would say the refs gave Laval a gift by not calling a blatant pass interference on a deep pass with about four minutes left in the game; neutral observers would ... well, also say the refs gave Laval a gift. That eventually led to the Carabins' being pinned on their 2 and a broken play where Gabriel Cousineau sidearmed the ball right into a defender's arms.
Predictably, a touchdown followed that near-pick-six. Laval went for two again and missed again, likely thinking it was worth it to ice the game with a nine-point lead and 2:05 left. Others may think that the blue guys who have failed to register even one offensive point in the first 58 minutes might not get nine points in the last two, so you might as well force them to go for two on their touchdown, should they get one.
The Carabins' apparent game plan of "lots of long passes, then lots more" was not very effective. They completed only two passes longer than 20 yards. Many of their 19 incomplete passes were on long balls that landed out of bounds, or 10 yards away from the intended target, or on broken plays where Cousineau was merely desperate to avoid a sack. Or, for that matter, all three at once. He only connected with a receiver three times in the entire second quarter, all on the last drive of the half.
It wasn't the best game out of either side, though it was entertaining. Past Laval games have frequently featured one team at far from their best, the other team not needing to be at their best, and little to no entertainment at all. This was preferable.