OUA opening day: Once in a Blue Moon

And people say there's nothing to rally around at the University of Toronto. Let's see this kind of delirium for a well-defended thesis.

The beauty of coach Greg DeLaval, quarterback David Hamilton and the whole lot of the U of T Varsity Blues ending their seven-year losing streak is that all of us who make time for CIS football can feel like a winner this morning. Well, not the unfortunate Waterloo Warriors. of course. (Granted, if you support Laval, you were probably doing fairly well already.)

Toronto's 18-17 comeback win over Waterloo might only raise a temporary glow, but it's been 2,515 days in the making since their last win over Windsor. Two thousand, five hundred and fifteen days -- you almost have to write that out, eh? Please don't begrudge anyone for basking just a little in the Blues' reflected glory. (Small wonder that at this hour, it's the most-read story on the Toronto Star website.)

Why shouldn't we? The Streak has come to define, even marginalize, OUA and CIS football for way, way too long. Skeptics, in somewhat characteristic self-hating Canuck fashion, have long pointed to U of T's dismal record as a reason to see our great game as a living joke. All of us diehards, regardless of how many arguments we've tried in a bid to open some minds, knew was no more getting around that than Waterloo was able to get by U of T's defence when push met shove last night.

Dane Cook movies have had more credible scripts. Waterloo probably should have been able to put this one to bed long before the late stages of the fourth quarter. The Warriors outgained Toronto 478 yards to 410 on the night, but the Varsity Blues defence never broke. They got a couple sacks from a defensive end from Pickering, Abiodun Olusoga, a freshman management major who if you can believe is listed at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds. That's barely bigger than the defensive backs at some schools in Canada, never mind the NCAA.

Matthew Morris, a transfer defensive back who -- ivory-tower types take note -- is at U of T thanks in part to that dirty, sexy scholarship money, also helped prop up his mates on offence with a 92-yard kickoff return. In the final minutes, Hamilton, whom one can only assume has wondered if he would go out on an 0-40 record just like former coach Steve Howlett (who should get a little credit, since he recruited a lot of the players), directed the two late scoring drives. The second, wouldn't you know it, was capped by a rookie in his first game, Andrew Lomasney, kicking a 32-yard field goal with 26.2 seconds left. Naturally, he'd missed his first two attempts of the night.

It seems best to let up on the wonder-why. Anyone who's stayed current with the Varsity Blues' fortunes through thin and thinner knows that they've had close calls over the past few years. They also know that, given the school's track record, we have to be patient. One win does not a turnaround make.

U of T might go to 2-0 on Saturday vs. Windsor. Maybe their next win won't come for another seven years or until Toronto finally tears down the Gardiner Expressway, whatever comes first. Tonight could be just one-off. It was a hell of a one-off, though.

Do you want to hear the rest?

  • Western 35, Ottawa 31: In any city but see-no-evil Ottawa, "Gee-Gee gag job" would be the headline in tomorrow's paper. Ottawa will probably be fine after blowing an 18-point lead in a little more than four minutes in a 35-31 loss at Western.

    It's notable that it was a similar story for Ottawa in their 2007 opener. They had a long trip, to Guelph, and only came away with an eight-point win. Josh Sacobie put up numbers (320-some yards), but an interception and sack-lost fumble were killers, along with a drop with three minutes left by Ivan Birungi.

    Western showed a lot of resolve. Regardless, they got a touchdown on a fumble return and had less than 200 yards passing. They were below five yards per pass attempt when you take away Jesse Bellamy's 46-yard scoring catch. The upshot is they have no quit in them, which is a big part of the battle.

    Capital Region Football Blog did a liveblog of Western-Ottawa.
  • Queen's 35, McMaster 11: The Tricolour-centric ramblings are over at OOLF, so you don't have to bored with me writing about a game my team played that I could not physically see.
  • Windsor 40, York 7: File this one-sided game under the heading of Same Ol', Same Ol'.
  • Laurier 15, Guelph 13: Freshman linebacker Mitchell Bosch made an early case for the rookie-of-the-year honours. His touchdown on an interception return stood up as the margin of victory for Laurier, which for the second straight time won a regular-season game over the Gryphons that it should have lost.

    Running back Ryan Lynch wasn't much of factor for the Golden Hawks.

    Guelph shot itself in the foot big time -- a couple blown red-zone opportunities where they had turnovers or settled for field goals, plus their stellar sophomore, Jedd Gardner, stepped out of bounds at the Laurier eight-yard line on a 100-yard-plus missed field goal return on the final play of the first half.

    The Guelph Mercury, thanks to the efforts of the Big Man on Campus, Greg Layson, had great coverage all day, including the above YouTube-age. Merc sports shooter Jeff Pfeiffer also put together a nifty little slideshow.

Some final U of T notes

  • For closet numerologists: Seven is a lucky number. The square root of 49 is seven. The jersey numbers of Toronto's leading rusher and receiver tonight, Walter Cariazo (35) and Drew Meerveld (84), are divisible by... seven. The winning points were set up by 35-yard catch by Michael Prempel ... Michael ... Prempel ... seven letters in each name.
  • You should think twice about whether this changes anything, considering that none of the three cable sports networks headquartered in Toronto have shown highlights of the game, or even mentioned it on-air. TSN showed a clips package from Western's win over Ottawa, but that was it.)
  • Four years at Queen's means being constitutionally obligated to point out that two Toronto football teams got a big boost from Gaels. Former Gaels coach Bob Howes has been helping with the suddenly victorious Varsity Blues, while Bryan Crawford scored the winning touchdown in the Argos' Labour Day win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (and Crawford's from the Hammer, no less).

Honestly, one wish was circulating tonight around dinner hour. The afternoon slate of games had been duds -- a field-goal battle and two blowouts, meaning, Ottawa-Western and Waterloo-Toronto had better have something special in store, otherwise the whole day would be a loss as a fan. Who knew?

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