The Varsity Blues and Toronto Argonauts teamed up for the Double Blue Classic Series held at the Rogers Centre last week. The event is intended to celebrate Toronto’s football heritage by offering discounted tickets to U of T students for the Thanksgiving Monday and October 14 Argonauts games.
The Blues and Argos have a rich history, and in fact, rivalry. U of T has won four Grey Cups including the first two ever held in 1909 and 1910. The Blues have also come head-to-head with the Argonauts in three Grey Cups — coming away with victories in 1911 and 1920 and falling to the Argos in 1914.
The Double Blue Classic Series kicked off on Thanksgiving Monday before a crowd of 25,000 fans who were forced to witness the Argos 36–10 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders. That crowd was largely composed of watermelon-wearing fans. If an observer didn’t know any better, the green-clad crowd behind the Riders’ bench made it appear that it was a Saskatchewan home game instead. While Saskatchewan has a dedicated fan base across the country, it was still rather jarring to see and hear such loud chants of “let’s go Riders” in an opponent’s stadium.
The Argonauts entered the game at 7–6 and a win would have seen them tied with the Montreal Alouettes atop the Eastern division with an opportunity to claim the division in last Sunday’s game against the Als. However, the Argos succumbed to stage fright. At least that appears to be the only logical explanation for the disaster that unfolded.
The Argonauts deserved their ugly fate. They failed to mount any resistance, and didn’t appear to be engaged in the game from the onset, when the opening kickoff was returned 81 yards, setting the tone for the entire game.
After falling 10–0 behind in the opening quarter, the Argos were able to bring the game back to within three points with the score at 13–10 at half.
“We got it to 13–10 but we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich said.
The second half was when the game truly escaped the Argos, as they were unable to produce a single point and had almost as many penalty yards (126) as passing yards (165). The Argos were playing with backup quarterback Jarious Jackson, who stepped in to replace starter Ricky Ray who had gone down injured the previous week. However, the offense’s inability to move the ball or light up to scoreboard cannot be blamed on Jackson.
“Jarious [Jackson], I think, probably missed a couple throws, but protection wasn’t great and he had drops. When you play like that offensively it’s more than just one guy,” Milanovich assured.
The defense also faltered. In successive possessions, they allowed Kory Sheets of the Riders to run for a 48-yard touchdown and then gave up a 78-yard reception to Weston Dressler which also led to a major. The run was Sheets’ longest of the season and the Dressler grab was the longest by a Roughrider. A defense should never be blown open in that fashion in back-to-back plays.
“We didn’t play well on special teams, we didn’t play offensively. Our defense, I think, played fairly well at times in the first half, but the offense kept them on the field a lot of the time and it looked like they got worn down,” Milanovich said. “Just like last week [the Argos defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 29–10] was a three-phase win, this week was a three-phase loss.”
There aren’t many positives for a team that can only score 10 points, or a crowd that is speckled with more green and white fans than double blue-supporters.
The game was reminiscent of a Varsity Blues football game: a team with a less than stellar home crowd and one that showed flashes of potential at one moment, then gave up 14 points on successive possessions the next.
“Clearly I didn’t have them ready to play,” Milanovich said. “The only encouraging thing about tonight is that we get to play again next week. Ultimately, it falls on me and we didn’t play well, and the head coach is responsible for that, so I’m going to put this one on me.”
“It wasn’t the last game of the year. We can get that taste out of our mouths in six days,” Milanovich added.
The Blues and the Argonauts face eerily similar futures.
Both team remain in the run for the playoffs. The Argonauts, had they beat the Riders and the Alouettes, could have in fact secured a bye week in the first round of the CFL playoffs. However, despite their losses, they remain in full contention for the playoffs.
The Blues, meanwhile, look to squeeze into the playoffs as they prepare to head into Kingston to face the 5–2 Queens’ Gaels. The top six teams in the OUA advance to the playoffs. In order to qualify, the Blues must come out of Kingston victorious and ask for a little help. The Blues currently sit at ninth in the division and would need Ottawa, York, and Laurier to all lose their respective games. Relying on other teams to fail is not the position that the Blues hoped to find themselves in. However, there’s still hope, so the team will prepare for the Gaels with optimism.