Redmen rally in thriller over Varsity Blues to open 134th season of football
TORONTO – Raphael Casey's 26-yard touchdown run with 39 seconds remaining capped a 99-yard scoring drive as visiting McGill opened their 134th season with a thrilling 35-33 come-from-behind victory over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in CIS preseason football at Varsity Centre on Saturday.
Casey, a 5-foot-8, 163-pound sophomore from Montreal, finished the game with 12 catches for 59 yards. Teammate Jean-Philippe Paquette, a 5-foot-5, 154-pound junior receiver from Trois-Rivieres, Que., added a pair of TDs, hauling in six receptions for 110 yards.
The Blues had taken their first lead of the game with just 2:08 remaining in the final quarter on a 57-yard TD reception by Llevi Noel but on the next drive, McGill freshman quarterback Joel Houle marched his troops down the field to set up the winning tally on a rugby-style pitch to Casey, while trying to elude being sacked. The Blues had a chance to comeback in the final minute but McGill rookie defensive back Mack Dessources intercepted an errant pass with a nifty over-the-shoulder catch on the Redmen 31-yard line to end the game. It was a solid CIS debut for Dessources, a 5-foot-8 management freshman from Laval, Que., who was credited with five solo tackles.
Houle, a native of Chateauguay, Que., who entered the contest in the third quarter, completed 10 of 17 pass attempts for 135 yards and the winning tally. He also rushed four times for 46 yards. Starting quarterback Dallon Kuprowski, a senior from Ottawa, tossed for three TD passes, connecting on 8 of 13 attempts for 182 yards. Junior Pierre-Luc Moquin, a third pivot for McGill, saw action in the third quarter. He was 3-for-6 for 34 yards. The trio did not throw an interception.
"Our passing game looked pretty good and our receivers played very well," said Clint Uttley, in his fourth season as head coach at McGill. "We were a bit ugly, especially on special teams, but showed a lot of character to come from behind by driving the length of the field in the last minute. But we wanted to evaluate our younger players and took our starters out after going ahead 21-3. We didn't put them back in until late in the game."
McGill, which had a 23-16 edge in first downs, racked up 462 net yards, compared to 363 by the Blues. They outrushed UofT 131-62 and outpassed them 351-317.
The Redmen jumped out to an early lead as Kuprowski connected with Paquette twice, on TD tosses of nine and 45 yards. McGill, which held a 14-3 lead after the first quarter, increased their advantage to 21-3 early in the second stanza on a 67-yard TD throw from Kuprowski to Montrealer Kenny Baye.
The Blues rallied with 13 straight points to close the gap to 21-16 at halftime, Chris Jugovic of Hamilton, Ont., struck paydirt with a 25-yard screen pass to Lukas Gavac of Mississauga, Ont. Then kicker Eric Hewitson, a sophomore from Cambridge, Ont., connected for a pair of field goals, from 25 and 44 yards, to close out the half. He went 4-for-4 on the day, adding field-goals of 40 and 32 yards, respectively, in the second half.
Hewitson provided the only scoring in the third quarter with his fourth field-goal, which was set up by a 40-yard pass from Jugovic to Kevin Bradfield, who led the Blues with 107 receiving yards and 219 all-purpose yards.
Ahead 21-19 into the final quarter, McGill added to their lead on a 38-yard TD pass from Houle to rookie Jonathan Mack of St. Lambert, Que. The Blues quickly recaptured the momentum as Stone Sousa of Brampton, Ont., in his first game as a Varsity Blue, returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a major as Toronto reduced the deficit to 28-26. With under three minutes to go, quarterback Marcus Hobbs of Mississauga, Ont. engineered the go-ahead drive with his TD pass to Noel, only to see McGill rally moments later.
Jugovic led Toronto in passing, going 9-for-14 for 132 yards, while second-year linebacker Corey Williams of Mississauga, Ont., led the Blues defence with six tackles.
The Varsity Blues open their 2014 regular season campaign on Sept. 1 when they host the Laurier Golden Hawks at Varsity Centre. McGill, which is slated to hold an intra-squad scrimmage next Saturday, begins regular season play at Sherbrooke on Sept. 6.
REDMEN RAP: Among the 200 McGill alumni and family members on hand for the game were a pair of teammates from McGill's 1987 Vanier Cup champs -- Dr. J.P. Veri andChristian Masotti... McGill dressed 54 players (11 fewer than UofT) instead of the regular-season standard of 45... Seven of McGill's eight defensive backs were freshmen, including Karl Forgues, who led the defence with 5.5 total tackles... Three Redmen registered quarterback sacks, including Ousmane Guindo, Olivier Cain-Tremblay and Jeremy-Megan France... Rookie DB David Polynice made 2.5 tackles, including one for loss, and had a pair of knockdowns... Nine different McGill receivers caught at least one pass... Nils Jonkmans handled the punting duties for the Redmen, averaging 29.7 yards on 14 kicks. His average would have been much higher but three of his attempts were shanked of the side of his foot... Jonkmans also averaged an impressive 55 yards on five kickoffs but missed on a 35-yard field-goal... Rookie place-kicker Myke Daignault-Labarre also went 0-for-1, missing from 37... The two teams last met on Aug. 28, 2010, where the Redmen walked away with a 40-17 victory... This was McGill's second consecutive win over the Blues but U of T holds the upper hand in this longtime rivalry with a lifetime 95-52-6 head-to-head series record in 153 meetings, dating back to 1881... Toronto is coming off a 4-4 record in 2013, their best finish since the 1993 Yates and Vanier Cup championship season... McGill finished 2013 with a 3-5 record in the RSEQ conference, with two wins over Concordia and one over Mount Alison.
NOTE: COMPLETE STATS POSTED AT BOXSCORE LINK ABOVE Box Score (Final) McGill 35, Toronto 33 (Aug 23, 2014 at Toronto) Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Score ----------------- -- -- -- -- ----- McGill...................... 14 7 0 14 - 35 Toronto.................... 3 13 3 14 - 33
RUSHING: McGill-Raphael Casey 12-59; Joel Houle 4-46; DallonKuprowski 2-12; Disch. Thompson 5-11; JP Paquette 2-3; Pierre Moquin 1-2; TEAM 2-minus 2. Toronto-Kevin Bradfield 3-23; Divante Smith 4-18; Lukas Gavac 4-17; Marcus Hobbs 1-7; Alex Malone 6-4; 1 0-minus 7. PASSING: McGill-Joel Houle 10-17-0-135; DallonKuprowski 8-13-0-182; Pierre Moquin 3-6-0-34. Toronto-Chris Jugovic 9-14-0-132; Simon Nassar 5-12-0-102; Marcus Hobbs 2-5-0-69; Calvin Vaughan 1-3-1-14; JJ Lam 0-0-0-0. RECEIVING: McGill-JP Paquette 6-110; M McDonald 3-44; R Bertellin 3-35; P Tshilambo 2-22; S G-Gagnon 2-17; Y L-Vanasse 2-15; Kenny Baye 1-67; J Mack 1-38; Raphael Casey 1-3. Toronto-Llevi Noel 4-87; Kevin Bradfield 3-107; Lukas Gavac 2-28; Stone Sousa 2-21; Rahul Madan 2-18; Chris MacDonald 1-21; Carmen Scala 1-12; Tomas Lammers 1-12; Michael Kanopoulos 1-11. INTERCEPTIONS: McGill-Mack Dessources 1-0. Toronto-None. FUMBLES: McGill-None. Toronto-1 1-1; Kevin Bradfield 1-1; Marcus Hobbs 1-0. Stadium: Varsity Stadium Attendance: 1000 Kickoff time: 1:07 pm End of Game: 3:00 pm Total elapsed time: 2:57 Officials: Referee: F Cooper; Umpire: B Pawlowsky; Linesman: R Tyrell; Line judge: J Cecchini; Back judge: M Morlog; Field judge: H Murphy; Side judge: N Johnston; Scorer: J Metcalfe; Temperature: 21 deg C Wind: E 19km Weather: Overcast