SAINTE-FOY, QUE – The No. 5 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks had their season end at the hands of the No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or on Saturday afternoon as they fell 36-6 in the Uteck Bowl at Stade Telus.
Competing in the national semifinals for the first time since 2005, the Hawks struggled in the opening half in front of over 13,000 fans as Laval roared out to a 29-0 lead. While the Hawks were able to improve their play in the second half, the deficit proved to be too great against a tough Laval defence that prevented another comeback by the purple and gold.
“Obviously we thought we would have executed better,” commented head coach Michael Faulds after the loss. “Laval played outstanding, and Hugo Richard, his ability to run the ball early in the game was very effective. And we just couldn’t get enough first downs to keep their offence off the field so we needed to do better on both sides.”
Riding a perfect 6-0 record in bowl games on home turf, the Rouge et Or came out with a purpose in the opening quarter. Led by quarterback Hugo Richard of Longueuil, Que., Laval scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to take a 14-0 lead after the opening quarter.
First, Richard engineered a 10-play, 100-yard drive, capped off by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Felix Faubert-Lussier of Montreal, to give the Rouge et Or a 7-0 lead. On their next drive, Richard found Jonathan Breton Robert of Saint-Anselme, Que., for a six-yard major, extending the home team’s lead to 14.
The lead for the Rouge et Or grew in the second quarter thanks to a pair of field goals from Faubert-Lussier, a conceded safety and a three-yard touchdown run from Sebastian Serre of Quebec, Que., as Laval held a 29-0 advantage at halftime.
Facing another large second half deficit, the Hawks picked up their play to open the third quarter. The defence forced a pair of two-and-outs to begin the quarter while the offence began to find their legs. However, Laurier’s most promising drive of the day was cut short of finding the scoreboard as Osayin Iginuan of Hamilton, was stripped inside Laval’s 10-yard line.
Two possessions later, Laval found the endzone once again as Richard scored on a two-yard run to make the score 36-0.
Laurier continued to battle in the fourth quarter as the defence pitched a shutout, holding the hosts off the scoreboard for the final 15 minutes.
On offence, the Hawks went for broke as they tried to break the shutout. Inside the final minute, facing third and two, quarterback Michael Knevel of Brantford, Ont., connected with Brentyn Hall of Toronto, on a 26-yard touchdown to get Laurier on the scoreboard.
After the ensuing two-point conversion failed, Laurier was successful in recovering an on-side kick but they were unable to add to their total as they saw their season come to an end.
“This being the first time we’ve faced Laval, first time we’ve faced a Quebec team in a real game, it definitely was a great experience for us,” said defensive lineman Kwaku Boateng of Milton, Ont., on what the Hawks will learn from the game. “We have video evidence now to take back home and learn from.”
For Laval, Richard finished the afternoon completing 16-of-24 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 82 yards and a major on seven attempts.
Faubert-Lussier took home game MVP honours for the Rouge et Or as the receiver had four catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Also handling kicking duties, he connected on two of his three attempts and four extra points to account for 16 of Laval’s points.
As for Laurier, Knevel attempted a career-high 45 passes, completing 21 for 174 yards and a touchdown while throwing an interception on the final play of the game.
His favourite target on the day was Kurleigh Gittens Jr. of Ottawa, who had a game-high nine catches for 52 yards while Hall finished with a team-high 73 receiving yards.
Defensively, Brandon Calver of London, Ont., had a strong performance for the Hawks as he had 5.5 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.
Laval’s top defensive player was Adam Auclair of Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que., as he posted a game-high seven tackles along with a forced fumble.
NOTES: Laurier’s all-time record in bowl games falls to 4-5, including 3-3 in the Uteck Bowl…the Hawks are now 0-2 against Laval, losing both contests in the Uteck Bowl…Laurier finishes the year with a 9-2 overall record