Over 1,600 fans were on the edge of their seats throughout this past Saturday’s home opener between the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and the University of Guelph Gryphons. It was a nail-biter to the end, but Toronto secured a 21–12 victory over the Gryphons, improving their record to 2–1 for the 2011-12 season.
Fifth-year veteran quarterback Andrew Gillis led the charge, gaining 173 yards by air and 52 yards on the ground while adding two touchdowns to his stat sheet.
The Blues’ defense also made a big contribution, sacking Guelph’s quarterbacks six times, and repeatedly shutting down the Gryphons’ offense, allowing Toronto to gain excellent field position whenever they got the ball back. Fourth-year linebacker Wilkerson DeSouza kept U of T’s defensive intensity at a maximum, leading all Blues players with 11 tackles. “We just kept bringing the pressure, and our defensive plan worked,” said DeSouza.
The game not only had implications in terms of the season’s record; the Blues were also looking to exact some revenge. In last year’s matchup between these two teams at Guelph, Toronto held a 13-12 lead late in the game, only to see it slip away as the Gryphons convert a field goal with six seconds to go to win 15-13.
The Blues were determined not to suffer the same fate again, though the Gryphons certainly gave them a run for their money.
Down 7–0 after Guelph blocked a punt from Toronto’s own end zone and recovered the ball for the touchdown, the Blues opened the second quarter with an 11-yard touchdown run by second-year running back Aaron Milton. Two and a half minutes later, Gillis scored on a play from a yard out, set up by a huge 49-yard pass to fourth-year receiver Michael Prempeh.
Guelph came out for the third quarter with fire in their eyes, pushing Toronto’s defense all the way to their own two-yard line. Fortunately for the Blues, DeSouza recovered a fumble, putting the Blues back on offense. Forced to punt from their own end zone again, Blues head coach Greg Gary — in his first year at the helm — elected to take a knee and concede a safety rather than risk another blocked punt by Guelph.
The Gryphons trimmed the deficit to two points after converting a 33-yard field-goal in the fourth quarter, giving Blues fans a scare and no doubt reminding the players of last season’s loss. Gillis, however, would make sure there would be no repeat of last year’s result.
“We definitely didn’t want to let Guelph think they could steal a game from us for the second straight year,” said fifth-year receiver Sebastian Magalas. “Gillis was huge for us when we needed him most, and our entire offense stepped up to the challenge, staying composed and determined with the pressure on.”
Paul de Pass reeled in a 44-yard reception — the highlight of a six play, 84-yard drive by the Blues — and Gillis capped it off, rushing for a 25-yard touchdown with 47 seconds to go. This effectively sealed the win for the Blues and dashed any hopes Guelph had of making a comeback.
“I approach every game the same, but this game had a little extra drive behind it,” said Gillis. “Getting this [win] definitely meant a lot to the team as well as to myself.”
Fans also caught their first glimpse of defensive back Dorian Munroe — who started for the University of Florida Gators — as he made a spectacular play, intercepting a pass in the second quarter. Munroe is in his fourth year of eligibility and also appears on special teams, returning punts as well as kickoffs.
U of T has now won two straight games, following their 10-8 victory over York in the Argo Cup the previous week.