There are two things Dick Waring remembers about the 1967 Vanier Cup.
One of them is the final score. The other?
“The one thing I remember was, near the end, I threw the interception,” he says. “We would’ve won the game.”
Ah yes, the interception. In McMaster lore, it should probably be written as The Interception. Nearly half a century after that game, that pick remains the most-painful moment in the school’s football history. Maybe even one of the most surprising in all of Canadian university football history.
Now 68 and living in Ohio, Waring says he doesn’t think about it all that much. Hardly ever, in fact. But, now that his alma mater’s finally back in the championship game, he’s OK to talk about it.
Back in the ’60s, the guy was a star. His teammates say that, without the Sarnia native, they never would’ve made it to the final. He was that important to them. And that good. He’d spent a few years throwing the ball at Bowling Green University in the NCAA and had been given a tryout with the Ottawa Rough Riders, only to be cut on the last day of training camp. So he came to Mac.
He was at his absolute best in the fourth quarter of that championship game, marching his offence down the field toward what appeared to be a certain victory. Trailing the University of Alberta 10-9 in a defensive dogfight, he’d brought the Marauders to the Golden Bears’ 17-yard line. Doing it, he says, with a bum shoulder.
“I remember saying to the receivers, ‘Don’t be going too far down the field,’ because I could only throw the ball 20 or 25 yards.”
On the sidelines, kicker Cass Quinn was waiting for his chance to win the game. A 20-something-yard field goal was no problem for him. Besides, even if he missed, his leg was strong enough that he would’ve pounded the ball through the end zone for a single sending the game to overtime.
As Mac got closer and closer, holder Peter Quinlan — no relation to current quarterback Kyle Quinlan, though the elder namesake was also a QB at the school before and after Waring’s time — says he recalls the coaches clearly outlining what was to happen. On first down, Waring was to take the hand-off and run the ball toward the middle of the field to give Quinn a better angle at the goalposts. Then he was to leave the result in the hands of the special teams.
“Our plan was (for the field goal unit) to go in on second down so, if we got a bad snap, I was just to fall on it,” he says.
Great plan. Solid football decision. Made sense.
“Unfortunately, nobody told Dick.”
Nope, nobody told Dick.
Quarterbacks in those days generally called their own plays. The on-field decisions were theirs. So, when the star pivot rolled out to his right and saw an open receiver in the end zone, Waring took a shot at glory. In midstride, he threw across his body to his left.
“My guess is it probably was a pretty good play but I just didn’t see the guy in the end zone,” Waring says.
Instead of a touchdown, it was an interception by Alberta’s John Wilson. No kick. Game over. Season over. Championship hopes gone.
He tried out for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers the next year but didn’t make it. He went back to Bowling Green as an assistant coach and eventually started a successful fundraising business. Where he still works.
Disappointing as the result was, he’s managed to find some humour in it.
He tells the story of how an uncle of his was watching the game on TV at the Sarnia Golf Club with some friends. When he threw the interception a few of the guys around the table asked the uncle if the quarterback was his nephew.
“Nope,” he said. “I’ve never heard of him before.”
The most-confident alum
As you know by now, it’s been 44 years since McMaster last played in the Vanier Cup.
Even so, former Mac quarterback and holder Peter Quinlan was absolutely certain his alma mater would make it back to the big game this season.
How confident was he? The day before the Uteck Bowl, the Brantford lawyer bought a plane ticket to Vancouver for himself and grabbed seven tickets to the game so he and some family and friends who live out on the West Coast could go.
“I’ll be sitting in the Mac fan zone wearing my Vanier Cup memorial Mac shirt,” he says.
That’s a replica jersey the guys got a few years ago during a reunion with his No. 16 on the front and Quinlan on the back.
By the way, did you catch the last name? Quinlan? Same as the current Marauders’ quarterback.
It’s one of several symmetries existing between the 1967 team and the 2011 outfit.
Both had a quarterback named Quinlan.
The ’67 team went west to play a pre-season game against Alberta, the team they eventually met in the Vanier Cup. The current team went east to play a pre-season game against Laval, the team they’d eventually meet in the big game.
In both cases, the date of the game was Nov. 25.
And both beat the Atlantic champion in Atlantic Canada to reach the Vanier Cup.
Quinlan isn’t worried about all that stuff, though. He just wants to see his old team finally get over the hump and win a championship that’s been years in the making.
“I’m actually really looking forward to the game for the boys,” he says.
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