Vanier Cup Preview
Updated: Nov 27, 2019
This weekend’s game is what players, teams, and coaches across the country train and prepare for all season. This weekend, the 55th Vanier Cup will be played between the University of Montreal Carabins and the University of Calgary Dinos in Quebec City. Two of the best programs in the country will clash in one final game to determine who will be crowned national champions. The Montreal Crabins will be in search of their first Vanier Cup victory since losing in heartbreaking fashion to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in 2015. The Dinos on the other hand have reached the Vanier Cup 4 times since 2009, but will be in search of the programs first Vanier Cup win since 1995.
All Time Vanier Cup Records
Calgary Dinos: 4-6
Montreal Carabins: 1-1
How They Got Here
The Montreal Carabins have hardly had an easy path. The Carabins beat the McGill Redmen 39-6 at home in the RSEQ playoffs advancing to the conference championships against the Laval Rouge et Or. The Carabins travelled to Laval and beat the Rouge et Or 25-10 on their own turf to win the RSEQ and advance to the U Sports semifinals. The Carabins would once again be on the road, travelling to Wolfville, Nova Scotia to take on the Acadia Axemen. The Carabin would take a commanding 38-0 victory over the Axemen to win the Uteck Bowl and advance to the 2019 Vanier Cup.
While the Calgary Dinos were nationally ranked all season, they certainly had to face adversity in their path to Quebec City. In their first game of the Canada West playoffs, the Dinos faced the Manitoba Bison who handed Calgary one of their only two loses on the season. The Dinos narrowly escaped a 47-46 home victory over the Bisons to advance to the Canada West finals. The Dinos would have to face the Saskatchewan Huskies, who were the only other team to beat Calgary in the regular season. In the Canada West Finals the Dinos would get the better of the Huskies in a 29-4 win to advance to the U Sports Mitchell Bowl. The Dinos would host the McMaster Marauders, who just one week prior defeated the number one ranked, Western Mustangs in the OUA finals. The Dinos would bend, but would once again refuse to break as they defeated the Marauders 30-14 and punch their ticket to the Quebec City.
Key to the Game
In Canadian football, downs are precious you only get 3, it’s part of what makes the Canadian game so special. Due to this fact, first downs become all the more crucial in the Canadian game. In this weekend’s Vanier Cup, a major key to success for both the Montreal Carabins and the Calgary Dinos will be execution on first down. First down success, I believe, will be the key to a victory in the 55th Vanier Cup. Offensively, execution on first down is paramount, it can mean the difference between a second and manageable or being forced into a punting situation.
Here is an extensive look from the Mitchell Bowl and Uteck Bowl at each teams’ ability to execute on first down:
Calgary Dinos v McMaster Marauders
In last weekend’s Mitchell Bowl, the Dinos averaged 5.94 yards per play on first down against the OUA champion McMaster Marauders. Meaning the Dinos offence was almost always calling snaps with 5 or fewer yards remaining on second down.
When putting the ball in the air on first down, the Dinos averaged 7.57 passing yards. The Dinos have a dynamic receiving corps that benefits tremendously from the incredible arm talent of quarterback Adam Sinagra. The Philpot brothers, Tyson and Jalen headline the group, combining for 6 targets, 5 receptions, and 75 yards on first down.
1st Down Target Share:
T. Philpot: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 27 yards, 9 yards per reception
J. Philpot: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 48 yards, 24 yards per reception
H. Karl: 3 targets, 1 reception, 21 yards
R. Rodrigues: 1 target, 1 reception 5 yards
N. Durkan: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards
When handing the ball off the Dinos averaged a respectable 3.8 yards rushing yards on 20 first down carries. The Dinos have an impressive ground game, highlighted by Robinson Rodrigues who totalled 65 yards on 14 first down carries.
1st Down Rushing Attempts:
R. Rodrigues: 14 carries, 65 yards, 4.6 yards per carry
T. Philpot 2 carries, 14 yards
J. Joseph 1 carry, 1 yard, 1 touchdown
J. Philpot 1 carry, 12 yards
What’s most interesting about the Dinos offence is the use of back-up quarterback, Josiah Joseph. While he is roster designated as a backup quarterback, Joseph plays a crucial role in the Dinos offensive scheme. In the Mitchell Bowl, Joseph entered the game for Calgary as both a passer and a ball carrier. In the Dinos Goal Line package, Joseph both threw and rushed for a touchdown. Joseph also came in as the third and short QB for sneak plays.
Joseph Offensive Usage
1st Down Rushing: 1 carry, 1 yard, 1 touchdown
3rd Down Rushing: 3 carries, 4 yards
3rd Down Passing: 1 attempt, 1 completion, 2 yards, 1 touchdown
While the the Dinos are impressive in the backfield and at receiver, they are as equally impressive inside. The Calgary Dinos have one of the best offensive lines in the country, their size, skill and ability to finish through blocks is what has allowed their offence to become one of the best in country.
Montreal Carabins vs Acadia Axemen
In their Uteck Bowl matchup against the AUS Champion, Acadia Axemen the Montreal Carabins averaged 8.2 yard per play on first down. Against the Axemen the Carabins were able to dominate both on the ground and through the air.
When rushing the football on first down the Carbins averaged 8.46 yards on 28 first down carries. The Carabins runs. Committee style backfield roaring between multiple running backs. 3rd year back, Reda Malki saw the majority of the work load carrying the ball 14 times on first down. Malki averaged 9.7 yards per carry on first down and totaled 137 yards and 1 touchdown.
1st Down Rushing Attempts
R. Malki: 14 carries, 137 yards, 1 touchdown, 9.7 yard average
B. Beaulieu: 6 carries, 47 yards, 7.8 yard average
A. Boulangé: 5 carries, 42 yards, 8.4 yard average
The Carabins attempted 16 passes on first down for an average of 7.75 passing yards. On their 14 passing attempts the the Carabins had 6 incompletions and 1 interception. Despite a high drop percentage, the Carabins do have skilled athletic wide receivers such as, Kevin Kaya and Raphael Major-Dagenais, who accounted for the majority of the Carabins first down passing targets. The pair combined for 10 of the Carabins 16 passing targets
1st Down Target Share
K. Kaya: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 44 yards, 22 yards per reception
R. Major-Dagenais: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 49 yards, 12.3 yards per reception
C. Chabot: 2 targets, 1 reception, 17 yards
Much like with the Dinos, there is another layer to this Montreal Carabins offence. The Carabins used two quarterbacks in the Uteck Bowl. 3rd year transfer quarterback Frederic Paquette-Perrault started the game under centre, taking a total of 31 snaps before being replaced by Dimitri Morand late in the second quarter.
1st Down QB Comparison
F. Paquette-Perrault: 5 drop backs, 3 completions, 22 yards, 7.3 yards per completion
D. Morand: 11 drop backs, 5 completions, 102 yards, 9.2 yards per completion
The strength of the Carabins offence is their ground game. They run the ball well and have a nice mixture of power and athleticism in their backfield rotation. However, with Morand at quarterback Montreal’s offensive efficiency on first down receives a noticeable boost. Morand averages almost 2 more yards per completion than Paquette-Perrault. Expect to see Montreal roll with Morand to start the game.
The 55th Vanier Cup will take place this weekend in Quebec City at Laval Universities Stade Telus. The Calgary Dinos will essentially have a road game by having to travel to an RSEQ conference stadium. This will serve as somewhat of a home game for the Carabins, fans can definitely expect to see a lot of Blue and White in the crowd.
Now … prepared to be shocked, are you ready? Ok, good. Here it is, I’m taking the Calgary Dinos as the 2019 Vanier Cup Champions. Yes, I’m taking the Dinos. Despite everything I just preached about first down efficiency being so important and the efficiency statistics favouring the Carabins, I’m taking the Dinos. You may be scratching your head and asking yourself, why?! The statistics favour the Carabins, yes. However, the Carabins had a weaker opponent in their semi-final game. Not to knock the AUS, the Axemen were a great team and Hunter Guernard is an outstanding Quarterback, but Calgary had a tougher matchup with the OUA Champion McMaster Marauders. The Marauders had to play and defeat the number one ranked team in the nation, the Western Mustangs in order to compete in the Mitchell Bowl. The Dinos will absolutely have a tough task ahead the Carabins have a one of the better defences in the nation. Standouts Marc-Antoine Dequoy and Brian Harlimana headline an uber talented Montreal defence. It will be a close game, but I believe the experience of 2018 Her Creighton winning quarterback, Adam Sinagra and his head coach, Wayne Harris Jr. will help their team lift the Vanier Cup.