The national championship in Canadian University Football is coming back to UBC.
The Thunderbirds won the Vanier Cup after Quinn van Gylswyk nailed a 20-yard field goal in the dying moments to give UBC a 26-23 win over the Montreal Carabins.
19-year-old freshman quarterback Michael O’Connor was 31-for-51, throwing for 389 yards and a touchdown in the win while also picking up MVP honours.
The T-Birds rang up a 16-0 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Carabins showed poise as defending champions, closing the gap and eventually tying the contest in the fourth quarter.
The win caps off what was an almost unbelievable turnaround for UBC, which two years ago was in jeopardy after issues of funding, poor play, and attendance came to the forefront.
UBC senior Brandon Deschamps says it’s hard to believe the Thunderbirds got a once-in-a-lifetime fairytale ending.
“A year ago we didn’t even have a coach. I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year to be honest with you, and I think coming into the season a lot us thought that too a little bit.”
“It’s crazy this year, how it’s gone and how it’s ended. You write stories that aren’t as good as this. To be able to go out with a national championship… I can’t describe it.”
Head coach Blake Nill says even he couldn’t have envisioned this.
“I don’t think I’ve realized yet what we’ve won. I know we’ve won a football game against a tough opponent, but not a national championship yet. It’ll take a few days I think.”
Nill says he’ll be back to work after the weekend.
“Another national championship. I told the kids we gotta get back to school, I gotta get back to the office right away because it’s recruiting season, and the new generations have to be coddled, let’s say.”
The last time UBC won the Vanier Cup was back in 1997.
Photo Credit: Rich Lam, UBC Thunderbirds