McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek thinks the crowd will help his team Friday.TORONTO—Friday night's Vanier Cup clash (7:30 p.m. Eastern, TSN, live chat here) sets up as a perfect matchup between the two sides that gave us last year's remarkable Vanier, a 41-38 McMaster Marauders' win over the Laval Rouge et Or in double overtime. However, things have changed dramatically since then. One notable difference is that while last year's clash was at a relatively neutral site in Vancouver, this game's proximity to Hamilton may give McMaster an edge in support. Marauders' head coach Stefan Ptaszek said Thursday that he expects a lot of McMaster partisans in the stands.
"Our campus being 45 minutes from the stadium, I suspect there will be a few jerseys in maroon," he said. "Our kids will love the support. We need the 13th man."
Beyond just the home-field advantage, though, Ptaszek said the Marauders feel they've proven themselves with both last year's Vanier win and this year's perfect season to date. He said their accomplishments this year match up with that of the Rouge et Or.
"We're not as massive an underdog."
Indeed, The CIS Blog stat guru Rob Pettapiece has the Marauders favoured by 11.5 points in this one given their year-long CIS dominance. However, Laval's no pushover. The Rouge et Or haven't picked up as many blowout wins this season, but they've still been impressive, and their historic record of success could be intimidating. Ptaszek said the arauders are more prepared as to what to expect from Laval now, though.
"We've now seen each other," he said. "We know each other a lot."
The Marauders' ace in the hole could be quarterback Kyle Quinlan, who was given the Hec Crighton Trophy as the CIS player of the year Thursday. Ptaszek said Quinlan's skill and composure under pressure may give McMaster an edge.
"I think Kyle Quinlan's one of the best players who's ever played CIS football," Ptaszek said. "That's a nice trump card to have when you're trying to win a football game, especially as he's always played his best games on the biggest stages."
Ptaszek said he thinks Quinlan has the skill to play in the CFL, but if he gets a real shot may depend on if the CFL changes its roster rule.
"It's a shame that right now the rule does not include quarterbacks," Ptaszek said. "Every other position, Canadian content counts. Quarterback, not so much."
Still, regardless of what Quinlan does at the next level, he's been a key component in McMaster's rise from a school that had never won a Vanier and hadn't appeared in a title game since 1967 to a school that's appearing in its second-straight Vanier and is doing so as the defending champion. They've had other advantages along the way, but Quinlan has been huge for them. So too has Ptaszek, who's done a masterful job since taking over the program in 2006. However, he puts much of the credit on the shoulders of former Mac coach (and current Western coach) Greg Marshall, who led the Marauders to four straight Yates Cup titles as Ontario champions from 2000-2003.
"I think Greg Marshall put the McMaster Marauders on the national scene in the early 2000s with his four straight provincial titles," Ptaszek said. "So many kids from those years went to the CFL. There have been some growing issues, some transition issues, but the infrastructure he laid, we've been able to build on, and here we are in our second national title game."