University of Toronto Varsity Blues football fell to the Western Mustangs (6-0), who rank third best in the country. The one-sided affair saw Western topping Toronto 58-2, leaving Toronto with a record of 2-4—two spots away from the sixth and final playoff position.
The pre-Thanksgiving game crowned the “Turkey Bowl”, played in the windy Varsity Stadium in Toronto.
Leading the team with eight tackles was fourth-year defensive back Jaden McBride. JJ Lam had 5.5 tackles and a forced fumble. First-year Richard Gillespie had 5.5 tackles and a fumble recovery.
Back from rehabbing a meniscus injury that cost him the first five games of the season, Lukas Gavac of Mississauga rushed 13 times for 82 yards. Gavac also caught two passes for 35 yards. Gavac, the team’s starting running back, works out in the UTM high-performance center early in the mornings to regain strength, giving him the opportunity to compete on the field for a hopeful playoff push.
“We’re looking for offense, defense, and special teams to all have a good day at once. Like tonight, we were close—the offense showed some signs in the middle of the field,” says Varsity Blues head coach Greg Gary.
Fifth-year quarterback Simon Nassar was honoured amongst the graduating players before the game went 13-for-31 for 121 yards. Each year, 13 graduating Varsity Blues players are honoured for their outstanding commitment and service to the program over their career, which is coming to an emotional end.
Nassar’s reliable veteran receiver, Boris Isakov, made three receptions for 46 yards.
Mustangs quarterback Will Finch of Burlington was 26-of-40 for 469 yards and three touchdowns. The senior face-of-the-franchise quarterback doesn’t need to prove himself as an MVP candidate—if he can stay healthy, he’ll lead the Mustangs to the 2015 Vanier Cup then play the Canadian quarterback role in the CFL, which the CFL hasn’t seen in decades.
Alex Taylor rushed 16 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns. George Johnson led all Mustang receivers with six receptions for 171 yards and one touchdown.
“I think the biggest thing you get out of something like this is how your team handles adversity. We agreed up in the room that [the game] got away from us—it’s going to happen to us from time to time playing great teams like Western. We’re able to get up after taking a punch from a team like that,” says Gary.
The Blues have a chance of making the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. The drought started in 1993, before the majority of the current Blues were born.
Following this game, the Blues played Waterloo (0-6) on Saturday. The Blues haven’t lost to Waterloo in many years and that trend didn’t end. After a first half 10-0 lead with rookie quarterback Dallon Kuprowski behind centre the Blues went with starting Simon Nassar to finish off the Warriors 34-0.
The Blues passing attack struggled with Kuprowski at the helm. Kuprowski went 6-for-18 for 69 yards. Kuprowski threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Naccarato, but his three interceptions caused head coach Greg Gary to go with his veteran leader Simon Nassar midway through the third quarter. Nassar went 8-for-15 for 126 yards. Nassar handed off the ball to running back Alexander Malone 11 times for two touchdowns.
Next, the Blues play against Ottawa (2-4), who have lost three straight games, this Saturday. The Blues need some help from Laurier, who must lose their next game against Queens (5-2), who are fifth in the standings. If the Blues want to make the playoffs they need to go into Ottawa and beat them. Ottawa lost to Western (6-0) 63-19 on Saturday. With a hot offense and aggressive and disciplined defense the Blues have more than enough to do something special.
“I’ll mention the word playoffs—there’s an opportunity there. We have to take care of our business in Waterloo,” says Gary. “We see them as a team that you have to prepare for and tonight taught us some lessons on how to do that.”