CIS exhibition football: Redmen rally in thriller over Varsity Blues

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Source: Earl Zukerman, McGill Sports Info / Photocredit Toronto Varsity Blues

TORONTO – Raphael Casey‘s 26-yardtouchdown run with 39 seconds remaining capped a 99-yard scoringdrive as visiting McGill opened their 134th season with a thrilling35-33 come-from-behind victory over the University of TorontoVarsity Blues in CIS preseason football at Varsity Centre onSaturday.

Casey, a 5-foot-8, 163-pound sophomore from Montreal, finished thegame with 12 catches for 59 yards.

Teammate Jean-PhilippePaquette, a 5-foot-5, 154-pound junior receiver fromTrois-Rivieres, Que., added a pair of TDs, hauling in sixreceptions for 110 yards.

The Blues had taken their first lead of the game with just 2:08remaining in the final quarter on a 57-yard TD reception by LleviNoel but on the next drive, McGill freshmanquarterback Joel Houle marched his troops downthe field to set up the winning tally on a rugby-style pitch toCasey, while trying to elude being sacked. The Blues had a chanceto comeback in the final minute but McGill rookie defensiveback Mack Dessources intercepted an errantpass with a nifty over-the-shoulder catch on the Redmen 31-yardline to end the game. It was a solid CIS debut for Dessources, a5-foot-8 management freshman from Laval, Que., who was creditedwith five solo tackles.

Houle, a native of Chateauguay, Que., who entered the contest inthe third quarter, completed 10 of 17 pass attempts for 135 yardsand the winning tally. He also rushed four times for 46 yards.Starting quarterback Dallon Kuprowski, a seniorfrom Ottawa, tossed for three TD passes, connecting on 8 of 13attempts for 182 yards. Junior Pierre-Luc Moquin, athird pivot for McGill, saw action in the third quarter. He was3-for-6 for 34 yards. The trio did not throw an interception.

“Our passing game looked pretty good and our receivers played verywell,” said Clint Uttley, in his fourth season ashead coach at McGill. “We were a bit ugly, especially on specialteams, but showed a lot of character to come from behind by drivingthe length of the field in the last minute. But we wanted toevaluate our younger players and took our starters out after goingahead 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 netyards, compared to 363 by the Blues. They outrushed UofT 131-62 andoutpassed them 351-317.

The Redmen jumped out to an early lead as Kuprowski connected withPaquette twice, on TD tosses of nine and 45 yards. McGill, whichheld a 14-3 lead after the first quarter, increased their advantageto 21-3 early in the second stanza on a 67-yard TD throw fromKuprowski to Montrealer Kenny Baye.

The Blues rallied with 13 straight points to close the gap to21-16 at halftime, Chris Jugovic of Hamilton, Ont., struck paydirtwith a 25-yard screen pass to Lukas Gavac of Mississauga, Ont. Thenkicker Eric Hewitson, a sophomore from Cambridge, Ont., connectedfor a pair of field goals, from 25 and 44 yards, to close out thehalf. He went 4-for-4 on the day, adding field-goals of 40 and 32yards, respectively, in the second half.

Hewitson provided the only scoring in the third quarter with hisfourth field-goal, which was set up by a 40-yard pass from Jugovicto Kevin Bradfield, who led the Blues with 107 receiving yards and219 all-purpose yards.

Ahead 21-19 into the final quarter, McGill added to their lead ona 38-yard TD pass from Houle to rookie JonathanMack of St. Lambert, Que. The Blues quickly recapturedthe momentum as Stone Sousa of Brampton, Ont., in his first game asa Varsity Blue, returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a majoras Toronto reduced the deficit to 28-26. With under three minutesto go, quarterback Marcus Hobbs of Mississauga, Ont. engineered thego-ahead drive with his TD pass to Noel, only to see McGill rallymoments 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 nextSaturday, begins regular season play at Sherbrooke on Sept. 6.

REDMEN RAP: Among the 200 McGill alumni and family members on handfor the game were a pair of teammates from McGill’s 1987 Vanier Cupchamps — Dr. J.P.Veri andChristian Masotti… McGilldressed 54 players (11 fewer than UofT) instead of theregular-season standard of 45… Seven of McGill’s eight defensivebacks were freshmen, including Karl Forgues, wholed the defence with 5.5 total tackles… Three Redmen registeredquarterback sacks, including OusmaneGuindo, Olivier Cain-Tremblay andJeremy-Megan France… Rookie DB DavidPolynice made 2.5 tackles, including one for loss, andhad a pair of knockdowns… Nine different McGill receivers caughtat least one pass… Nils Jonkmans handled thepunting duties for the Redmen, averaging 29.7 yards on 14 kicks.His average would have been much higher but three of his attemptswere shanked of the side of his foot… Jonkmans also averaged animpressive 55 yards on five kickoffs but missed on a 35-yardfield-goal… Rookie place-kicker MykeDaignault-Labarre also went 0-for-1, missing from 37…The two teams last met on Aug. 28, 2010, where the Redmen walkedaway with a 40-17 victory… This was McGill’s second consecutivewin over the Blues but U of T holds the upper hand in this longtimerivalry with a lifetime 95-52-6 head-to-head series record in 153meetings, dating back to 1881… Toronto is coming off a 4-4 recordin 2013, their best finish since the 1993 Yates and Vanier Cupchampionship season… McGill finished 2013 with a 3-5 record inthe RSEQ conference, with two wins over Concordia and one overMount Alison.

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