The University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team lost in their sixth game of the year, 51-30, to the Windsor Lancers on October 1 at Alumni Stadium. The loss to Windsor (2-3) the OUA’s third-worst team was an end to the Blues 2016 playoff hopes.
Last year, the Blues beat their Windsor opponents 8-7, the win being their first since 2001. The Blues looked to make a win streak out of their visit to creep into a late playoff push, but as usual, the Blues fell late in the fourth quarter, eliminating any post-season opportunities. In the back of the Blues’ minds was the fact that Windsor upset the powerhouse Guelph Gryphons in week two of OUA action. Despite Windsor’s poor record, they were capable of playing at a high level.
Fifth-year quarterback Marcus Hobbs had the game of his U of T career, completing 23 passes out of 39 attempts, throwing for a total of 314 yards. Hobbs took advantage of Windsor’s poor defensive passing coverage; they have given up an average of 418.5 passing yards per game so far this season.
Hobbs threw to fifth-year receiver Anthony Naccarato for one touchdown; he also rushed seven times for 14 yards, scoring two touchdowns in the process.
Fifth-year linebacker and UTM political science major Adrian Bernard matched his career-high 10-tackle performance. Michael Leslie also had a great game against the Lancers, tackling opponents 7.5 times, forcing one fumble and sacking the quarterback once.
Tarrence Crawford scored the first touchdown of the game for Windsor, finishing off a nine-play 75-yard drive by rushing into the end zone.
The Blues responded with a rushing touchdown of their own. Alex Malone, the Blues running back, carried the load down the field before Hobbs ran it in for the major. After the first quarter, the Blues and Lancers found themselves tied 8-8.
The Lancers took the lead at home, and never gave it up again for the rest of the game when fourth-year quarterback Casey Wright threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Masson.
First-year Blues kicker, Ryan Grandell, made his fourth field goal of the year by kicking a 28-yard field goal. Grandell, who was demoted from his additional kick-off responsibility to just field-goal kicker, has stayed steady this year despite the setback. Toronto’s all-star punter TJ Morton’s 42.3 punting average is ranked best in the OUA, and second-best in the entire CIS. The American native kicked a season high 75-yard punt, while averaging 57.8 yards on his kick-offs.
Toronto brought the game to a 30-36 close call when Hobbs connected with Naccarato deep in Windsor territory, setting up his second rushing major on the afternoon. However, the Blues couldn’t hold back the Lancers late in the fourth, giving up a pair of touchdowns.
The last time the Blues made the playoffs was back in 1993, when they ended up winning the Vanier Cup. It’s been a long 23 years since the Blues saw any exciting action within the OUA, which has been dominated by teams like Laurier, Western, and Guelph for many years.
Head Coach Greg Gary is in his sixth year as the man in charge of the Blues. Over that amount of time, he holds a 15-31 (0.326) record against OUA competition. It’s been five years since Gary stood in front of a wide-eyed group of first-year football players telling them that they were going to be the ones to change the culture of the program. The dwindled cast of athletes within that draft since the beginning of 2012 still haven’t seen a change in the culture of the program. With only two games left in the careers of Blues athletes Marcus Hobbs, Kyle Draga, JJ Lam, Peter Harris, Kyle Draga, and Jaden McBride, to name a few, the culture of losing still hasn’t changed.
Since the beginning of their OUA football careers, they’ve seen an inaugural Carleton Ravens team go from 0-8 in 2012 to defeating the Western Mustangs in 2016. The Blues, who once had confidence before playing the Laurier Golden Hawks in 2012, now look at the schedule and frown, expecting a double-digit loss. There are teams in this league who have turned themselves around into powerhouses—whichever formula they’ve been using, the Blues need to adopt similar philosophies if the culture is going to change.
The Blues look to take on the formidable Laurier Golden Hawks on October 6 at Varsity Stadium. The Hawks sit second-best in the OUA, with a record of 4-1. The Turkey Bowl kick-off is set for 7 p.m.