Senecal, stout defence lead Carabins to 16-9 Vanier Cup win over UBC

UBC falls in Vanier Cup

Jonathan Senecal and a stout Montreal Carabins defence proved too much for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds on Saturday afternoon.

Senecal's second-half touchdown led Montreal to a hard-fought 16-9 Vanier Cup win over a game Thunderbirds squad. The Carabins' defence didn't surrender a touchdown and finished the season allowing just seven field goals in their four playoff victories.

"We were confident coming in with the way our defence was playing," said Montreal head coach Marco Iadeluca. "When your defence plays that kind of football, going into any game you have to feel comfortable.

"And then we have number 12 (Senecal) at quarterback, which is just spectacular."

Seneca was awarded the Hec Crighton Trophy on Thursday as Canadian university football's most outstanding player. He added Vanier Cup MVP honours after completing 11-of-26 passes for 171 yards and an interception, as well as a team-high 50 yards rushing on 10 carries with the TD.

Senecal's seven-yard touchdown run at 8:47 of the third put Montreal ahead 16-6. The drive followed Kieran Flannery-Fleck's 14-yard punt that gave the Carabins possession at their 38-yard line.

"This is what we wanted," Senecal said. "We worked hard for 16 weeks and were able to come out on top, it's just a great feeling.

"Our defence is the best in the country and they just prove that week after week. They just make everything easier."

Montreal linebacker Nicky Farinaccio earned top defensive player honours.

UBC made it very interesting, pulling to within 16-9 on Kieran Flannery-Fleck's 24-yard field goal at 9:48 of the fourth. The Thunderbirds marched from their 51-yard line to the Montreal 16-yard line before settling for three points.

Later, UBC drove to the Montreal 33-yard line before Garrett Rooker's pass on third-and-four fell incomplete with just over two minutes to play. After their defence held, the Thunderbirds took over at their own 35 with 1:30 remaining, but Rooker's pass on third-and-four gave the Carabins possession at the UBC 41 with 1:02 to play.

That led to a Philippe Boyer punt, which gave UBC a final possession at its 18-yard line with 3.8 seconds to play. Rooker completed his pass to Jason Soriano, but he was tackled short of centre field.

"We knew going in we had to be able to move the ball and score some points and we just weren't able to," said UBC head coach Blake Nill. "We moved the ball at times but I thought we had a couple of situations where you'd like to have back but that's the way the game is played.

"Montreal is a very good football team. We're a good team too, we just didn't make enough plays."

Coach Iadeluca had nothing but praise for the Thunderbirds.

"That was the toughest team we played all year," he said. "They were resilient on offence, very athletic on defence.

"But I am so proud of this football team. They work hard, they're disciplined, they wanted this from day one and kept their eye on the prize the whole time."

Rooker finished 26-of-40 passing for 278 yards before an energetic Richardson Stadium gathering of 7,100 on a cool, breezy, overcast afternoon. Isaiah Knight ran for a game-high 73 yards on 15 carries.

Montreal's defence also came up big early in the fourth, stopping Knight cold on third-and-two at the Carabins' 53-yard line to protect their 10-point lead.

These two teams met in the 2015 Vanier Cup, which UBC won 26-23 in Quebec City. The Thunderbirds made their seventh appearance overall, having won four times, while Montreal was in the title game for a fourth occasion, also winning in 2014.

UBC held the edge in total offence with 345 yards to 323 for Montreal, but the Carabins dominated the rushing game with 163 yards to 84 for the Thunderbirds.

With the Carabins' win, Montreal becomes the first city since 1980 to boast Vanier Cup and Grey Cup champions in the same year. Last week, the Alouettes upset the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 28-24 in Hamilton to secure the franchise's first CFL title since 2010.

Edmonton last claimed the Vanier Cup-Grey Cup double title 43 years ago.

Iraghi Muganda had Montreal's other touchdown. Boyer booted the converts while the other points came on a safety.

Flannery-Fleck finished with three field goals for UBC.

Flannery-Fleck's 41-yard field goal at 14:09 of the second quarter cut Montreal's half-time lead to 9-6. The Carabins threatened to extend their advantage with Carl Chabot taking Senecal's third-and-four completion to the UBC six-yard line on the quarter's final play.

It appeared Chabot had room to maybe get out of bounds, stop the clock and give Montreal a final opportunity to at least try a short field goal. Then again, UBC made an interesting decision to decline a holding penalty against the Carabins that gave them their third-and-four situation instead of second and long.

UBC mounted a promising drive from its 23-yard line but it ended with Knight's fumble that the Carabins recovered at their own 39 with 6:02 left in the quarter.

Flannery-Fleck put UBC on the scoreboard with a 32-yard field goal at 4:01.

Muganda's 18-yard TD run at 12:17 of the first put Montreal ahead 9-0. The Carabins went ahead 2-0 at 7:10 when Flannery Fleck conceded the safety.

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