CALGARY - Bruno Prud'homme didn't get rattled when his errant pass was picked off and returned for a touchdown on Laval's first drive of the game.
Instead, the fifth-year quarterback regained his composure and led his team to the brink of a second straight Vanier Cup championship.
Prud'homme completed 15 of 24 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rouge et Or to a 41-10 win over the Calgary Dinos in the Mitchell Bowl on Friday.
"I knew that the guys were still confident with me," Prud'homme said. "That was important for me because that wasn’t the start we wanted. That was all my fault. I threw a bad ball, but I bounced back and kept going for the rest of the game."
Prud'homme tossed TD passes to Julian Feoli-Gudino and Guillaume Rioux, while Sebastien Levesque ran for another as the Rouge et Or broke the game open in the second quarter with 24 points.
"He's a great game manager," said Laval coach Glen Constantin of Prud'homme. "He doesn't get ruffled. He’s a fifth year quarterback and he’s good around the big games."
Jeremie Chretien also recovered a fumble in the Calgary end zone, while Christopher Lavaud recovered a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown. Boris Bede kicked a pair of field goals for Laval.
Earlier in the evening, the fourth-ranked McMaster Marauders downed the No. 7 Acadia Axemen 45-21 in the Uteck Bowl in Moncton.
The top-ranked Rouge et Or will now face the Marauders in the 47th Vanier Cup next Friday, Nov. 24 at BC Place in Vancouver.
"They're very good, very well-coached team," Constantin said. "We're going to have our hands full."
Laval will be going for its record seventh Vanier Cup championship. The Rouge et Or are currently tied with the Western Mustangs at six titles each.
Tye Noble had an interception return for a touchdown for the No. 2 ranked Dinos, who were attempting to advance to their third straight Vanier Cup. Johnny Mark also kicked a field goal for Calgary.
"It’s tough," said Calgary coach Blake Nill. "We played so well in the first quarter. We knew it was going to be a tight game. We just made mistakes that were uncharacteristic of this team. Offensively we just couldn’t get it going."
The Dinos jumped out to a 7-0 lead at 3:47 of the first quarter when Noble picked off an errant pass by Prud’homme and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown.
After Bede kicked a 37-yard field goal for Laval, Mark kicked one through the uprights from 17 yards out to give Calgary a 10-3 lead through one quarter of play.
Prud'homme then led the Rouge et Or on an eight-play, 70-yard drive that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Feoli-Gudino in the back of the end zone.
Calgary's Adam Ballingall fumbled the ball on the ensuing kickoff return and Laval's Frederic Plesius recovered it giving the Rouge et Or excellent field position at the Calgary 14-yard line.
"I had to make a big play at a critical moment," Plesius said. "We didn't come here to fall down short. We're going to go all the way. We're taking on McMaster next week and hopefully we’re going to have a big win."
Three plays later, Prud'homme threw a nine-yard strike to Rioux in the end zone.
Bede then kicked a 25-yard field goal before Levesque scampered for a 35-yard touchdown to give Laval a 27-10 halftime lead.
The mistakes continued for the Dinos in the third quarter as Chris Dobko fielded the kickoff and ran out to the one-yard line before retreating back into end zone, where he fumbled the ball. Chretien pounced on the loose ball for an easy touchdown.
"You cannot expect to beat this team making the amount of mistakes we did today," Nill said.
Lavaud rounded out the scoring in the fourth quarter when he recovered a fumble by Calgary’s Kevan Hafichuk and ran it back for a 26-yard touchdown.
"Tonight wasn't out night," lamented Calgary quarterback Eric Dzwilewski, who went 9-for-24 for 98 yards through the air and added a team-high 77 rushing yards on seven carries. "It sucks. We had a good game plan and just didn’t execute it. They just outplayed us."
Notes: This was the third time in four years that the Dinos and Rouge et Or played each other in post-season action. Laval beat Calgary 29-2 in last year’s Vanier Cup in Quebec City and also downed the Dinos 59-10 at home in the 2008 Uteck Bowl. … This was the furthest west Laval has ever travelled to play a game, although the Rouge et Or will top that next Friday when they play in Vancouver. … A sparse crowd of 1,524 fans braved the chilly conditions at McMahon Stadium. Temperature at the opening kickoff was -18 C. … The Mitchell Bowl is named after Calgary’s Doug Mitchell, the national co-chair of Borden Ladner Gervais. It was the second straight year that the Dinos hosted the national semifinal.