For a pair of 0-4 teams, this is the biggest game of the OUA football season.
With a playoff spot starting to slip out of both club’s grasp, pride and bragging rights are still on the line.
It’s been a difficult year offensively for the Lions.
After dropping a close game to Windsor in their opener, York discovered their new quarterback, Patrick Hooey, was ineligible and subsequently suspended for the remainder of the season.
Since then, they’ve only managed to score 16 points in three games, including losing their last one 67-0 at Queen’s. York currently ranks last in the OUA in both rushing and passing, combining for a paltry 191 yards of offence per game.
York has not won a game since Sept. 29, 2007, when they edged the Varsity Blues 21-20. Between that home win and Saturday, they are riding a 15-game losing streak.
The Varsity Blues are themselves on a nine-game losing skid, with their last victory coming in the 2008 version of the Red and Blue Bowl. Toronto dominated all afternoon en route to a 58-7 victory.
After starting last season with such optimism and seeing the ending of a 49-game losing streak, things haven’t gone the way the University of Toronto football program had hoped.
Despite pulling into early leads this season against competitive squads such as Guelph and Ottawa, the Varsity Blues fell behind quickly afterwards and suffered sizeable defeats.
The key to victory for Toronto will be their passing attack.
They have averaged 217 yards per game through the air. The duo of Jansen Shrubb and Andrew Gillis have quarterbacked the team to some strong offensive outings, but no wins.
With York near or at the bottom in all of the OUA’s statistical categories, they’ll need to throw that information out the window and try and come out with a running attack.
Toronto has given up 1,030 running yards, most in the OUA. It will be up to running back Jacob Appiah to gain significant ground for the Lions attack.
The five-foot-nine Etobicoke native has picked up 198 yards so far this season as the team’s top rusher. Despite the gains on the ground, York has not had a rushing touchdown all season.
If the Varsity Blues can win on Saturday, they have a chance to build some momentum towards future wins. They have a quick turnaround to play next Thursday at McMaster before finishing up at home to Waterloo and at Western.
York, meanwhile, sees Western and Ottawa in consecutive weeks and should they not win on Saturday, their last chance at a victory would likely come in the season finale in Waterloo against the Warriors.
While a loss would not mathematically eliminate either team, it would realistically end any hope of post-season play.
Neither team has reached the playoffs since York lost to Western in the 2004 OUA quarter-finals.