SPORTS

Laval fears overconfidence "trap" in Uteck Bowl vs underdog Mounties

11/14/2013 05:25 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
Glen Constantin wants the Laval Rouge et Or to be wary of the trap of overconfidence at the Uteck Bowl.

The defending Vanier Cup champion Rouge et Or will be the heavy favourites when they face the unranked Mount Allison Mounties in a national semifinal game on Saturday at MacAulay Field in Sackville, N.B.

No. 2-ranked Laval is coming off a nervy 14-11 win over No. 7 Montreal for its 11th straight Quebec conference title. If they beat Mount Allison, they will play for the Vanier Cup at home on Nov. 23.

"It's being built up that we're overwhelming favourites," Constantin said Thursday. "It's based on the size of the school, the history of the football program, but we have to be careful not to read our press clippings.

"If there's a trap game, this is it. We had an emotional game against Montreal and we can't fall into that trap."

No. 1 Western plays No. 3 Calgary in the other semifinal, the Mitchell Bowl.

Laval (10-0) brings an impressive football machine to Mount Allison (6-4), but anything can happen in a one-game playoff, especially on the Mounties' natural grass home field.

"Everybody is aware of the tradition of Laval football and the strength of their program, so making sure the players take their opponent seriously is a non-issue," said Mount Allison coach Kelly Jeffrey.

Mount Allison reached the semifinals for the first time since 1997, back when Eric Lapointe was setting national rushing records, despite a miserable start to the campaign.

At mid-season, the Mounties were 1-4, having lost 40-9 to Acadia and 30-9 to St. Francis Xavier. They were also beaten 48-17 in their one game against a Quebec side, the McGill Redmen, who Laval beat regularly.

But Jeffrey's side rallied to finish 4-4 in the Atlantic conference. They came back to edge Saint Mary's 20-17 in Halifax in the conference championship.

He said inconsistency hurt the squad early in the season. When the defence would play well, the offence struggled, and vice versa.

"At the halfway point, we just played more consistent football," he said. "We had fewer turnovers and mistakes and big plays against us. And here we are."

The Mounties' attack is build around five-foot-10 running back Jordan Botel, the conference's most valuable player. The Prince George, B.C., native led Canadian universities in carries with 170 this season, or 21.3 per game.

He'll be up against the country's top defence. Laval allowed opponents only 11.5 points per game and were No. 1 against the run, conceding 75.8 yards per game.

"Botel's good, but what they do well is play the numbers game," said Constantin, who has a 126-24 record since taking over as head coach in 2001. "If you play a seven-man box, they'll pass. If you play coverage, they'll run the ball.

"But if we can make this a one-dimensional game, it will help."

The Mounties, led by quarterback Brandon Leyh, were second-last in the country in passing this season.

The Rouge et Or amassed 34.1 points per game this season without any individual standouts on offence. They did not have a receiver in the top 50 in the country, for instance.

Their running game was by committee, although Guillaume Bourassa tore through the Montreal Carabins defence to help preserve the win late in the Quebec final.

A year ago, Laval trounced Acadia 42-7 at home in the Uteck Bowl before topping McMaster 37-14 for a record seventh Vanier Cup title.

They came close to winning in 2011 as well, dropping a 41-38 decision in double overtime to McMaster in the championship game.

They'll be on unfamiliar turf at Mount Allison against a team with nothing to lose.

Jeffery hopes that will be an advantage.

"We'll see," he said. "Being on our home field with the same routines is a positive.

"We haven't been in this situation for a long time, so it is a plus to have our fans and to play in the comfort of home."

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