Tristan Grenon felt helpless.
The Laval backup quarterback watched from the sidelines in 2011 as the Rouge et Or's suffered a devastating 41-38 double overtime Vanier Cup loss to the McMaster Marauders.
Now in his fourth year after patiently waiting for his opportunity to be Laval's starter, Grenon and the Rouge et Or are relishing their chance at redemption in Friday's rematch.
"For all of us it was a crushing loss, but not being able to help your teammates ... it was something I promised that would never happen again," Grenon said Tuesday at Rogers Centre as players and coaches from Laval and McMaster met the media ahead of the 48th Vanier Cup.
"That fed me all winter long. We've earned our ticket and we're finally here so I have a chance to help my team out."
In the 2011 final, McMaster led 23-0 at halftime before Laval stormed back to take a 24-23 lead in the fourth quarter, only to lose in the extra period.
Grenon is part of a new-look Laval offence in 2012 that lost five starters, including quarterback Bruno Prud'homme, running back Sebastien Levesque and wide receiver Julian Feoli-Gudino.
Despite all the changes, the Rouge et Or still managed to finish atop the Quebec standings and produced the fourth-best offence in the country with 38.7 points per game.
"[Justin Ethier] is one of the brightest, most talented offensive co-ordinators in the country and you're seeing his influence as he diversifies and takes what the defence is giving him," McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek said. "That means that some days it's one student-athlete running up big totals, other games it's somebody else. They are far more diverse than they have been in recent years."
Laval head coach Glen Constantin says his squad doesn't care if it runs for 300 yards or passes for 300 yards, as long as they coming out on the winning end.
"That's a tribute to our offensive line. Sometimes our offensive line will have three rushes for 100 yards," he said. "If you've got a good O-line you can pretty much dictate what you want to do. Now they'll have the test of the year because [McMaster] has a great defensive front with a lot of multiple blitzes."
The Rouge et Or thumped the Acadia Axemen 42-7 in the Uteck Bowl last weekend to advance to the Vanier Cup, while the Maraurders rolled past the Calgary Dinos 45-4 in the Mitchell Bowl.
Constantin says the Rouge et Or knew that Grenon had the talent to lead the offence, but three seasons on the bench meant that he was untested under pressure.
"I told him to come in and pinch hit when he was a backup finishing a game. There's no expectations and it's a win-win situation," Constantin said. "Now as a starter, you're in a program where you have a lot of expectations, how will you handle that?
"He struggled a bit at first. He's matured and improved through the process. Now he's ready to go but there was a learning curve for him in dealing with that stuff."
Notes: The Vanier Cup will be filled with talk of records. The Marauders are on a CIS-record 21-game winning streak and are looking to become just the fifth team to repeat, while the Rouge et Or are gunning for a record-breaking seventh title in their eighth Vanier Cup appearance. Laval is currently tied with Western, which needed 12 tries to claim its six championships. ... The Rouge et Or will also become only the third team to play in three straight national finals after Saint Mary's (2001-2003) and Saskatchewan (2004-2006). ... There is a chance that the game could set a Vanier Cup attendance record with organizers opening up the top bowl at Rogers Centre because of the demand for tickets. The Vanier Cup attendance record was set in 1989 at SkyDome when 32,847 fans watched Western defeat Saskatchewan 35-10.