TORONTO — Much has changed for the McMaster Marauders since their painful 20-19 Vanier Cup loss to the Montreal Carabins last November.
Veteran quarterback Marshall Ferguson and all-Canadian kicker Tyler Crapigna are gone. So is essentially the whole defensive secondary and a key linebacker. But in defeating the Toronto Varsity Blues 55-33 in their OUA season opener Sunday, the visiting Marauders showed they still have plenty of weapons.
Second-year quarterback Asher Hastings, a six-four 218-pounder from Regina who only had 50 pass attempts last season behind Ferguson, completed 26 of 34 passes for 384 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.
"It's off-the-charts good," McMaster coach Stefan Ptaszek said Monday of the performance.
"I was really impressed with just how poised and calm and how comfortable he looked in his first ever OUA start," he added.
Danny Vandervoot, a second-team all-Canadian last season, hauled in 10 passes for 168 yards and an OUA record-tying four touchdowns.
"One game into his third season and he's almost at the top of our career touchdown receptions mark," said Ptaszek. "And if he stays healthy, (he) certainly will get that record soon enough."
The third-year receiver from Barrie, Ont., was one of three OUA football players of the week.
Fellow Marauder receiver Dan Petermann had nine catches for 100 yards and one touchdown while Wayne Moore rushed 20 times for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Ptaszek was quick to praise Toronto, which went 2-6 last season, for its performance Sunday.
"The big take home was the Varsity Bues are a much-improved football team and very much playoff contenders in the OUA this year," he said. "They played some great football.
"Like us, they're a young football team so they hurt themselves. And we returned the favour and hurt ourselves — penalties and turnovers and some goofy plays. But young football teams do do that. At the end of the day, I'm glad my guys stayed together and put together a pretty good final 30 minutes."
Trailing 26-24 at the half, McMaster outscored Toronto 31-7 in the second half.
On the minus side, Mac was penalized 13 times for 82 yards while Toronto had 14 penalties for 105 yards.
Toronto's fifth-year quarterback Simon Nassar, a five-foot-10 195-pound dynamo, completed 29 of 49 passes for 361 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
"A real competitive make-things-happen player," Ptaszek said of Nassar. "They're well set up to ride his coattails. They're going to score points on everybody and he can make plays on everybody."
Toronto tailback Divante Smith rushed 18 times for 112 yards and three touchdowns.
Ptaszek also had kind words for Mac kicker Bobby Frame who was good on two field goal attempts and seven extra points but punted for only a 27.3-yard average.
"We preach positional punting so to shank it out of bounds is actually a win for us," the coach said charitably. "If you put it into the middle of the field, we're in trouble and so he's doing as he's been coached to do.
"He's capable of booming 50-yarders and the fact that he was averaging 27 on the weekend, he'll tell you he can play better. But all in all for his first start, that's what we were hoping to get out of Mr. Frame."
McMaster has a bye this week before hosting the Ottawa Gee-Gees on Sept. 12. Toronto hosts Windsor (0-1-0) on Monday.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press