Fifth-year quarterback Andrew Gillis made two huge plays for the University of Toronto with under two minutes remaining to help seal a 21-12 victory over the visiting Guelph Gryphons Saturday afternoon.
A 44-yard pass on first down to receiver Paul de Pass put the Varsity Blues (2-1) on the Guelph half of the field.
Gillis finished the game 12-for-28, passing for 173 yards and three interceptions. But it was his seven carries for 52 yards that made the difference on the day, as he took the ball in for two Varsity touchdowns.
The second touchdown came on a 25-yard quarterback draw to put the game on ice with 47 seconds remaining. The Gryphon (1-2) defence never had an answer for his running ability.
“It was just something I was thinking about a lot during practice this week,” said Gillis of his tendency to tuck-and-run on the day.
“Everything was telling us that a quarterback draw would work,” said Blues head coach Greg Gary.
The victory came on a national platform, as theScore was at Varsity Stadium broadcasting the game live coast-to-coast.
“I think we just took the first step in many,” Gary said. “We’re just trying to reestablish the program on the national stage. They got that first TD on the blocked kick and we came back and we did what we had to do. That’s a character thing.”
The game definitely did not start well for the Blues in their home opener. A holding call, a small run, and a sack led to Willie Sharpe’s punt getting blocked in the end zone by Guelph defensive end Mike Millar, who eventually recovered the bouncing ball for the 7-0 lead.
That was the only time in the game Guelph found themselves in the end zone. Quarterback Chris Rossetti and his offence were stymied by the U of T defence.
The Gryphon signal caller went 13-for-28 on the day, passing for just 107 yards while throwing an interception. He was replaced temporarily by freshman Jazz Lindsey, but he too was ineffective against the Blues’ D.
As a team, the Gryphons rushed for 166 yards on the day, led by Steve Lagace with 61 yards. But the ground game never travelled to pay dirt.
It took a few possessions after the blocked punt for the Blues to get their offence on track, but things came together near the end of the first quarter.
A big face-masking penalty charged to Guelph lineman Jordan Thompson, and a few runs from Gillis put tailback Aaron Milton in position to cut in from 11 yards out to tie the game at 7-7.
The major provided some momentum for the Blues, as the defence forced a punt from deep in their own end.
With the excellent field position, Gillis lofted a perfect pass down the seam to Michael Prempeh, who was brought down at the one-yard line.
Gillis spread his receivers out on first down, but snuck in himself for the score, and a 14-7 lead.
The Varsity defence had a great day, recording six sacks, two third-down turnovers, a forced fumble, and a sensational interception from defensive back Dorian Munroe.
On a second-and-long midway through the second quarter, Rossetti bootlegged out to his left, and tossed a pass 15 yards downfield. But his eyes were read by Munroe, who made the leaping catch to the delight of the 1,898 fans in attendance.
U of G came out determined to put a major on the board to start the second half, but full back Tim Berta was stripped of the ball at the Toronto one-yard line by middle linebacker Wilk Desouza.
Varsity couldn’t push the ball out of the shadow of their own goal post, and surrendered the safety. A 33-yard field goal from Gryphon kicker Daniel Ferraro concluded the scoring for his team, at that point making the score 14-12.
Desouza recorded 11 tackles on the day in addition to the fumble. His part to his left Kevin Asare also had a great game, making six tackles, most of which came on important plays.