On Saturday November 25, the UBC Thunderbirds and University of Montréal Carabins will clash to claim the 58th Vanier Cup for Canada’s national title. The rematch game is UBC’s seventh appearance in the championship and first since 2015, when the ‘Birds kicked a last-second field goal to claim their fourth Vanier Cup, upsetting the Carabins 26–23.
The Carabins, whose last Vanier Cup appearance was in 2019, present a formidable challenge for the Thunderbirds.
Montréal entered the playoffs ranked second in the country, behind only the Western Mustangs, whom they crushed 29–3 in the national semifinals. They topped the Quebec conference (RSEQ), dominating a group that has been represented in 11 of the past 12 Vanier Cups. The only blemish in the Carabins’ 7—1 conference record was a 2-point loss in the final game of the season, with first place in RSEQ already secured.
For their performance, head coach Marco Iadeluca earned coach of the year, marking his second in three seasons with Montréal. 13 Carabins were selected to the RSEQ all-star team, setting a school record, and starting quarterback Jonathan Sénécal was named the conference MVP.
The Carabins have remained exceptional through the postseason, not allowing any touchdowns and outscoring opponents 95–12. Breaking their stellar defence will be especially difficult.
Fortunately, this T-Birds team has proven to be talented, tough and occasionally capable of miracles.
The Thunderbirds finished the season ranked seventh in Canada and first in Canada West (CW), earning the best record (6–2) in the conference for the first time since 1999. Like Montréal, UBC dominated the conference all-star squad with seven selections on offence, four on defence and three on special teams. Offensive lineman Theo Benedet was chosen unanimously.
Quarterback Garrett Rooker has excelled this year, leading the conference with 283.3 yards per game and throwing 65/82 for 926 yards over the three playoff games. Transfer receiver Sam Davenport has been a game-changer, while veterans like Shemar McBean continue to produce. Defence and special teams have remained reliable while repeatedly making big plays, saving the ‘Birds in the conference final.
The T-Birds don’t always look pretty. In October, they lost to the winless Calgary Dinos. They needed a comeback to beat Manitoba in the conference semifinal and barely pulled one off against Alberta in the final. Yet when the lights were brightest and it mattered most, this UBC team found ways to win.
The Thunderbirds have advanced past the CW championship for the first time since 2015, and now have a chance at the largest prize in Canadian university football. They might be underdogs, but that hasn’t stopped them before.
The game starts at 10 a.m. PST on Saturday and can be watched on cbc.ca.