HAMILTON — Hugo Richard is used to answering his critics.
The Rouge et Or quarterback did it once again Saturday afternoon, running in the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter as Laval rallied past the Calgary Dinos 31-26 to capture their ninth Vanier Cup.
"I like showing to people that I'm capable of playing football," Richard said after the Rouge et Or won their first Canadian university football championship since 2013, when they also beat the Dinos.
"There's always going to be critics, but listen, I'm my biggest critic, it doesn't bother me."
The third-year Rouge et Or quarterback finished the game completing 25-of-32 passes for 339 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while also running for 62 yards on nine carries.
Laval head coach Glen Constantin says that fans and media in Quebec City have been hard on Richard because his pivot is "basically guilty of having a great freshman season," after winning the U Sports rookie of the year award in 2014 and also being nominated for the Hec Crighton Trophy as the most outstanding player.
"You know what, he's started more games after three years than most quarterbacks do in five years," Constantin said. "I'm very, very proud of him. He's resilient, he's become a better leader and the future is great."
Richard got his moment to shine after teammate Raphael Robidoux-Bouchard blocked a punt with 4:07 left in the fourth quarter to put the Rouge et Or on the Calgary 15-yard line. Richard would call his own number shortly after from three yards out for the winning score. He was named the game's MVP for his stellar play.
Constantin said that the blocked punt was a designed play and that special teams co-ordinator Mathieu Bertrand saw something in the Dinos's formation.
Richard connected with Marc-Antoine Pivin and Antony Auclair for his TDs. Vincent Alarie-Tardif ran for 95 yards on 17 carries while adding a touchdown late in the third quarter. Laval's Dominique Levesque was 1 of 2 on field-goal attempts, converting from 38 yards.
The win also improves the Rouge et Or's record against Calgary to 5-0.
The Dinos got the early advantage in the game after fifth-year quarterback Jimmy Underdahl came out firing. Underdahl, who wasn't named the Calgary starter until game day, tossed an 86-yard TD to Michael Klukas on the Dinos' first snap. Calgary then marched the ball 85 yards down the field on their next possession before Anthony Anderson ran in to make it 13-0.
The 23-year-old Underdahl returned from a knee injury last week in the Mitchell Bowl against the St.FX X-Men and led his team to victory. But Underdahl, who missed five weeks with the injury, was forced from the national championship in the first quarter after reaggravating his knee following a sack.
"Jim's been an emotional leader for our program all season long," Dinos head coach Wayne Harris Jr., said. "Even when he was hurt, he did so much with Adam (Sinagra), helping him along the way, encouraging, doing reads with him, all those things.
"He was playing on one leg the last two games and we knew that and unfortunately took a twist and it just flared up too much."
Sinagra came on in relief in the first quarter and completed 21-of-38 passes for 276 yards and an interception for the Dinos. The Pointe Claire, Que., native orchestrated a late drive but came up just short on third-and-10 while on the Laval 23-yard line.
Calgary's Jeshrun Antwi had 25 carries for 177 yards and Niko DiFonte kicked four field goals. Nick Statz had two of Calgary's seven sacks on Richard.
The loss drops the Dinos to 4-6 in Vanier Cups with their last championship coming in 1995.
For Laval, both Richard and Constantin said that there was never any doubt that they could come back. Rallying is nothing new for the Rouge et Or, having to do so in the RSEQ final against rival Montreal Carabins before eventually beating Laurier last week in the Uteck Bowl.
"There was nothing easy about it," Constantin said. "Trailing 14-0, that's a lot of adversity and the guys on the bench were a little bit disoriented about that but they believed."
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