Facing an early 14-point deficit, it looked like the McMaster Marauders' trip to the Vanier Cup would once again hit a roadblock.
Quarterback Kyle Quinlan and the Marauders offence made sure that didn't happen.
Quinlan threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for another, and the Marauders advanced to the Vanier Cup for the first time in more than four decades after downing the Acadia Axemen 45-21 to win the Uteck Bowl on Friday.
It was McMaster's first bowl win since the Marauders took the inaugural Atlantic Bowl in 1967.
It's a welcome change for the Marauders, who dropped four straight national semifinals, losing in the final four every season from 2000 to 2003.
Receiver Matt Peressini said it's a great feeling to put that behind them.
“There's a lot of us senior guys who never even made it to a Yates Cup, never mind the Vanier Cup,” said Peressini, who started the Marauders' comeback by running in a touchdown in the first quarter. “This is just a special feeling right now and I'm so proud of these guys.”
Axemen coach Jeff Cummins said his team started off strong, but McMaster made the right adjustments — both offensively and defensively.
“We didn't get the stops when we needed to and got a couple of costly penalties and before you knew it they were up 31-14 on us,” he said. “We let it get away from us and obviously it is very frustrating to end the season the way we did.”
Acadia struck quickly, opening a two-touchdown lead on a 17-yard run by Zack Skibin and a 21-yard reception by A.J. Durling. But McMaster responded with 31 unanswered points to take a 31-14 lead at the half.
Quinlan later said he knew the Marauders had no choice but to battle hard after falling behind early.
“This is a great Acadia team,” he said. “We knew that coming in and they jumped all over us to start off, so we just had to battle back.”
Quinlan threw for 267 yards and had three touchdown passes by halftime, including a 75 yard pass to Bradley Fochesato. It was the first of Fochesato's two touchdowns in the first half.
Robert Babic had the other touchdown, hauling in an eight-yard pass.
It was late in the third quarter before the Marauders scored again. Quinlan — unable to find an open receiver — saw an open route through the middle and ran in 14 yards for a touchdown extending his team's lead to 38-14.
The Axemen managed to narrow the lead to 38-21 just as the third quarter ended. Kyle Graves completed a 19-yard pass to Michael Squires for a touchdown.
However a 14 yard touchdown rush by McMaster's Joey Nemet 12:46 left on the clock capped the scoring.
The game was the first time the two teams had met in the post season, and the first time a CIS football semifinal was played in New Brunswick.
It was announced last year that the 2011, 2013 and 2015 Uteck Bowl games would be held in Moncton.
Ticket sales got off to a slow start for this year's match but there were 3,726 spectators in the stands, despite the weather. It was -2 degrees and windy at kick-off.
The Marauders came into the game on the heels of a 41-19 win over Western in the Yates Cup final, while the Axemen captured the Loney Bowl final with an impressive 39-20 victory over defending four-time league champions Saint Mary's Huskies.
McMaster now plays the Laval Rouge et Or, winner of the Mitchell Bowl, for the 47th Vanier Cup on Friday, Nov. 25 at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
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