The U of T Varsity Blues football team couldn’t defeat the Laurier Golden Hawks under the lights at Varsity Stadium on Labour Day in their first contest of the 2014 season.
Laurier came out strong in the first quarter, gaining a 17-0 lead through exceptional plays by quarterback James Fracas and running back Dillon Campbell. Fracas found an open receiver for a 46-yard touchdown reception and Campbell busted through the Toronto defence and ran 64 yards for a touchdown shortly afterwards.
Blues senior quarterback Simon Nassar of Toronto tossed second-year receiver Levi Noel a short pass, which sprung Noel 79 yards to the end zone and put the Blues on the board to end the first quarter 17-7.
The second quarter of play began with Laurier kicker Ronnie Pfeffer and Toronto kicker Eric Hewitson trading 42- and 32-yard field goals respectively. Afterwards, Blues backup quarterback and holder Marcus Hobbs took the ball for himself on a fake field goal attempt and ran it through the Laurier defence, gaining a first down that led to a five-yard touchdown pass to offensive lineman Danny Sprukulis on the next play.
The second half wasn’t too kind to the Blues; Fracas finished off his evening with 256 yards passing with three touchdowns, while Campbell took advantage of a battered Toronto defence and ran for a total of 293 yards. Laurier scored 26 unanswered points, giving them the 53-17 victory.
Cory Williams, a UTM student and second-year linebacker for the Blues who shared the lead on defense with five and a half tackles, admits that the Blues didn’t play as well as they could have. “There are things we didn’t do well today, as a unit,” he says, “but there are plays that we can look back on and be proud of.”
The Blues also played against the hungry Guelph Gryphons at Alumni Stadium in Guelph on September 6.
The Gryphons conceded a safety in the opening minutes of the game, giving the Blues a 2-0 lead and confidence that they desperately needed. Guelph wouldn’t be taken lightly, storming back to take the 7-2 lead with a six-yard touchdown reception that ended a 71-yard drive.
The game was tight for the rest of the first half and the Blues headed to the locker room down by only two points, 14-12. The Blues got their points from receiver and All-Canadian returner Kevin Bradfield, who caught an 11-yard strike in the endzone from Nassar.
The third quarter progressed more slowly than the exuberant Guelph faithful would have liked. Hewitson hit a 40-yard field goal, giving the Blues a 15-14 lead. After Guelph answered back with a 15-yard field goal, Hewitson followed with the same kick after Nassar connected 47 yards with receiver Rahul Madan to put the ball deep in Guelph territory.
With the Blues up 18-17 the Gryphons put their foot on the pedal, looking confident with the wind at their backs. Guelph stormed through the Blues defence in the fourth quarter and scored 33 unanswered points. The Blues were hurt most by Ryan Nieuwesteeg, who gave the Gryphons a 62-yard punt return touchdown and then took the ball 60 yards into Blues territory on another return.
The Gryphons put the nail in the coffin with their play in the fourth quarter, ending the contest with a 50-18 victory.
The Blues will play their rivals, York University (0-2), this Saturday at Varsity Stadium. They hope to grab their first win of the season in the 45th annual Red and Blue Bowl. The kickoff is set for 1 p.m.