Comparing offence, defence and special teams to see who has the edge in the 2022 Loney Bowl
Most conference championships in U SPORTS football see the two best teams in the conference meet to fight for the trophy. The battle for the 2022 Jewett Trophy in the Loney Bowl, though, is about as close to a true underdog vs favourite matchup that will exist this year.
The Loney Bowl sees the defending champion St.FX X-Men, who rolled through the 2022 season with a perfect 8-0 record face-off against the Mount Allison Mounties, who went 4-4 on the year and snuck past Bishop’s 15-12 in the semifinal.
These two sides bring a lot of history to the Loney Bowl, as the last three times Mount Allison made it to the final game in the conference, it was against StFX, with the Mounties winning in 2014 (what is their last Jewett Trophy to date) but losing to StFX in 2015 and 2016.
The X-Men have already defeated the Mounties once this season as they closed out the regular season (and their perfect 8-0 record) with a 37-13 win on Oct. 29.
Can the Mounties pull off the upset? Or should StFX already start getting ready to play the winner of Canada West in the Uteck Bowl?
Let’s break down some of the numbers.
The X-Men were far and away the top offensive team in the AUS in 2022, averaging 32.9 points per game; they cleared Bishop’s in second place by 13 points. A lot of that came off the strength of the play of their quarterback Silas Fagnan, who led the league in passing yards per game by nearly 80 with 241.9. Fagnan also added 13 touchdown passes to top the chart.
The X-Men offered a balanced attack on offence with three receivers in the top five in the AUS in receiving yards per game. Zachary Houde was named AUS Rookie of the Year with a league-leading 63.9 yards per game and three touchdowns, and Ben Harrington and Zakariya Karim helped him round out three of the top five positions. At the same time, the X-Men saw a genuinely dominant performance on the ground from Malcolm Bussey.
Bussey had a star turn in 2022 after being the AUS Rookie of the Year himself in 2021, leading the conference with 881 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns, more than triple anyone else. All this led to the AUS naming Bussey Player of the Year, following Silas Fagnan, who took home the award for StFX in 2021.
The Mounties had what could best be described as a weaker offence in 2022, as Mount Allison finished fourth out of five in the AUS averaging 12.3 points per game.
The Mounties bounced between quarterbacks throughout the year, with rookie CJ Valenti taking the majority of snaps in the first five games but seeing senior Justin Vogels take over down the stretch. The rookie Valenti mostly struggled for Mount Allison, only clearing 100 passing yards twice, and in those two games, combined for zero touchdowns and three picks.
On the other side, Vogels – who started the Mounties’ 15-12 playoff win, turned in a more aggressive approach as he cleared 300 yards twice on the year and threw for four touchdowns, but also added four interceptions himself.
With mixed results in the air, Brandt Burzak stepped up for the Mounties on the ground as the freshman delivered three rushing touchdowns while finishing second in the AUS with 76.4 yards per game.
Advantage – StFX: With a balanced attack on the ground and in the air, along with a quarterback who has taken his side to a title, StFX very clearly holds the advantage on offence.
In the same way that StFX had the league’s top offence through a balanced performance, an all-around display on defence put them at the top of the AUS.
The X-Men finished the 2022 season allowing just 83 points in eight games, could for nearly five points per game lower than Bishop’s in second place. With league lows allowed in passing yards and rushing yards and the league lead in sacks (27) and interceptions (10), there were not many things StFX did wrong on the defensive side of the football.
Alex Fedchun was the lynchpin of their defensive success. The lineman led AUS with nine sacks (the second most in U SPORTS) and added 38 tackles on the way to being named AUS Lineman of the Year.
It was an almost absurd level of team effort when it came to intercepting the football for the X-Men in 2022, as 12 different players grabbed a pick on the year, with Zachary Taylor and Dyton Blackett tied for the most with two a piece.
The Mounties’ defence, similar to their offensive output, was middling in 2022, but some solid individual performances helped buoy it above their offensive performance.
Mount Allison finished precisely in the middle of the AUS in almost every broad metric. Third with 18.0 points allowed per game, third in passing yards per game allowed with 183.0 and third in rushing yards per game allowed at 123.1.
For the Mounties, the standouts statistics defensively were leading the AUS in fumble recoveries with 11 and tackles per game by over four with 52.0.
Owen O’Neal earned an AUS All-star nod after finishing in second with 5.6 tackles per game. O’Neal also finished tied for first with his teammate Lucas Cormier with three interceptions each, which also earned Cormier an AUS All-Star nod.
Advantage – slightly StFX: This one is much closer than it was on offence. With Silas Fagnan leading the AUS with seven interceptions having the top two leaders for picks on Mount Allison helps the Mounties, but there are just too many pieces not to give the edge to the X-Men.
Zakariya Karim handled the majority of kick returns for the X-Men in 2022, picking up an average of 18.6 yards per return. On punt returns, Karim started the year doing double duty and averaging 10.3 yards per return, but in the second half of the year, the role split between Zachary Houde and Ben Harrington, with Houde doing the strongest with 12.3 yards per return.
The X-Men also employed their split strategy regarding kicking, as Max Capriotti and Ben Hadley held a timeshare on kicking and punting for StFX. Hadley was strong from field goal range, hitting 73% of his FGs (11-15) compared to Capriotti’s 70% (5-7), while Capriotti took about 90% of the punts and reached an average of 35.2 yards.
Hadley won the Placekicker of the year position on the AUS All-Star team.
The Mounties handed kick return duties to Nolan Cheesman, who averaged 21.8 yards per run, while they split kick return duties among seven different names. The most common name called, though, was Terrell Connell, who managed to get to 8.2 yards per return for the Mounties.
Graeme Maither did double duty as a kicker and punter for the Mounties in 2022. He averaged 35.3 yards per punt on punts while he finished third in the AUS by going 8/11 on field goals.
On the award front, DB Adryon Thompson earned the Special Teams Player All-Star slot on the AUS All-Star roster.
Advantage – EVEN: This is probably the area of the field where these sides are at their potential closest.
Here’s the thing, good on Mount Allison for getting back here, and this matchup is easily the most David vs Goliath of the conference championships in U SPORTS football, but David is not going to win this one.
StFX should take this matchup without breaking much of a sweat and get set to host the winner of Canada West in the Uteck Bowl.
Prediction: StFX 35 – 7 Mount Allison