The Rouge et Or awaits the Stingers with a firm footing

The Rouge et Or awaits the Stingers with a firm footing

BET &Agrave ; DAY

Glen Constantin didn't have to look far to find out if his players seemed motivated for the start of the playoffs. He quickly had proof of this in training.  

The Rouge et Or head coach admits to having seen quite a “contrast” between the two weeks of practice for his team, which is preparing to receive the visit of the Concordia Stingers for the semi-final of Quebec university football. Both teams are facing each other for the second time in as many weeks, but this time the stakes are much higher than last Saturday. “This week we see even greater focus, greater energy. We have to temper the emotions and the energies a little. Sometimes we practice a little too hard for my taste. Now is not the time to injure yourself in practice. In short, the level of intensity seems on point if Constantin is to be believed. And he certainly won't complain about it at the dawn of the “real season”. “It's a good sign. It’s better to hold them back than to push them in the behind,” he laughs.

The importance of the ground game

After pinning Concordia 60-14 at the start of the season, the Rouge et Or beat them again 37-24 just last Saturday. In both cases, the aerial game was the spearhead of the Laval attack, but Constantin wants to establish a better balance with the ground game. He cites the last duel as an example: 450 yards were won by the air, compared to only 92 on the ground. 

“Last week, we didn’t run the ball as much as we would have liked. As much in terms of yards per carry as total yards,” notes the Rouge et Or honcho. “In the playoffs, you have to be able to control the ball on the ground. The message did not fall on deaf ears. Rookie running back Kalenga Muganda wants to put his shoulder to the wheel. “Of course it does,” he replies immediately when a member of the media asks him if he took his coach’s comments as personal. “The first game here in Quebec we ran much better. Over there [at Concordia], it was different. But at the weekend we will come back very, very strong, ”he promises. Due to COVID and an injury, Kalenga Muganda has not experienced the excitement of a playoff game for a long time. He says he can't wait to taste it again. “It's been a long time since I played a match with so much enthusiasm. Especially since we play them twice in a row. I can't wait to see how it's going to be. It's a match without a future. […] In each game you will have to give 100%. »

Stars everywhere

Not elsewhere, there are no less than 11 Rouge et Or players elected to the RSEQ all-star team. This is the best vintage since 2014, when 14 players were selected. On the offensive, we find Arnaud Desjardins (quarterback), Kevin Mital (receiver), David Dallaire (centerback), Nicolas Guay ( guard) and Nathaniel Dumoulin-Duguay (blocker). Defensively, Alec Poirier (linebacker), Maxym Lavallée (defensive back), Cristophe Beaulieu (defensive back), Jean-William Rouleau (tackle) and William Quenneville (defensive end) are among the chosen ones. Vincent Blanchard (precision kicker) finds he too has his place on the all-star team. “Eleven players, but it takes 40 for these guys to stand out,” recalls Constantin. […] We are happy. On the other hand, the merits that we want to have are those for which we do not vote, but those that we win on the ground. ”More than 8,500 tickets have already been sold for tomorrow's match, which will be played from noon.

“There is no lack of motivation”

The Rouge et Or “did not play up to what [they] are capable of playing” and there will certainly be a change in tone at the end of the week.

The words are those defensive back Francis Bouchard. He didn't exactly talk about a change in tone, but that's what we could guess from his words. The second-year player is certain that he and his teammates can play “more intensely”.

“I'm convinced that things will be resolved this week with the playoffs starting,” says Bouchard, who missed a good part of the season following a hamstring injury that occurred during training camp.  

Finally back

He returned to the field in the second game against Montreal on October 16, his birthday. < /p>

“It sure feels good [to be back]. I had been waiting for this since my commitment to Laval, at the start of 2020. We had the Covid year, I did not play. Then 2021, I was injured almost the whole season. I came back to play on special teams at the end of the season. This year, I'm coming and missing seven to eight weeks,” he recalls.

“I'm happy to be on the pitch. Motivation is not lacking. I will play hard on the pitch.

The 23-year-old athlete also stood out last Saturday with an interception at the expense of Olivier Roy, at the very end of the third quarter. A big game that certainly “did good”.

 “Our coaches do a good job of making the right calls and my job is to execute. That's why I was in the field. I was able to make a big play. I have my chance to go on the field. When I'm on the pitch, I have to make plays,” he continues.

A big trio to watch

The campus product Notre-Dame-de-Foy does not hide it. It will be necessary to pay particular attention to the large trio of receivers of the Stingers composed of Jeremy Murphy, Jaylan Greaves and Jacob Salvail. 

Between them, they amassed 230 yards through the air last week. The Stingers finished the duel with 325 net rushing yards. 

“I think all three are great receivers. Jeremy Murphy is a very, very good receiver and I think we can still do good things against him and stop him. You will have to be there mentally and physically. It's a very explosive trio. »

The knife between the teeth

“It's the real season that begins. We don't want it to end this week and we're going to put all our efforts into it. » 

At the end of the line, head coach Brad Collinson is well aware of the challenge that awaits his team. Overthrowing the Rouge et Or on its ground to obtain a place in the final promises to be anything but a walk in the park. The Stingers have lost their last 12 playoff games against Université Laval and have allowed them 97 points this season, the highest among the Rouge et Or's four rivals. 

This is why its players will have to approach this match with a knife between their teeth if they want to hope to emerge victorious. “It's not easy to play a back-to-back team. They are well coached on the other side. I know they will be ready. »

Not here to participate

For inspiration, Brad Collinson watches his team's last two games. A 37-30 victory against the McGill Redbirds and a 37-24 loss against the Rouge et Or. In the case of this last game, the Stingers were in the game for a good part of the game. p>

But even if his players were able to put doubts in the minds of their future opponent, Collinson doesn't care. “To put doubt in Laval’s head was not the plan at all. We play this game to win, not to put doubt in the heads of others, not to participate. »

There were still a lot of positives for the last duel of the season. The Stingers pilot knows it well and does not hesitate to list them. Energy, competitiveness and good successful plays, he says. But in the end, it's one more loss in the standings. 

“There was some good, but at the end of the day, it's a loss. We are not going to celebrate defeats. We're not going to celebrate moral victories, honestly. The players work too hard to [be satisfied] with a moral victory. » 

We will also have to find a way to slow down Arnaud Desjardins. Last Saturday, he completed 29 of 41 passes for 450 yards.   

“We have to fix things. They still had a lot of yards on offense. You have to tighten the screw a little to be sure to eliminate the mistakes you have made. We had a couple of assignment errors. The guys wanted to do too much, they didn't do their job. But it happens in a match when you roll 60-70 plays. To beat a team like Laval, you have to be perfect. »