Oh, as a Lions’ fan, how sweet it is. The drought has ended.
This week, for the first time since the preseason, our boys in orange and black don’t have to walk off the field with the bitter dregs of defeat in their mouths. Also, this week, instead of getting the standard sports report write-up of the game [I did spend a few years writing sports desk a little over a decade and a half ago], you’re getting a fan’s report. If you want the other sort, I’m sure you can find the Sun or the Province, and either of them will have solid enough reportage describing the game.
But, like me, you’re fans. Chances are you were at the game, or watched it on television- whether on TSN, or for those of us stuck on the southern side of the border, the NFL Network, or listened to it on the radio.
It’s a win, and one which looks fairly decisive on the scoresheet. 24-11 looks solid- a two-score margin of victory, and breaking the winless streak feels pretty darn good. For that matter, up until the final few minutes of the first half we saw the Lions play the way the team did in the preseason and dominate the game.
Travis Lulay was pretty good for the first half of the match, and Geroy Simon had the sort of evening that recalls Superman in his prime, closing the night out with seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown while setting up another one. Lulay ended up 18 for 27 for 257 yards with one interception coming on a bad read in the third quarter.
Jamal Robertson had ten carries for 56 yards; Tim Brown had a carry for a touchdown- set up by three successive Lulay to Simon passes.
Inside the three-minute mark of the first half, the Lions were looking like Empire emperors, keeping the Saskatchewan offense in check and moving the ball fairly regularly, and showing off a 20-3 edge. That final Rider possession of the half likely had some fans- myself included- a little uneasy. It was the one series where the defence showed some of the little mistakes which have plagued the team in the year to date, culminating in a Darian Durant to Chris Getzlaf major to cut the lead to 20-10.
Coming out to start the second half, neither side could establish much in their first possession, and the Leos moved the ball but stalled on their second, leading to Durant starting to march the Riders down the field for them to end up coming away empty handed when Eddie Johnson’s 35-yard attempt clanked off the upright. The visitors would have another crack at the scoreboard to close out the third quarter, but would settle for a single on another Johnson miss.
The fourth quarter was a chance for the Leo D to show its stuff, keeping Saskatchewan in check while the offence sputtered and failed to capitalize on a brilliant opportunity, managing only a Paul McCallum field goal after a shanked punt and ensuing no-yards penalty gave the Lions the ball inside the 30 yard line. A later punt rouge would round out the scoring.
It was a solid showing by the defence, and a good enough one by the offence to stake out the victory over a struggling opponent; and showed some promise. By and large, the errors which have plagued the team were kept to a minimum, the defence showed that they could pin their ears back and sustain pressure on one of the league’s most mobile passers.
Solomon Elimimian led the defence with a stunning twelve tackles and registered one of the three sacks absorbed by Durant, and he and Keron Williams rarely missed an opportunity to lay a big hit on anyone wearing green and white.
The defensive backfield wasn’t spectacular, but was solid enough, with newcomer Tad Kornegay showing he knew a bit of the Rider offense. More importantly, none of the d-backs were burned on long completions, not yielding a completion netting more than 21 yards nor getting victimized on penalties. The Lions only took three on the evening, and benefited from 12 flags being thrown against the Riders.
Next week, the Lions will face a stiffer challenge at home, as they host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (5-1), who this week knocked off the previously undefeated Edmonton Eskimos in a battle of surprise Division leaders.
- A crowd of 25,238 took in the game. Just over a 1000 more than watched the Hamilton game. So much for half a stadium of green. There were Rider fans, but in very small pockets. Despite another debunking of “the myth” it’s always a good atmosphere when the Riders come to town.
- The crowd at last night’s game seemed to know the importance of it. They were more into the game then previous ones this year.
- The Lions had a moment of silence for the late Richard Harris before the game.
Against a lesser team, the BC Lions possibly escape with a victory. Unfortunately, tonight they faced off against the two-time defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes instead and a valiant second half rally fell short by a 30-26 score.
With the first possession of the game, the Als managed to do what neither Calgary nor Saskatchewan could during the preseason, score a major on the Lions defence. Diamond Ferri took the opening kickoff from Paul McCallum at the Montreal 14 yard line, and the season was underway. Ferri would be brought down after a 23 yard return by Anthony Reddick and six plays later, Anthony Calvillo found S. J. Green behind the Lions secondary and the 51-yard scoring toss drew first blood, putting the Alouettes up 7-0 after the conversion.
While Montreal may have gotten exactly the start they could have hoped for, the same could not be said for the visiting Lions, who went 2-and-out on their opening possession, yielding a sack on the first play under centre followed by an incompletion from Lulay intended for Jamal Richardson, leaving McCallum to kick the ball away.
The little errors and untimely penalties which plagued last year’s edition of the Lions looked as if they might recur when an unnecessary roughness penalty against Aaron Hunt tacked fifteen yards onto a Brandon Whitaker 28-yard run, moving the ball inside the Lions’ 25, leaving BC in danger of dropping ten or more points in arrears less than halfway into the first quarter. The Als were unable to convert, however, with Sean Whyte hitting the right upright on a 35-yard attempt.
The Lions were able to capitalize somewhat on the momentum shift after the Whyte miss, moving the ball sixty-four yards in eleven plays before getting on the board with the first of McCallum’s four field goals on the night. On the drive, Geroy Simon caught a sixteen-yard toss from Lulay to move into fourth place among the CFL’s all-time receiving leaders.
The Lions secondary in particular looked shaky for most of the first half, letting the Als stretch the defensive backfield and tally 27 points by the half with the Lions only managing to add a late touchdown throw by Lulay to Akeem Foster on a drive kept alive on a 2nd-and-10 completion from Lulay to rookie receiver Dobson Collins good for 49 yards.
The second half would see the Lions come out and move the ball downfield only to stall when a blown coverage allowed Ferri to drop Jarious Jackson, who had come in on the short-yardage play with the Lions looking at first-and-goal from the 2 yard line for an eleven yard loss. Rather than punching the ball in for the touchdown, the Lions settled for McCallum’s second FG of the night to close to 27-10.
Reddick would continue his strong play on defensive special teams with a big hit on Tim Maypray which seemed to set the tone for the Lions’ play when Montreal had the ball in the second half. The Alouettes generally had the better field position through the third quarter, but the BC defence proved stalwart when needed and kept their hosts from capitalizing.
With three minutes left in the third quarter, Tim Brown managed to pull off something which had the Lions’ faithful (and your BCLionsDen.ca staff) asking “Yonus who?” as he returned a Whyte punt 97 yards for the touchdown bringing the black and orange to within ten. If Brown can continue with the play he showed this evening, his predecessor as Leos’ kick returner will surely be forgotten in the “ecstasy” of the Lions’ coaching staff and fans.
Montreal would close out their side of the scoring ledger with a Whyte field goal in the waning seconds of the third quarter and would take the final turn up 30-20. Bracketing the opening of the final frame, Lulay would find Simon and Collins for 36 and 14 yards respectively before the drive would fizzle when Lulay just slightly overthrew Collins in the end zone. McCallum would tally his third field goal of the night from 39 yards, and it seemed as if the comeback might be on.
In the end, though, Lions’ fan’s hopes to steal a victory from the beast of the East were dashed as the team started to win the field position battle, forcing Montreal coach Marc Trestman to elect to have Sean Whyte punt from fifteen yards deep in his own end zone up by seven points with under three minutes to play. The Lions started to move again, but without a timeout came up a bit short and settled for McCallum’s fourth field goal of the night to round out the scoring.
Coach Buono’s decision to kick the field goal on third-and-five rather than going for the conversion will certainly be questioned at some length before next week’s tilt at Empire Field against the Stampeders. With the momentum and field position favouring the Leos and Lulay having success finding several receivers, the call seemed an overly conservative one, as with no timeouts left and 1:42 left on the clock at the change of possession, the Lions were unable to get the ball back to take one more shot at the victory.
- Travis Lulay had a good statistical evening, going 26 of 45 for 366 yards and out-throwing Calvillo, who ended up 22-of-30 for 312.
- The offensive line for the Lions showed significant improvement in their pass protection, only allowing the opening drive sack of Lulay and the blown coverage which dropped Jackson down in the red zone.
- Tim Brown had five punt returns for 132 yards, including the 97-yarder; and added 50 yards on three kick returns, with Andrew Harris netting 59 on the other three.
- On the defensive side of the ball, Solomon Elimimian led the charge with seven tackles, while Anthony Reddick tallied five and a pair on special teams.
- Geroy Simon, Shawn Gore and Jamal Robertson each had five catches, followed by Dobson Collins, Akeem Foster and Nick Moore with three apiece. Simon’s catches netted 115 yards, rookie Collins finished with 85.
Next game: Friday July 8th versus Calgary at Empire Field. 7:30pm. Tickets
Vanya Tucherov – BCLionsDen.ca
The BC Lions’ venture into McMahon Stadium to do battle with the CFL-leading Calgary Stampeders was fraught with many of the same horrors which have plagued the Lions all season – sloppy execution, shaky play from the offensive line and turnovers, but, as a direct result of a resolute defence and some stellar special teams play, the result was a 29-10 triumph over the Stampeders.
The game started well for the Leos as Yonus Davis took the opening kickoff 73 yards and Geroy Simon caught an eighteen yard strike from Casey Printers. Suddenly the Lions had the ball at the twelve yard line looking to make an emphatic statement early in the game. Instead of punctuating the statement with the exclamation mark that a touchdown would have been, after two Casey Printers overthrows of Simon, Paul McCallum came on to draw first blood with the field goal.
Henry Burris would take two plays to throw his first interception of the game, finding Dante Marsh to give the Orange and Black the ball again in Calgary territory.
Second verse, almost the same as the first. This time, the chosen receiver was Paris Jackson, who caught a seven yard hitch and was then overthrown on second and three, leading to McCallum’s second of the game, this one from forty-two yards, and the Lions were up 6-0 less than five minutes into the game; but with the feeling that perhaps it should have at least been 10-0.
Given the way the year has gone, it was hard to stay positive. Watching the Twitter feed of Lions’ fans talking about the game, there was more than a little fatalism, as viewers wondered how long it’d take for the failure to convert the majors to come back to haunt the Leos.
The Stamps weren’t getting anything established with the ball either, which led to generally positive field position for the Lions on both sides of the ball. A pair of punts later, the Lions D held the red and white to a two-and-out down in the shadows of their own goalposts, and Yonus Davis’ twenty-nine yard return of Burke Dales’ punt from the Calgary ten netted twenty-six yards and gave the Lions a third possession in Stampeders’ territory. Like the previous two, though, this one stalled quickly and ended up with a third McCallum field goal on the board, rounding out the scoring in the first frame with the Lions out to the 9-0 edge.
When Printers fumbled at the Lions’ thirteen on the team’s second snap of the second quarter, the collective groan seemed to be that the tide was about to turn with the Stamps this time having excellent field position. The groan grew in timbre when Burris found Romby Bryant to move the ball down to the one-yard line. Two rush attempts later- and two times Calgary players were credited with recovering the ball after putting it on the carpet- the Lions had taken ten of those twelve yards back, and forced Rob Maver and the kicking team onto the field for the Stamps. Maver banged his attempt off of the top of the right upright, and suddenly, the Lions weren’t the only team leaving points on the field.
Three non-descript possessions and ensuing punts later, the Stampeders were deep in their own end again when Burris made another mistake, throwing an interception to Korey Banks and giving the Lions possession at the Calgary six-yard line after Banks’ pick was initially returned into the end zone for an apparent touchdown- which was overturned after Calgary coach John Hufnagel challenged the ruling on the field.
Again, the Lions would fail to capitalize on the gift. Tearrius George would break through the BC line and tally the sack on Printers, knocking the ball loose in the process. George would also come up with the recovery, and more potential points were orphaned. Printers would be benched for the balance of the evening, winding up four of nine for 62 yards, but losing two of three fumbles and often overthrowing his receivers badly on the incompletions.
Travis Lulay wouldn’t have an exceptional evening on in relief, winding up five-of-twelve for only eighty-five yards, but would manage to guide BC into McCallum field goal range on the final two possessions of the half, aided in the first by a 27-yard pass interference penalty on Calgary’s Brandon Smith and in the second by an unnecessary roughness flag against Brandon Browner as the Lions took a 15-0 lead to the locker room at the half.
Receiving to open the second half, the Stampeders moved the ball downfield, but the Lion defence stiffened and forced the Stamps to settle for a twenty-yarder from Maver to break the shutout bid.
Andrew Harris took the ensuing kickoff twenty-six yards to give the Lions a first down at their own 41 yard line, but the offense could only muster a single first down before kicking the ball back to Calgary, but pinning them at their own 4 yard line.
The Stampeders would take to the ground and gain the first down on a Drew Tate plunge on third-and-one from their own thirteen. Burris would break loose on the next play for twenty-eight yards, but lost the ball at the end of his run, with Dante Marsh pouncing on the loose ball at the Calgary 42.
The offense would move the ball, racking up two first downs- one by penalty, but would again bog down and settle for McCallum’s sixth of the night from 28 yards to run the score to 18-3. The BC defence would flex its muscle again, breaking up a Burris pass attempt to Romby Bryant and following it with a huge sack by Solomon Elimimian for a loss of 26, leading to Burke Dales conceding the safety on 3rd and 42.
Yonus Davis would come within a shoelace of breaking another return on the free kick, bringing it back 58 yards to the Calgary 32 moments before the end of the third quarter. McCallum’s magic would miss this time, registering just the single point.
Drew Tate would come in to relieve Burris, whose stat line would read an uncharacteristic 11 of 26 for 136 yards, two interceptions and a lost fumble. McCallum would have a rare miss- hitting the right upright from 38 yards after the teams swapped two-and-outs.
After more offensive stagnation, McCallum would tally another rouge on a 61-yard punt with under four minutes remaining. Calgary would use a minute and fifty seconds of that before turning the ball over on downs as Tate was unable to connect with Ken-Yon Rambo on third and sixteen from midfield.
Jamal Robertson would provide one of the few bright spots for the Lions offense, breaking loose for the touchdown with a gallop from there. The conversion made the score 29-3 with 1:45 remaining. Calgary would get a late touchdown, Tate finding Landan Talley from twelve yards out, but it was far too late as the Lions locked up the win.
- Yonus Davis had two kick returns for 131 yards and seven punt returns for 108.
- Jamal Robertson’s 140 yards rushing amount to seven fewer than Printers and Lulay managed through the air.
- Paris Jackson and Geroy Simon each had three catches for 69 and 55 yards respectively.
- Solomon Elimimian led the defence with ten tackles and a sack. Keron Williams and Anthony Reddick also added sacks, while Dante Marsh and Korey Banks had interceptions.
Vanya Tucherov, BCLionsDen.ca
Should the BC Lions miss the playoffs this season, there will be a number of significant points during the season at which they can look back, but few would seem to encapsulate the year-that-could-have-been as neatly as Saturday’s loss at Empire to the visiting Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 35-31.
After three quarters, the Lions had the edge, leading 28-16, but were again unable to hold the lead as the clock counted down, tallying solely a Paul McCallum field goal in the closing frame while surrendering nineteen points to their feline foe.
As has been the case for entirely too much of this season, it was inopportune penalties, poor execution, and turnovers which led to the Leos’ lurching loss, as five BC turnovers in the second half opened the door with an invitation the Ti-Cats couldn’t refuse.
The fourth quarter opened with Hamilton driving the ball on the ground, with DeAndra Cobb registering 32 of his 155 yards on the possession which wrapped the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters and culminated in a 37-yard field goal from Sandro DeAngelis. Casey Printers was intercepted on the ensuing possession, and two plays later Kevin Glenn connected with Maurice Mann from fifty-one yards out to close the score to 28-26.
In review, the CFL director of officials Tom Higgins has acknowledged a missed penalty call- an illegal block by Hamilton’s Peter Dyakowski on Anton McKenzie- which should have nullified the Mann touchdown, but just as hindsight is 20:20, excuses are for losers, and the Lions would proceed to lose the ball twice more, the key one coming on a Jerome Messam fumble deep in Lions territory leading to a Glenn to Chris Baumann touchdown. Sandro DeAngelis added another field goal to add the final insult to the reversal on the scoreboard, the latter coming with a mere forty-two seconds left in the game.
And, as has also become commonplace this year, no insult would be complete without the concomitant injury- this time a torn bicep which will shelve Lions’ defencive tackle Steve Williams for the remainder of the season and will put a big strain on the defensive line with injuries already to Aaron Hunt, Domini Pittman and Jeremy Geathers.
In the first half, the Lions’ offense looked to have continued the trend of the last two games, and the defence was at least workman-like, if not exceptional. Casey Printers was showing signs of his circa-2004 flair, distributing the ball to his recievers and backs, including an 11-yard touchdown toss to Geroy Simon in the first quarter and a forty-yard strike to Stephen Black to round out the scoring in the first half; with the tandem of Jerome Messam and Yonus Davis providing just enough of a ground attack to keep the Hamilton defenders from keying on the pass.
Unfortunately, with the rains picking up in the second half, the deluges seemed to wash away those reflections of days past. In the end, four sacks, two interceptions and three fumbles lost in conjunction with seventy-seven yards in penalties was to prove fatal, particularly with four of those five turnovers coming in the final sixteen minutes.
The loss was a tough one to take, with the Lions having the win in the palm of their hands. Their record dropped to 3-8 with their next game in Calgary against the division leading Stampeders, who will be in a surly mood after losing last week in Regina.
- Former Lion Jason Jiminez did little to endear himself to his old squad-mates, making an illegal and dangerous block from behind and at the knees on Brent Johnson. Jiminez also took a taunting penalty near the end of the first half.
- Jiminez wasn’t alone in the abuse factor, with Jeremy Gibbs flagged for running over Paul McCallum after the conversion to make the score 19-16. Former Lion Otis Floyd also got tempers incited, taunting the BC players during warmups.
- The season-ending loss of Steve Williams left the Lions with only three able-bodied defensive linemen dressed for the game.
- Look for a signing this week or for UBC alumus and home-grown talent Sean Ortiz or import defensive tackle Richard Jones to be activated from the practice roster.
After a shaky first quarter against the Lions found some traction and treated their home faithful to a 37-16 win at Empire Field, their first win at their 2010 home field, couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Lions are in need of every point they can get after going 2-7 in the first half of the season. The Lions have now won two straight, and will look to build on that next week at home versus Hamilton.
Argos QB Cleo Lemon found import wide receiver James Robinson in a seam for a 41-yard touchdown to open the scoring at 7:39 of the first quarter, and the Double Blue would tack on a rouge after a Grant Shaw field goal miss from 49 yards out; but the Lions would rouse themselves from their early somnambulism and march 73 yards in seven plays covering 2:40, with Yonus Davis capping the drive with a four-yard reception.
On the first play following the kickoff, Lemon lost the ball, and Korey Banks came up with the recovery, giving the Lions possession at the Toronto 18-yard line. Casey Printers found Davis again to take the ball down inside the one, and Jerome Messam bulled his way into the endzone for the major.
Two possessions later, Messam would record his second touchdown of the game, running over the Argo defence from four yards out to give the Orange and Black a 21-8 edge.
Lemon and Robinson would answer again two plays later, closing the gap to six, where it would stay at the half, but not without a little unexpected drama on the last play of the half. The Lions’ Paul McCallum would miss only his second attempt of the season, this one from 51 yards out, but Toronto’s Chad Owens brought the miss back, only to be tackled by McCallum after an eighty-two yard return, leaving the ball thirty-six yards short of the goal line.
Andrew Harris would take the opening half kickoff seventy-two yards, and an unnecessary roughness penalty would take the ball down to the Argos seven, where it took two plays- a Yonus Davis carry for five yards, and then Printers found Stephen Black for the touchdown.
The teams would trade two-and-outs, with each defence registering a sack when the Lions would seize the moment again, with Dante Marsh picking off Lemon and giving the ball back to the offense in Toronto territory. Two plays later, Paul McCallum atoned for his earlier miss converting a 34 yard field goal.
Things would get worse for the Argos, as they lost the CFL’s leading rusher, Cory Boyd, for the balance of the game as Boyd was taken to the ground by Solomon Elimimian after a gain of twenty-seven yards. The Boatmen offense would find no wind for their sails, and Shaw missed his second field goal attempt of the day, although the Lions would concede the single again.
Two more McCallum field goals would round out the scoring in a final quarter in which both offensive lines seemed to self-destruct. The Lions would end the game having yielded eight sacks, Toronto would give up six- three of them to former Argo Jonathan Brown, who had a good game for his first outing in the orange and black. Elimimian and Stanley Franks each notched five tackles for the Lions’ D.
The win is the Lions’ second successive victory, but the team still hasn’t completely turned the corner, as the offensive line had a rough day protecting Casey Printers, and the team continued to take just too many penalties- being flagged fourteen times for 112 yards. The performance was sufficient to carry the day against a Toronto side which played most of the second half without their leading offensive threat and with an offensive line almost as battered as that of the Lions.
The day clearly wasn’t intended to go the way of the visitors from Hogtown, and made itself comically clear early in the fourth quarter. Printers took a snap under centre from the Lions 40-yard line, dropped back in the pocket, only to be sacked and have the ball stripped. Toronto’s Ronald Flemons came up with the pigskin and rumbled to the end zone untouched, only to lose control of the ball himself somewhere inside the two yard line. An alert O’Neil Wilson came up with the recovery about seven yards deep in the endzone. The play was originally called a touchdown on the field, but upon review, the points came off the Argonauts’ side of the scoreboard and the Lions took the ball back.
That play will probably serve as a metaphor for the Argonaut beat reporters. The Lions will take the W, but didn’t necessarily play well enough to carry the day without a little luck. They’ll try to run the unbeaten skein to three games next week, as they host the Tiger-Cats, but the team will need a stronger all-around effort.
- Geroy Simon celebrated his birthday in style, pulling in a team-high seven catches for a total of 133 yards. That moved the veteran receiver into fifth place on the CFL’s overall receiving list, edging him past Roughrider legendary slotback Ray Elgaard.
- Attendance was a rather disappointing 22,703. The game was a rare afternoon affair at Empire Field and was enjoyed by those in attendance. Rain held off until after the game, making it a perfect day for football. If you weren’t there, you missed out!
- Jonathon Brown had a great game against his former teammates. Brown racked up three sacks and executed a big tackle early in the game stuffing the Argos on 3rd and goal.
Of course, that’s only certain because they don’t return to action until the 27th against the West leading Calgary Stampeders.
Again, the story of the Leos’ loss strikes up a familiar refrain: too many penalties, a porous offensive line, turnovers at particularly inopportune moments, and an anaemic offense which was unable to reliably move the ball for much of the game- and unable to capitalize on the few chances where they did get a little wind in their sails.
If it weren’t for Yonus Davis and his 51-yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the third quarter for the Lions, the sole tallies for the Lions in the 37-13 loss would have been a pair of Paul McCallum field goals in the opening frame.
It gets harder and harder as the loss skein stretches to find new bright spots. Davis has to be one. Not only did he score the only BC major, but he led the team in rushing yardage, tying with Jamal Robertson with 84 yards on the ground. Davis also had a strong night on special teams, logging 133 yards in kick returns and an additional 28 in punt returns.
Ryan Phillips continued his statistically unlikely domination of Darian Durant, picking off two passes and raising his career total to 13 of his 24 interceptions coming from Durant throws, according to the TSN broadcast.
The bright spots end there. After looking good in relief last week against Calgary, Jarious Jackson was, well, as ineffective as anyone else at pivot behind the Lions O-line this year. Worse, although he had success on longer routes last week against the Stamps, he didn’t have a completion of twenty or more yards until after the game was out of reach, and ended up 18 of 31 for 194 yards and two interceptions against what had been the league’s least effective pass defence. He also absorbed five sacks.
Thirteen accepted penalties against the Lions handed the Riders 144 yards worth of field position. This sloppy execution is bad enough were it to happen to a team otherwise executing (Sasketchewan was flagged 14 times for 125 yards), but particularly when the offensive unit can’t give the defence time to catch their collective breaths it leads to vulnerabilities and poor field position.
It will be interesting to see what the bye week does to the Lions personnel, particularly as NFL teams get through their first two weeks of exhibitions and may be sending some players packing; and plenty of questions which might be answered. Could there be diamonds in the rough to bolster the shaky offensive line? Might the continued stagnation finally force the Lions organization to part ways with offensive coordinator Jacques Chapdelaine?
Time will tell, but it’s getting harder and harder for the orange-and-black faithful to watch the drubbings week after week.
Many comments on the post-game show indicated that the Lions didn’t try and go deep often. Well, it’s tough to go deep when you’re quarterback is running for his life. Routes can’t develop, the QB can’t check off his receivers, and the whole play breaks down. Is it safe to say Darian Durant has arrived? The Rider QB looks to be easily the best in the league. His passes are crisp and accurate and when his blocking breaks down he just runs for the first down…One could also say the same for the Rider receivers, who constantly get open on 2nd and long. Adny Fantuz leads the CFL with 16 2nd down catches for first downs.
In the end, it was the same old story for the BC Lions. Decent defence, ineffective offence and untimely penalties all meant yet another loss for the Leos and their frustrated fans.
For the first half, the Lions stayed neck-and-neck with the Calgary Stampeders, even closing out the first quarter with a 10-7 edge over the visiting Stamps; but in the end, Travis Lulay was again mostly ineffective running the BC offense as the Lions fell at Empire, dropping their fifth successive match to fall to 1-5 on the season, with a match-up coming on Thursday against the West leading Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Lulay’s lack of consistency with the sputtering offence led him to be yanked in favour of Jarious Jackson after the first Lions possession of the fourth quarter. Lulay’s statistical line was again less than scintillating- 15 of 28 for 159 yards and an interception, while absorbing four sacks. Jackson did a credible job in relief, moving the Lions reasonably well and taking a number of shots down the field, demonstrating that his shoulder has recovered well enough from off-season surgery to let him throw deep. In doing so, he’s probably also made a strong suggestion as to who should be the starting pivot against the Green Riders.
The rushing game again failed to provide a counterpoint for the struggling Lulay, putting up only 58 yards on fourteen attempts. Still, this was another case of another case where the Lions simply failed to be effective enough with the ball to win the game.
The defence did a largely respectable job again, holding Calgary to under 350 yards of total offence, even with the Stamps dominating time of possession. Jackson engineered a late touchdown capped by a one-yard plunge by Jamel Robertson- his second of the night to provide the final scoring, leaving the Lions a 27-22 deficit.
The jury may remain out on the outcome of the Korey Banks-Nik Lewis war of words. During the week, Lewis took a shot at the BC secondary, asking if they had anyone who tackled above the knees, prompting Banks to respond that Lewis was “an idiot.” Statistically, Banks left no positive impressions on the official ledger, not being credited with any tackles while being flagged once for illegal contact on a reciever; but Lewis was less than effective either, although he led the Stampeders’ receiving corps with five catches, but for a mere 44 yards. The Lions’ leading tacklers, tellingly, were in the secondary- safety Tad Crawford with seven tackles and Dante Marsh with four, tying him with defensive end Steve Williams for second spot.
With the short week, there isn’t much time for the Lions to get deeply philosophical over the loss. It’s clear a third of the way through the season that things are not firing on all cylinders for the offence, and although the defence hasn’t been strong enough to steal any victories, it has kept the team close in every game except for the week two implosion against the Riders in the opener at Empire- and even in that, the Lions yielded fourteen fewer points than the defending champion Alouettes had the week preceding in Regina.
If there is to be any hope in salvaging the season, the offense needs to be scoring some points and sustaining enough drives to keep the defenders off the field long enough to catch their collective breath. Execution will need to be better- fifty-eight yards in penalties is still too many to take; and the old coaching cliche of ‘everyone needs to step up their game’ will again ring true. The offence looked less befuddled with Jarious Jackson at the helm, and if he can give the unit a little swagger by being able to move the ball, there may remain hope that the tide can turn and the Lions can once again roar.
The win was the 8th straight for Calgary coach John Hufnagel over his former boss Wall Buono. Buono has yet to beat his former assistant head to head. Paris Jackson returned to the game after getting his bell rung on a route over the middle in the endzone. Jackson laid on the turf for a moment, and a Stamps player waved out the Lions training staff. Jackson got to his feet before they could arrive, but weaved and wobbled his way to the sideline.
Lightning never strikes twice? Tell that to the BC Lions who for the second straight game saw a win slip away in the fourth quarter against a team that they really could have buried in the CFL West. Instead, they now share a 1-4 record with the Edmonton Eskimos, and with the next four games on their schedules against CFL powers, have dug themselves a pretty deep hole.
This game was as sloppy as the rain-soaked turf at Commonwealth Stadium as the Edmonton Eskimos eked out a 28-25 win over the BC Lions as the Lions were again victimized late.
Late turnovers were the killer again, with Travis Lulay picked off by the Esk’s Chris Thompson on another ill-advised throw just before the three-minute warning completing a momentum shift. On the Lions’ ensuing possession, Lulay lost the ball on a questionable fumble, the ball being ruled to have come out of his hand before his arm started forward in a throwing motion. This thwarted a burgeoning drive which had seen the Lions go 55 yards in five plays and position themselves at least well enough for Paul McCallum to attempt a game tying field goal in the final minute.
As with the other losses, there were bright spots in this, with Yonas Davis ripping off an 88-yard kickoff return keyed by a Jason Arakgi block after the Lions forced Edmonton to concede a safety, lifting the Lions to a 25-21 edge with under eight minutes to play. Davis Sanchez had a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown very similar to the one BC gave up late against the Argos last week.
Sanchez was by far the defensive player of the game for the Lions, with the touchdown off of the interception and a game-high nine tackles. The running game was improved again, racking up 163 yards on nineteen carries, with Jamal Robertson accounting for 84 of those on eight carries, among them a sixty-nine yard gallop which keyed a ninety-nine yard, five play drive culminating in Lulay finding pay dirt from nine yards away just in time for an electrical storm to knock out power in the stadium and lead to an early halftime observance/weather delay lasting forty minutes, leaving the Lions with a 10-6 advantage.
Unfortunately for the Lions, the power came back on, and both the lights and the Eskimos proved resurgent. After emerging from the locker room, the balance of the first half ended harmlessly, with Noel Prefontaine attempting and missing a 49-yard field goal.
The power was back on for Edmonton, though. Their first possession of the third quarter culminated in a Prefontaine FG from thirty-five yards. Lulay’s first of two interceptions to Thompson gave the Eskimos the ball back at the BC 42, and three plays later Ricky Ray found Kelly Campbell in the end zone for the major to put the Lions down 16-10 at the nine minute mark of the third, and the tide had again turned against the visitors.
The Lions would sputter deep in their own end of the field and concede two more points after a two-and-out from their own seven. Edmonton was unable to sustain offence either, setting the stage for Sanchez’ pick-six to open the final frame. The two-point conversion attempt would fail, with Paris Jackson catching Lulay’s toss but being ruled down after falling at the two.
Prefontaine would tally another three, making it 21-16 early in the fourth, but it was clear that Edmonton was finding their wheels at the same time the Lions were struggling mightily to keep theirs from all coming off.
Paul McCallum saw his consecutive field goal streak snapped, missing wide right from forty-five yards at 9:50 of the fourth, and it was just one more ominous sign that things weren’t going to end on a positive note for the Lions.
The Lions now face the monumental task of digging themselves out of this deep hole. Their next four games are against CFL powerhouses and if they continue to falter, this season could be over by the midway point.
The win by the Eskimos was their 100th all-time versus the Lions with 53 of them at Commonwealth Stadium.
“You’re in field goal range. If it’s not there, you’ve got to be smarter. You’ve got to take a quick look and throw it. If you don’t…” – Wally Buono
“The reality of our offence is, we make too many mistakes and our quarterback is too inconsistent.” – Wally Buono
Another week, another Lion undefeated skein snapped.
The BC faithful can take some positives away from this game- Travis Lulay went 26 for 40, throwing for 330 yards in his first career start; the Lions had some success running the ball; and the Lion defence played a solid game for most of the evening.
When it comes right down to it, though, it’s another game which could have been a victory but which ended up in the loss column as the Lions fell to the Toronto Argonauts by a 24-20 margin.
Byron Parker of the Double Blue put the dagger in the Lions’ heart just after the three minute warning, returning his interception of a Lulay pass intended for O’Neil Wilson forty-one yards for the touchdown. The ensuing conversion proved the final score as the resurgent Boatmen took their third successive win.
Much of the story for this from the British Columbia perspective will come down to sloppy execution and missed opportunities. Defencive end Brent Johnson had a major in his hands, but couldn’t hold on to the pass from Jarious Jackson with a touch over two minutes remaining in the first corner. Fortunately enough for Coach Buono’s boys, Jamal Robertson took the ball in on the next play from a yard out to spot the Leos a 7-3 lead.
The Lions would begin driving again on their next possession, but another dropped pass would end the drive, forcing them to settle for a Paul McCallum field goal from 45 yards out and a 10-3 cushion. The Argos would answer with a drive of their own, but Grant Shaw would hit the upright on a forty-five yard attempt with 5:38 to play in the half.
Eight plays, eighty-five yards, and three minutes and forty-seven seconds later, Robertson would take the ball into the end zone from thirteen yards out to put the Lions ahead 17-3.
Before the end of the half, the Argonauts would answer, with Cleo Lemon finding Jermaine Copeland for a twenty-one yard touchdown. The Lions would take the 17-10 edge to the locker room at the half.
Neither offensive coordinator will take pride in the third quarter, as the game wallowed around in a sloppy quagmire of fumbles, dropped passes, penalties and all-around poor execution. The Lions could have put the game all but out of reach when Robertson lost the handle at the Toronto two-yard line. BC would get points out of it, but instead of the seven it could have been, they’d settle for two after the defence shook Lemon sufficiently to knock him out for a play after the fumble and Jason Boreham of the Argos conceded the safety rather than kick from his own end zone. Emmanuel Arceneaux dropped a sure touchdown pass as well in behind the Toronto defenders that saw the Lions come away with no points on that drive.
McCallum would punt for the rouge to open the fourth quarter, making it 20-10 in favor of the Lions at that point. Toronto would drive, only to be turned back when Davis Sanchez intercepted Lemon in the end zone, but the tide was turning in favour of the Boatmen. On their next possession, Lemon would find an import slotback with a classically Canadian name- Brandon Rideau- in the end zone to close the gap to 20-17 and increase the pressure on the stagnating Lion offense.
It was here that Lulay’s comparable lack of experience would come under the microscope. Rather than taking the time to look for the open reciever, he seemed to be fixating on a target. The offensive line contributed to his struggles, as the Argo pass rush was increasingly able to get to Lulay, not giving him time to find check-off targets, but in the end, it was enough to give Parker the opportunity to step in front of the ball and hand Toronto the lead.
Lulay would get picked again on the next possession, with Toronto’s Willie Pile coming up with a ball intended for Geroy Simon that left the Lions running short on time. They’d get one final crack at the end zone, though, but the 58-yard desperation heave for Derick Armstrong came up about two yards short of changing the outcome.
Just over 19,000 fans attended the game on a humid night in Toronto…Lions/Argos owner David Braley posed for a picture before the game with the respective coaches of each of his teams…Argos rookie Cory Boyd rushed for 148 yards on 19 carries, his third-straight 100-yard effort…Travis Lulay finished 26-of-39 passing for 315 yards and two interceptions. The Lions lost cornerback Dante Marsh to a groin injury, and were forced to shift players around in the secondary when Anthony Reddick was also nicked up.
Earlier this week, Lion centre Angus Reid noted on his Twitter feed that he had never lost to the Montreal Alouettes at home over the course of the ten years of his career. He can no longer make that statement after the Lions fell to the Als this evening at Empire Field to fall to 1-2 on the young season before heading East for a road tussle against the Toronto Argonauts.
If there are bright points for the Lions to pick out of tonight’s 16-12 debacle, they would be the solid defensive performances turned in by veteran Korey Banks and newcomer Solomon Elimimian, and Jamal Robertson’s 15-yard touchdown catch just before the end of the first half; with an honourable mention to the security staff for effectively breaking through a breakdown in coverage to corral the rogue streaker after Robertson’s fumble was covered by Damane Duckett near midfield with about two minutes left in the third quarter.
As a whole, the Lions defence performed reasonably enough, keeping the Alouettes from being able to crow after punching the ball into the end zone, with only Als’ kicker Damon Duval managing to register points for a Montreal team which had tallied 84 through the first two weeks of the season. Duval registered four field goals and a pair of rouges, but failed to connect on two more, missing wide (left, I think) from forty yards and ringing one off the uprights from forty-seven. Montreal’s other points came on a safety conceded by Paul McCallum in the first half.
Duval would add the final points after ringing the uprights yet again, banking one in off of the left post the likes of which are more frequently seen from the Sedin brothers in Vancouver.
That wasn’t the only resemblance to a Canucks’ game in the evening. The first quarter closed with a score more fitting a hockey tally, with the Lions’ trailing 4-2 after the frame on Duval’s first field goal and single. He also conceded a safety touch after the Lions successfully held the Als to a three-and-out after McCallum successfully angled a punt deep which Montreal’s Tim Maypray took out of bounds at the six-yard-line.
McCallum would return the two points early in the second quarter, with Casey Printers’ TD toss to Robertson rounding out the scoring in the opening half. The Lions seemed to be sleepwalking through the half until the final drive, with Geroy Simon making three of his five catches for 55 yards.
Statistically, the Lions looked better with the ball in the second half, but were still unable to mount significant sustained drives. The offensive line looked shaky at best throughout the game. Even though they only yielded a single sack, the Alouettes were able to pressure Printers regularly. Perhaps due to the line’s rocky performance, the Lions almost completely abdicated the running game, managing only seven yards on the ground on nine rushes.
Printers didn’t have a bad game, even though he was knocked around quite a bit. He ended up with 253 yards on the night, going 20-for-40, with the highlights coming on the touchdown and a scrambly 23-yard completion to Derick Armstrong down to the Montreal 14-yard line. After stalling, the drive would culminate in the McCallum field goal which would prove the final points on the evening for the Lions.
The “Beer snake” phenomenon hit Empire Field Saturday, and security forces and police were quick to snuff it out. Seriously Lions fans we can come up with something better than that. The beer cups raining down on fans were uncalled for and kudos for the PNE for the way they handled it despite the repeated attempts…The pre game tailgate parties were great once again and more fans and families seem to be catching on to the fun proving that tailgaters are not the evil, riot causing entity that opposing groups made them out to be.