BY MATT BAKER

 

ALL week long they were forced to answer questions about what they didn’t do last week in Edmonton. And now they should disappear for at least week. The BC Lions defence forced three turnovers and the offence did their part in a 30-15 victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the first of a home and home series.

Travis Lulay surpassed the 300-yard passing mark for the 19th time in his career, and also threw a second quarter touchdown to Bryan Burnham to help open the floodgates.

Shaquille Murray-Lawrence’s 4th Quarter TD run sealed the deal as your squad improved to 5-2 and 2-2 in games against the ultra-competitive Western Division.

Half-time show at BC Place by Shan-E-Punjab Bhangra Club.
All photos by SUKHWANT SINGH DHILLON

Burnham led all receivers with 131 yards, while Chris Williams didn’t disappoint in his debut: The speedy free agent addition hauled in three catches for 75 yards, including a 14-yard reception on the game’s first play from scrimmage. He followed that up with a 49-yard reception on their second series to help set up Ty Long’s second field goal of the night and an early 6-0 lead.

“I feel great man: to get a ‘dub, get on the field and play a game, that’s poetic man. I got hurt against them last year, and to come out and be able to finish the game and contribute to a win, that’s amazing,” said Williams in a victorious home locker room.

“I think that (the first play) was a little bit of design by Khari and Travis. I appreciate the love for sure.”

Lulay was able to finish despite having the wind knocked out of him on sack by AJ Jefferson late in the first half. He was on the field for a lengthy period of time and you could hear a collective “oh no, not again” start to creep in. Being that warrior that he is, number 14 would leave the field on his own power and not come out until the game was well in hand. Rookie Alex Ross led the offence for the final three drives of the fourth quarter.

“I’m sore, but I’ll be alright,” said Lulay.

“It was a physical game and I just happened to step into the pocket and Jefferson caught me pretty good. I couldn’t breathe. It’s been awhile since I was really winded like that. I had no breath.”

“I’ve known Trav since I’ve been in this league since 2011. Toughness is not something you question with him, ” added Williams.

“He’s a Grey Cup MOP and has had to wait his turn again. Seeing him get up and continue to do his thing and really dissect them out there, that was nice to see.”

The home side took a 22-0 lead into the 4th quarter- the first time since October 4th, 1980 where they shut out an opponent through 45 minutes- and hung on after a pair of Brandon Bridge touchdown passes in the final minutes.

Lulay admits there is still work to be done ahead of the rematch in Regina next Sunday, but this was also a solid template going forward.

“It was a great win and what our team needed after a loss in Edmonton,” added Lulay.

“We had the right mindset tonight and it was awesome to see all facets of our team play well. Obviously we want to finish the football game a little cleaner than that, but it was just the all around team win we needed.”

Along with forcing three turnovers, the defence limited Roughriders’ starter Kevin Glenn to just 186 yards and nothing longer than 26 yards before Bridge was summoned late. It has been a talking point for weeks, but I think you can finally say both sides of the ball churned out a full four quarter effort, even if they allowed a couple of late scores.

The rematch goes one week from Sunday at Mosaic Stadium.

The Big Plays

Burnham’s longest catch of the night; which went for 50 yards and set them up at midfield before a penalty tacked on 15. It set up Long’s fourth and final field goal of the night and a 22-0 lead. It was extra important when you consider that drive started back at their own 1. Williams’ 49-yard grab came after they were pinned at the four. Two scores when they started inside their own five will not sit well with Chris Jones and the Riders’ staff.

Key Numbers

7– The number of consecutive wins over Saskatchewan. This streak dates back to week two of the 2015 season.

535– Total offensive yards for the Lions in this one. It is the first time they passed the 500-mark since October 8th, 2016 in a loss to Winnipeg.

16– Total points recorded by kicker Ty Long: four field goals, three singles and a convert.

37:21– the time of possession for Lulay and the offence in this one. They wore the Saskatchewan defence down, plain and simple.

5/6– The number of scoring vs. total possessions for the Lions in that dominant first half.

Quotable

“It feels good to be back. I’ve been through so much the last few weeks. I was at home, on the couch and working out. I came from the streets, man. I just got in there and I got so much hunger. It’s great to have my teammates believe in me and I’m glad we got the win. It’s hard, man. The world gave up on me. You have to stay ready, stay hungry and keep believing.”- Murray-Lawrence on the roller coaster it’s been since he was cut and re-signed this past week.

Wally says: “Probably the thing that impressed me the most is the attitude in which we approached the game. When you compare the attitude of last week and this week, it’s not even similar right? It makes you a better player; it makes you a better team. Our guys have rebounded well most of the two years I have come back (to coaching). Winning is good, losing is not good, losing two is worse, right?”- Buono on his club bouncing back to improve to 5-2.

Bake’s Takes

The Murray-Lawrence story is indeed worth commending. Once Andrew Harris departed for Winnipeg his time was seemingly numbered here and he was cut loose following the opening week of the season. It is great to see him take this latest opportunity and run with it. This is a player who has never complained about his role and always worked hard in practice.

Speaking of taking advantage of opportunities, Steven Clarke had a notable regular season debut. Number 29 had five defensive tackles and showed great pursuit on a couple of big plays. His biggest came on a forced fumble recovered by Loucheiz Purifoy early in the 4th quarter.

Chandler Fenner and Anthony Thompson each deserve kudos for their interceptions. Fenner was seemingly flying all over the place for most of the game. He could be an early candidate for the club’s defensive player of the year.

Along with those turnovers, the defence deserves kudos for keeping Saskatchewan out of field goal range on two occasions: their second series of the game when Craig Roh sacked Glenn and then keeping them at bay on their final drive of the third quarter. Those six points could have potentially made a difference later in the game.

Although his streak of consecutive regular season games with a touchdown ended at six, Jeremiah Johnson surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark for his career.

Johnson’s running effort and Lulay’s time in the pocket were a major credit to how well the offensive line bounced back from the loss in Edmonton. A solid template going forward.

What can you say about Williams? Although relatively quiet in the second half, number 80 sure showed glimpses of what he can bring to this offence. Buckle up indeed!

Final thought: kudos to Glenn for passing Ron Lancaster into 6th in all-time CFL passing yards. He is one of the truly great guys in this league and always takes the time to make the rounds and say hello when he faces his former Lions’ teammates and staff members. Although he was only here for a season, you can tell he holds fond memories of wearing the orange.

Matt Baker: [email protected]

 

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