Aaron Milton saw some open field, ran with it, shook his way around some helpless defenders and scored a 49-yard touchdown that broke the game open for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues on Saturday afternoon.
Not bad for a freshman.
The rookie running back finished with 84 yards to help lead the Varsity Blues to their first victory of the season, barely surviving a late push by the Lions to secure a 24-19 win.
And perhaps just as important to a rowdy crowd in attendance, Toronto’s third straight Red & Blue Bowl win.
For Milton however, it’s more about getting rid of that big fat zero in the loss column.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to, but we got the win,” said the first-year player. “And it’s good to get the win, first one of the season, get that out of the way so we can start working on practice next week.”
Milton’s running prowess was part of a one-two punch on the ground as quarterback Andrew Gillis ran 91 yards of his own, picking up two rushing TD’s.
Gillis also had some success through the air, going 15-for-24 for 143 yards.
York nearly makes the comeback
As York had not won a game since 2007 coming into this contest, it seemed very likely that Toronto would roll away with victory after entering the fourth quarter with a 21-3 lead.
However, the Lions showed a lot of heart and hustle, putting together a string of spirited drives, and a little bit of trickery, to come close to taking the match.
It all started with fourth-year veteran Steve Reading. At their own 50-yard line on third down, York faked a punt and instead gave the ball to the 232 pound linebacker.
Toronto was caught napping and Reading took advantage, finding some space down the middle as he rumbled on for 32 yards.
Momentum now on the their side, the Lions pushed the ball down the field until eventually Dallas Smith, from two yards out, spun around his defender and fell, but not before crossing the plane to cut the lead to 11.
After Toronto scored a safety and a single, York came storming back again, this time thanks to the arm of quarterback Nick Coutu.
From 41 yards out from the end zone, Coutu hit a streaking Alex Bugdahn, who caught the ball over his shoulder at the goal-line to make it 24-19.
It was as close as York could get, however, as Coutu was intercepted with 46 seconds left, allowing the Varsity Blues to kill the clock for the win.
Coutu had a terrific game, throwing for 320 yards and 102 rushing, but his four interceptions allowed Toronto to maintain better field position for much of the match.
York’s stellar fourth quarter only made Lions head coach Warren Craney chuckle after the game.
“We seem to keep putting these good quarters together,” he said in reference to good third quarters against Ottawa and Guelph in weeks previous. “But we need to translate that into 60 minutes.”
York scored its first touchdowns of the season in this game, and could have pulled out the upset if not for Toronto’s strong offensive play in the second and third quarters.
After a scoreless first frame, Gillis got the offence rolling with a three-yard touchdown that seemed to spark the Blues.
Towards the end of the half, Milton took advantage of two York linebackers tripping over each other to create space.
He then raced from one sideline to the other, before finally turning on the jets as he made a sharp cut towards the end zone to give his team the cushion that proved to be the difference maker.
After the game, Gillis had the best analysis to explain his rookie teammate.
“He’s one helluva an athlete.”