Around U Sports: special teams plays power Montreal Carabins past top-ranked Laval

Photo courtesy: Montreal Carabins

Another week of U Sports football action is in the books and three conference leaders got pushed to the brink, with two of them falling in upset losses. The No. 1-ranked Laval Rouge et Or and the No. 3-ranked Saskatchewan Huskies will no longer boast undefeated records in their quest to meet for a Vanier Cup rematch in November, while Alberta and Montreal have staked their claims as true contenders.

Around U Sports is a weekly feature on 3DownNation that takes readers across the country to summarize collegiate football action, highlighting standout performances and tracking possible playoff matchups. It will run for the full season through the Vanier Cup in Kingston, Ont. on Saturday, Nov. 25.

Mount Allison Mounties, 24 — Saint Mary’s Huskies, 10

The previously winless Mounties rode fifth-year running back Brandt Burzuk all the way to an upset victory, as the five-foot-six sparkplug toted the rock a whopping 30 times for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The Huskies struggled to generate any meaningful offensive traction in the face of a front led by Vincenzo Frangione and Denis Robler, with receiver Brycen Mayoh chipping in the team’s lone touchdown as time expired in the first half.

Alberta Golden Bears, 26 — Saskatchewan Huskies, 24

Make no mistake about it, despite the identical records between these teams entering the game, this was a massive upset by the Golden Bears. Running back Matthew Peterson rushed for 176 yards on 16 carries and added five catches for 104 more as Alberta rocketed out to an early 20-0 lead. The Huskies battled back with help from huge interceptions from Katley Joseph and Finn Marcotte-Cribb, the latter of which was returned for six. However, a critical sack from Stampeders’ 2023 draft pick Kwadwo Boahen and former Elks’ free agent signee Riley Szafranski forced a late field goal instead of a touchdown and Saskatchewan couldn’t get the stop they needed in the final minute.

Waterloo Warriors, 20 — Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks, 47

It’s Taylor Elgersma’s world and we’re all just living in it. A week after his six-touchdown, 440-yard performance against Guelph, the third-year pivot ran it back with a 318-yard, five-touchdown clinic in the Battle of Waterloo. Each of those scores was caught by a different receiver while running back Quentin Scott chipped in with 83 yards on the ground and a major of his own. Waterloo quarterback Nick Orr managed a rushing touchdown but couldn’t keep up through the air, eventually giving way to Nolan Kaban who tossed a garbage-time score to Tyler Tierney.

Carleton Ravens, 52 — York Lions, 0

The trials and tribulations of the York Lions continued, as Carleton was up 39-0 by halftime and never faltered. Ravens’ quarterback Tristan Lefebvre threw for 213 yards and three touchdowns, two of which were caught by Hunter Brown, before Elijah Barnes and Tristan Rinaldis got their reps in under centre. Lions’ defensive back Scott Bouwhis was a bright spot in the loss, notching six tackles and the team’s first interception of the year.

Windsor Lancers, 42 — Ottawa Gee-Gees, 31

108 yards rushing and two touchdowns from the Redblacks’ 2023 seventh-round pick Amlicar Polk wasn’t enough for the Gee-Gees to blemish the surging Lancers’ undefeated record. Quarterback Danny Skelton tossed for 286 yards and two scores, while the Windsor secondary held Ryan Licandro under 50 percent for the evening with two interceptions, the second coming from Bombers’ 2023 sixth-round pick Breton MacDougall. Winnipeg’s eighth-round pick, linebacker Max Charbonneau, also had a big night on the losing side, picking up 13 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss for Ottawa.

Guelph Gryphons, 21 — McMaster Marauders, 13

Guelph milked a consistent rushing attack throughout this low-scoring affair, as Donavin Milloy carried 11 times for 106 yards and Marshall McCray powered in a touchdown. First-year quarterback Tristan Aboud delivered the deciding score himself, however, finding Vyshonne Janusas to extend the lead to eight points with 1:06 remaining. Linebacker Jevaun Jacobsen made a serious impression in his Gryphons debut, leading the team with 10 tackles and an interception.

Acadia Axemen, 9 — Bishop’s Gaiters, 40

It was a rough day for the Acadia offence in Lennoxville, as the Gaiters held them to just 166 net yards while collecting five sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Linebacker Gabriel Royer led the unit with 9.5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, and an interception, while defensive back Jet Wilson chipped in two sacks and two forced fumbles. Felix Massicotte and Yani Gouadfael also added interceptions, as receiver Gabin Leux led the Bishop’s offence with six catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.

McGill Redbirds, 24 — Concordia Stingers, 42

Olivier Roy completed just 45.7 percent of his passes but generated 330 yards and three touchdowns to stake Concordia’s claim to third place in the RSEQ. 108 yards receiving for Darius Simmons and another hundred on the ground from quarterback Eloa Latendresse-Regimbald wasn’t enough for McGill, as they trailed the entire ball game. Loik Gagne, William Castonguay, Nicholas Roy, and Isaac Fulham all got into the backfield for the Stingers, combining for four sacks, seven tackles for loss, and two fumble recoveries.

Western Mustangs, 32 — Queen’s Golden Gaels, 27

The Gaels put forth the greatest challenge to Mustang supremacy that the OUA has seen in recent years, but Evan Hillock found Savaughn Magnaye-Jones for a 55-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left to pull out the win. Queen’s QB Alex Vreeken was the more effective passer for much of the day, amassing 358 yards and a touchdown, but will be haunted by a pair of red zone interceptions, one of which was returned 95 yards for a score by Western’s Jackson Findlay. As always, Keon Edwards was a work-horse on the ground for the Mustangs, carrying 18 times for 133 yards.

Calgary Dinos, 15 — Regina Rams, 23

Rams’ running back Marshall Erichsen rushed for 122 yards in this battle of Canada West basement-dwellers, but it was linebacker/fullback Brayden Wagg who got the ball at the goal line to pound in two pivotal fourth-quarter touchdowns for the win. The fifth-year man also added 4.5 tackles on defence, while fellow linebacker and Redblacks’ 2023 third-round draft pick Josh White had 5.5 and recovered a Xavier Vaillancourt fumble to set up the final touchdown. For the Dinos, second-year receiver Gob Deng continued to be a bright spot with three catches for 91 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown to end the first quarter.

Manitoba Bisons, 10 — UBC Thunderbirds, 56

With starting quarterback Jackson Tachinski out due to injury, the Bisons got slobber-knocked by the best team out west. Star UBC running back Isaiah Knight rattled off 135 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries, while the Texas quarterbacking duo of Garrett Rooker and Derek Engel combined for 389 passing yards and four touchdowns. Receivers Sam Davenport and Jason Soriano both made big plays through the air in the blowout and halfback Max Kennedy contributed two interceptions to shut down Manitoba’s Sawyer Thiessen-led offence.

Montreal Carabins, 31 — Laval Rouge et Or, 14

The most heated rivalry game in all of Canadian university sports ended with the reigning Vanier Cup champions getting knocked off their pedestal as the number one team in the country. Montreal scored 19 points unanswered in the fourth quarter, beginning with a conceded by Laval safety to tie the game. The ensuing frame featured a pick-six from Guillaume Perrier, a fumbled punt return by Olivier Cool that led to Philippe Boyer’s fifth field goal of the day, and a kickoff recovered by the Carabins at the Laval nine-yard line which resulted in a Natan Girouard-Langlois touchdown. Quarterback Jonathan Senecal struggled through the air but rushed for a game-high 129 yards, while the Montreal defence shut down Hec Crighton winner Kevin Mital and picked off the normally accurate Arnaud Desjardins three times, including two from Elks’ 2023 seventh-round pick Bruno Lagace.

The Toronto Varsity Blues (OUA), Sherbrooke Vert et Or (RSEQ), and St. FX X-Men (AUS) were on a bye this past week.

U Sports standings

Canada West (CW)

No. 8 UBC Thunderbirds 3-0
Alberta Golden Bears 3-0
No. 3 Saskatchewan Huskies 2-1
Regina Rams 1-2
Calgary Dinos 0-3
Manitoba Bisons 0-3

Ontario University Athletics (OUA)

No. 2 Western Mustangs 4-0
No. 9 Windsor Lancers 4-0
No. 6 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks 4-0

No. 10 Ottawa Gee-Gees 2-1
Guelph Gryphons 2-2
McMaster Marauders 1-3
Carleton Ravens 1-2
No. 7 Queen’s Golden Gaels 1-2
Waterloo Warriors 1-3
Toronto Varsity Blues 0-3
York Lions 0-4

Réseau du Sport Etudiant (RSEQ)

No. 4 Montreal Carabins 3-0
No. 1 Laval Rouge et Or 2-1
Concordia Stingers 2-1
McGill Redbirds 1-3
Sherbrooke Vert et Or 0-3

Atlantic University Sport (AUS)

No. 5 St. FX X-Men 3-0
Bishop’s Gaiters 2-1
Acadia Axemen 1-3
Mount Allison Mounties 1-2
Saint Mary’s Huskies 1-2

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.