Wide receivers stole the show in Laval’s Vanier Cup win over Saskatchewan

When the Laval Rouge et Or defeated the Saskatchewan Huskies 30-24 in the Canada Life Vanier Cup on Saturday, it lived up to the hype generated by two top-flight offenses coming against each other.

In a game that featured the only two U Sports offenses to average more than 300 passing yards per game in the 2022 season, the two behemoths certainly didn’t disappoint.

Any idea that 22 km/h winds at Western Alumni Stadium in London, Ont., would hamper either quarterback’s ability to throw the ball in the air was immediately crushed.

Laval’s Arnaud Desjardins completed 27 of 36 passes for Laval, throwing for 397 yards and taking no sacks, while Saskatchewan’s Mason Nyhus was just as good, going 34 of 43 for 344 yards and three touchdowns and just one interception. the only turnover in the game.

Both teams’ combined 742 passing yards ranks fifth in Vanier Cup history.

« I think we played a tough game and so did they, » Huskies receiver Rhett Vavra told The Canadian Press after the game. « They just made one game more than us. »

WATCH | Mital helps Laval defeat Saskatchewan to win the Vanier Cup:

Laval defeats Saskatchewan to win the Vanier Cup

The Rouge et Or defeated the Huskies 30-24 to win their 1st Vanier Cup since 2018 and 11th overall.

It was no secret that going into the game, Laval’s Kevin Mital — who on Thursday received the Hec Crighton Trophy as Canada’s top college football player — was the star of the receiving corps of one either team after a team-high 12 touchdowns in the regular season.

« The whole time you watch him play, it’s just the smoothness and nuance he has with his runs, and his understanding of how to get to the open space, » the assistant coach said. of Saskatchewan, Yol Piok. « It’s absolutely amazing. »

It was surprising, however, that the second-year player from Saint-Hubert, Que., was as effective as he was, battling an apparent injury for most of the game.

Mital, 23, initially showed signs of discomfort after a 48-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter, and limped to his feet after being knocked down awkwardly midway through the third quarter.

The receiver ultimately wouldn’t be denied, racking up eight catches for 142 yards — his second-highest total of the season — and throwing the game-clinching touchdown out of the wild formation in the final frame.

« He brings the best of our players but also of our coaches to perform, » said Laval head coach Glen Constantin. « He’s a special guy. He’s a generational talent for us and he’s probably the best receiver we’ve ever had. »

Antoine Dansereau-Leclerc of Longueuil, Que., also eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the victory, while Montreal’s Edouard Arsenault added 65 yards for Laval’s receiving trio.

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The Huskies have posted the best passing offense in U Sports this season. Piok — who caught passes from Nyhus as recently as 2021 before transitioning into a coaching role after his fifth year — knows the Saskatchewan reception hall better than anyone.

« You look at the four dogs [on Saskatchewan] and it’s kinda the same [to what Laval has with Mital] », said Piok. « They all have their own tools that make them great. When they all work together on a seamless system, it’s absolutely amazing. »

The Huskies’ top four receivers all showed their abilities on Saturday, perhaps none more notable than Vavra native Swift Current, Sask., who finished with six catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, as well as a 35-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.

« Vavra is an absolute speedster, » said Piok. « He can go up and get a hold against almost anyone in the country. »

Calgary’s Daniel Perry was the main reason the Huskies got off to a good start, getting 81 of 85 receiving yards in the first half, largely helped by Laval’s defense stretching on a road in faded for 41 yards, Nyhus’ longest completion of the day. .

« Perry is a first-team Canadian star for a reason, » Piok said. « He showed it again [in the Vanier Cup]. »

The Huskies offense was at its best when Perry was at its best.

Supported by two long runs from running backs Ted Kubongo and Ryker Frank, Nyhus managed to separate the Rouge et Or defense through play and was an immaculate 17-for-21 total in the first half before the Laval defense began to adjusting, shortening Saskatchewan drives in the third quarter and manages more clock.

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Saskatoon’s Caleb Morin was Nyhus’ preferred option on Saturday with seven catches and 97 receiving yards, including 55 in the final quarter.

« Morin has this ability to get sneaky and find space, and once you need him to be a dog and get those extra few yards, he’s there for it, » Piok said.

Saskatoon’s Daniel Wiebe was fourth among Huskies receivers in receptions and yards both on the season and in the Vanier Cup, but scored a touchdown on an oblique to bring the game within a point with five minutes to go.

« Wiebe’s ability to block is magnificent, » Piok said. « He’s easily one of the best receiving blockers I’ve personally had the pleasure of coaching and seeing. »

Laval and Mital will enter the record books for finally winning the battle against a No. 8-ranked Huskies secondary, but the 57th Vanier Cup is perhaps best known for its two power attacks that clashed on the bigger stage. .

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