TORONTO, ON – And then there were four.
U SPORTS football’s penultimate week saw the chase for a Vanier Cup heat up, as the four conference winners from coast to coast squared off in a pair of national semi-finals. Only a berth a berth in Canadian university football’s crown jewel on the line.
No big deal, right?
The first of the doubleheader featured the Mitchell Bowl, a matchup between the OUA-champion Western Mustangs and the AUS titleists from St. FX, one of two undefeated teams in the country. The Mustangs came in as the heavy favourites, as is usually the case when the two conferences square off. The last time the OUA winner played the AUS champ was the 2017 Mitchell Bowl where Western downed Acadia 81-3 (not a typo). In fact, since the introduction of the current national playoff format, the Ontario representative has won every bowl game it has played against an Atlantic conference opponent. Taking it a step further, the AUS has only won two bowl game under the current format: the 2007 Uteck Bowl – a 24-2 St. Mary’s win over Laval – as well as the 2003 Uteck, a 60-9 St. Mary’s victory over Simon Fraser.
The other national semi pitted the nation’s only other unblemished squad – the Saskatchewan Huskies – against the Montreal Carabins, who were looking to reach their second consecutive national title game after falling to Calgary in the 2019 Vanier, 27-23. There hasn’t been the same level of dominance in terms of the scoreboard in this matchup, but the RSEQ champion had faired pretty well coming into this game, winning three of the four previous matchups between the two conferences. CanWest’s only triumph was back in 2005 when Saskatchewan broke Laval’s hearts with a 29-27 win.
As for this year…..
ST. FX 6 | WESTERN 61
The X-Men knew coming into this game they were massive underdogs against a Western team that, early in the season, struggled somewhat to lock in to games early. The Mustangs found their stride over the final half of the OUA season, though, and they didn’t let off the gas pedal in this one. Western used its size and skill against the much smaller St. FX team, and took them to task early and often. The home side built up a 23-0 lead after one quarter of play on a pair of Tre Humes rushing majors, with a Griffin Campbell touchdown in between. They found paydirt four more times in the second frame on a Keon Edwards score, followed by another from Humes and a pair from third-stringer Edouard Wanadi. Western led it 51-3 at the break and won it 61-3, advancing to their third Vanier Cup in the last four seasons. The Mustangs put up 469 yards rushing in this one, accounting for more than 76% of their 611 yards of total offence. The X-Men, meanwhile, put up only 210 yards of total offence, and were held out of the end zone for the first time this season in their only loss of the year. Western then awaited the winner of the Uteck Bowl between the Huskies and Carabins from Montreal to find out their Vanier Cup opponent.
SASKATCHEWAN 14 | MONTREAL 10
With St. FX’s Mitchell Bowl loss, the Saskatchewan Huskies were the only team left able to boast a perfect season, and they were looking to keep that up against a Montreal team who only lost once. This game featured two of the best offences in the country, Saskatchewan 2nd in points per game at a touch over 36 and Montreal 8th with just better than 28 points per contest. So, go figure, the score was 4-1 at the break, with the only true scoring play being a 23-yard Michael Arpin field goal in the first. Kickers struggled in this one, with Arpin and David Solie going a combined 2/7 on field goal attempts, leading to three combined rouges. After another Arpin field goal and a safety made it 9-1 Carabins, tailback Adam Machart caught a screen and ran it in for a touchdown to make it 9-7; a game-tying two-point conversion pass fell incomplete. After another Arpin single made it 10-7 with just under 10:00 left, Solie missed a field goal that would have tied it with 4:45 to go. The Carabins got it back, but had to punt with 1:55 to play after a five-play drive stalled. The Huskies then took the ball and drove it 70 yards down to the 13-yard line with five seconds to go. The Huskies chose to run one more play and handed it off to Machart who bulled his way into the end zone with one second left, putting the Huskies up 14-10 following the extra point and securing Saskatchewan’s first Vanier Cup appearance since 2005 when the Huskies lost a heartbreaker in the final seconds to the Laurier Golden Hawks.
56TH VANIER CUP
Saskatchewan [CanWest] vs. Western [OUA] (Sat, Dec 4 – 1:00 pm ET)
*The game is available on CBC Sports, Gem Gem, the CBC Sports app and CBCSports.ca*