Rouge et Or quarterback Hugo Richard ended his university football career in style on Saturday, leading his Laval Rouge et Or to a 34-20 victory over the Western Mustangs in the 54th Vanier Cup.
Laval extracted a measure of revenge against the No. 1-ranked Mustangs, who beat the Rouge et Or 39-17 in last year’s national football championship in Hamilton.
This time, in near-ideal November football weather, Richard thrilled the 12,380 hometown fans by completing 23-of-31 pass attempts for 348 yards and two touchdowns.
The fifth-year QB also ran for 60 yards and a score.
Laval has won 10 Vanier Cups in the 26-year history of the program. Western was hoping to add an eighth title and extend its 23-game undefeated streak.
This was the third time Laval and Western have met in the Vanier Cup. The Rouge et Or won the first match-up in 2008.
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Western QB Chris Merchant completed 26-of-46 passes for 358 yards and one touchdown but was intercepted three times.
Laval led 10-0 after the first quarter and was up 17-13 at the half before shutting out Western’s offence until the 10-minute mark of the fourth.
Merchant hit Cole Majoros with a 25-yard touchdown with two minutes left to cut the deficit to 14. But the comeback attempt was emphatically halted when a Hail Mary pass from Merchant was intercepted in the final minute.
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Laval had gone up 34-13 when Alexis Cote plunged over the goal-line with just over five minutes left.
The Rouge et Or struck a minute into the game, with Richard hitting receiver Vincent Forbes-Mombleau with a 46-yard pass in the end zone. Merchant also got off to good start with a 26-yard completion to Majoros, but was intercepted by Laval’s Maxym Lavallée with a 31-yard return. Laval’s David Côté notched a field goal on the subsequent drive.
The second quarter started with Western encroaching on the Laval zone on a 10-yard run by Cedric Joseph. Two completions by Merchant put the Mustangs on the goal line and Joseph strolled into the end zone untouched.
Richard threw a 27-yard pass to Jonathan Breton to gain position on the next drive, then hit Benoit Gagnon-Brousseau with a 22-yard for a score to go up 17-7. Western took over deep in its own zone, gambling on third and inches to prolong the drive before kicker Marc Liegghio then nailed a 36-yard field goal.
Liegghio kicked an 18-yard field goal with one second remaining in the first half, to leave the score 17-13.
Western’s opening drive of the second half sputtered after a loss and incomplete pass. Richard then advanced Laval with his own 11-yard run and charged in for a TD on the next play for a 24-13 lead.
Western botched a chance to shorten the Laval lead late in the third quarter when the Rouge et Or knocked down a field-goal attempt.