The Varsity Blues beat up on their cross-town rivals, the York Lions, Thursday night in the 44th annual Red and Blue Bowl.
To make things worse for the Lions, the 56-35 loss came on their home turf in front of a packed crowd at York Stadium.
Blues’ pivot Simon Nassar threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns. The third-year English student replaced the injured Chris Jugovic in Week 5 and has gotten U of T back in the OUA playoff hunt.
York defeated Toronto in the big game last year, 36-24, at Varsity Stadium and Nassar says the team used the experience as motivation.
“I remember last year standing on the 40 after the game and they were partying with the trophy,” said Nassar. “It was one of those things that kind of hit me in the heart, it hit the whole team in the heart.
“I think we didn’t forget that all season and that was something that really pushed us this year to go out and compete.”
The winner of the game receives the Argo Cup, donated by the Toronto Argonauts in 1992. In Red and Blue Bowl history, Toronto has a 28-16 record.
Head coach Greg Gary says “revenge” wasn’t really on the minds of his players.
“I think we’re all trying to move up the food chain in the league, York’s a team we’re trying to be better than and we did so this time around,” he said.
Toronto is on a two-game winning streak with Nassar behind centre, but Gary says the entire offence has grown this year.
“It was a season in which they had to develop, it just took time,” said the third-year coach. “I think Chris [Jugovic] would have done the same thing, but Simon has done an outstanding job.”
U of T received stellar play from their special teams all night with a successful fake punt leading to a score, a blocked punt, an onside recovery and even returned an interception thrown by York’s kicker for a touchdown.
Gary says their special teams helped a lot to get the momentum in the Blues favour.
“We decided to create some offence with our special teams,” said Gary. “Every once and a while, when we’re bogged down a little bit, we’ll use our special teams to create points.”
York didn’t start off too bad.
They took a 14-2 lead with a Samir Boulazreg 38-yard interception return TD, followed by a Errol Brooks one yard scamper for six points.
Then the Varsity Blues woke up, scoring 40 unanswered points.
Nassar credits coach Gary with getting the team back on track.
“Our coach looked at our offence and said ‘Hey, what are we going to do’ and he just challenged us and we responded well,” said Nassar. “Our defence kept us in the game early.”
Varsity Blues’ receiver Paul de Pass had 11 catches, good enough for 155 yards and two touchdowns. The fifth-year player is now 128 yards shy of the school’s career reception yard record. Mark Magee had 2, 385 yards receiving from 1977-1981.
Llevi Noel and Alex Pierzchalski each had a touchdown catch for the Blues. Backup quarterback, Marcus Hobbs, ran it in for two scores.
York quarterback, Myles Gibbon threw for 314 yards, including two touchdowns in his final home game as a Lion.
Toronto (3-4) is trying to catch McMaster (3-3) for the sixth and final playoff spot.
“We had to have this one just to be in the hunt,” said Gary. “We’re still in it, a lot of things have to happen that we don’t have a lot of control over, but we’re in the hunt.”
The Marauders play the Laurier Golden Hawks (1-6) this weekend.
The Blues last game of the season will be at home against the Waterloo Warriors next Saturday afternoon.
York (2-5) plays the best team in the OUA, the Western Mustangs (7-0), in their final game.