Redmen show promise for upcoming season

For four decades, Redmen football victories against rival University of Toronto were treated like blue moons, solar eclipses and Maple Leafs’ Stanley Cup — they didn’t happen very often. McGill removed itself from that list Saturday as the team opened its gridiron season with a 40-17 win over the Varsity Blues in an exhibition contest at the Varsity Centre in Toronto. The victory was the Redmen’s first against Toronto since McGill’s triumph in the 1979 Yates Cup. The win sent a message to the rest of Canadian Interuniversity Sport that McGill, which won a game last year for the first time in three years, is a resurgent team looking to do even more damage in 2010.

The teams began the game hesitantly as both starting quarterbacks threw interceptions early on. Toronto opened up the scoring midway through the first quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass by Andrew Gillis.

“Even though we started off poorly, the guys stayed with it and continued to believe and play hard,” said Head Coach Sonny Wolfe.

McGill evened up the score when sophomore quarterback Jonathan Collin connected with Charles-Antoine Sinotte for a 48-yard touchdown strike. Collin would finish the day 11-for-17 with one interception.

The McGill ground game was particularly effective, especially the relief performance of freshman running back Sean Murphy. After an Austin Anderson rouge put McGill up 8-7, Murphy broke for a 59-yard run, earning the first touchdown of his career. Two Anderson field goals in the last minute of the half pushed the score to 21-7 before Murphy struck again with a four-yard run from scrimmage, capping off an 86-yard drive to begin the third quarter. Although junior Taylor Kuprowski will handle the majority of the carries once the regular season gets under way, Murphy shows promising potential.

While McGill’s offense was explosive, the defense performed just as well. The Redmen shut down their Old Four rivals, holding them to a mere 26 yards on the ground and an average of just 1.1 yards per rush.

Since the game was an exhibition, the 1,000 fans at the Varsity Centre got a good look at a number of players who will occupy substitute roles when the regular season kicks off on Sunday. All 56 players on the Redmen roster got some playing time in Wolfe’s first opportunity to see his squad battle another team.

“It was an away game against an opponent and an opportunity to have some team-building going on,” said Wolfe.

For a program that has been mediocre at best over the last four years, the future looks bright as many defensive starters and a sophomore star quarterback return. With one year of experience under his belt and joined on offence by returning vets in fifth-year wide receiver Sinotte and kicker Austin Anderson, Collin could just be the leader of a group that gets McGill back in the playoffs for the first time since 2006. While a three-win year and a fifth-place finish in 2009 was an improvement over the goose eggs of the two previous years, the Redmen could be headed even higher.

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