Gabriel Cousineau passed for 421 yards, with a pair of touchdown tosses to Mikhail Davidson, as the Carabins downed the underdog Manitoba Bisons 29-26 in the Uteck Bowl before a boisterous sellout crowd of 5,100 at CEPSUM stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Cousineau also ran in a TD while Louis-Philippe Simoneau had a field goal and the defence forced two safeties.
Montreal will play in its first Canadian Inter-university Sport national final, the Vanier Cup game, next Saturday at Percival Molson Stadium against the winner of the Mitchell Bowl between McMaster and Mount Allison.
"There was so much noise," said Cousineau, the fourth-year quarterback who was named player of the game. "We were so proud to play in front of our fans."
Jordan Yantz threw a pair of TD passes to Matt Sawyer and ran one in himself for Manitoba. Ryan Jones added a field goal. The Bisons had three interceptions to give them 12 in three post-season games.
And the Bisons, who went 4-4 in the regular season but then upset the Saskatchewan Huskies and Calgary Dinos to win the Canada West conference, threw a major scare into Montreal on their final drive.
Trailing 29-24, Yantz completed passes on five straight plays to get the ball to the Montreal 12 with less than a minute to play. But the Carabins defence tightened up, taking away the short side plays Yantz had been using at will.
And then Anthony Coady forced Yantz to fumble and Byron Archambault grabbed the ball to end the threat. Montreal conceded a safety on the final play to make it 29-26.
"Mental toughness," Montreal coach Danny Maciocia said of the final stand. "Probably the teams I've coached here in the past may have succumbed to that pressure down the stretch, but this one never stopped believing. They got in there and got it done."
It was a heartbreaker for Yantz.
"I thought it was right there," he said. "I was ready to throw the ball and someone hit me from behind and it fell out of my hand.
"I saw Nic (Demski) in the end zone. It was a perfect play call. It just didn't go our way. It hurts to lose, but we came here and we had a good season. Congrats to Montreal."
Yantz completed 22 of 35 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, and also rushed for 61 yards.
Cousineau was 24 for 35 for a team record 421 and two TDs.
Three Manitoba receivers had 80 or more receiving yards: Dustin Peterson, Zach Regert and Sawyer. Montreal's Davidson caught five balls for 142 yards while Philip Enchill grabbed four for 108.
Bisons coach Brian Dobie tipped his hat to both quarterbacks.
"I thought the two quarterbacks were by far the two best players on the field," said Dobie. "Gabriel Cousineau had an incredible game. He just kept making throws. He's got champion written all over him.
"Jordan Yantz was money. He was so good. It was a game of quarterbacks and they both put their teams in position to win the game."
Cousineau was sacked on the first play from scrimmage, but on the next found Davidson behind the defence for an 89-yard touchdown.
The Carabins picked up a single on the ensuing kickoff, but Yantz marched Manitoba back on a nine-play drive capped by an eight-yard TD pass to Sawyer.
Montreal answered with Cousineau's 14 yard TD pass to Davidson and a 40-yard Louis-Philippe Simoneau field goal.
A Mitchell Harrison interception put the ball on the Montreal 41 and, three plays later, Yantz hit Sawyer with a 30-yard TD toss 2:22 into the second quarter.
Ryan Jones left a 49-yard field goal attempt short and Cousineau responded by completing three long tosses to the Manitoba six. Then he ran it in himself on a draw at 12:12.
But the Bisons weren't done, as Yantz scored on a 10-yard scramble with at 14:15 to close the gap to 27-21 at halftime.
The Carabins picked up their second safety of the day for the only third quarter scoring as the game turned into a defensive struggle in the second half.
"They adjusted in the second half," said Cousineau. "They got us out of our game plan a bit, but once again, our defence was amazing."
A late drive set up Regert's 40-yard boot with 2:12 left to play. The receiver and punter had limped off the field favouring his right knee after making a catch over the middle in the second quarter, but he returned in the second half.
The Carabins have won 10 games in a row since dropping their regular-season opener. They claimed a first Quebec Conference title last week with a second victory in a three-week span against the top-ranked Laval Rouge et Or.
Maciocia was not pleased that Yantz was able to dance away from the pass rush all afternoon and said it may have been because the Carabins practised indoors most of the week due to bad weather.
"We weren't able to be as physical as we wanted," he said. "That's something we want to address because we have to be a better tackling team if we have any aspirations of winning next week."
Still, he was ecstatic with the victory and was mobbed by the family, including his three daughters, on the field after the game.
"I had the good fortune to win two Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos (as offensive co-ordinator in 2003 and as head coach in 2005)," said Maciocia. "I'm a proud Montrealer and Quebecer and I've always said if there's a way I can win a championship in Montreal, it would rank up there with those Grey Cups."Suggest a correction