MONTREAL — The University of Montreal Carabins have a knack for blocking field goals.
The Carabins used their strong special-teams play to beat the McMaster Marauders in the Vanier Cup game last year and did it again to upset the Laval Rouge et Or and win the Quebec Conference for a second straight year last Saturday.
"Whenever a team lines up for a field goal we look at each other and think, 'We need to block this one because if we don't, we know what's going to happen,'" defensive back Maiko Zepeda said Tuesday. "All of our team is on the sidelines sending out positive vibes for us and I think that's something that made a difference."
The Carabins would rather it didn't come down to blocking late kicks when they visit the Guelph Gryphons for the Mitchell Bowl on Saturday. The winner advances to the Vanier Cup on Nov. 28.
Zepeda was on the field for both game-saving blocks.
A last-minute block preserved a 20-19 win over McMaster that gave Montreal its first national title last November before more than 22,000 fans at Percival Molson Stadium. At PEPS Stadium in Quebec City last week, Laval lined up for a game-winning field goal on the final play of the game, only to see it knocked down by the Carabins' line, giving Montreal an 18-16 victory.
"We blocked one in the (conference) semifinal game against Sherbrooke too," said coach Danny Maciocia. "We spend some time on it.
"We know there will be opportunities during the course of a game, you just have to factor in when you want to dial it up. The one last week, if you don't block it, the game could be over. It takes a mindset, a willingness. You've got to be committed to it. They clearly bought into it, so that increases your percentages of making a play."
Maciocia has concerns about his own kicking game. Placekicker Louis-Philippe Simoneau hooked two field goals wide late in the fourth quarter, although the singles scored on those misses ended up as the winning points.
Simoneau connected on just three of six field-goal attempts in the game.
"It is a bit of a concern," said Maciocia, the former Edmonton Eskimos head coach and general manager. "It's been an ongoing concern all year.
"When opportunities present themselves, we have to kick them through the uprights but it would also be nice if, when we get down there, we come out more often than not with majors instead of field-goal attempts."
The UBC Thunderbirds visit the St. Francis Xavier X-Men in Antigonish, N.S. in the other national semifinal, the Uteck Bowl.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press