BY MATT BAKER
HOLLYWOOD endings are becoming the norm between these two Western Division rivals. Your BC Lions (4-1) rallied for 18 4th quarter points and picked up another emotional victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (2-2). Ty Long kicked the winning field goal with 56 seconds remaining to complete a stunning turn of events at BC Place, as the home side prevailed 45-42 and once again left Matt Nichols and the Bombers shaking their heads upon exit from the very same turf their season ended on last November.
Travis Lulay was stellar yet again, passing for 404 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Manny Arceneaux. The quarterback’s 14-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion pass to Arceneaux evened things up at 42 and set the stage for another thrilling finish. Chris Rainey and Jeremiah Johnson added rushing touchdowns, while Long kicked three field goals in total.
The ageless veteran QB looked like he couldn’t believe what had transpired in raucous Lions’ locker room.
“I’m spent. What a win,” said number 14.
“We’ve got quite a rivalry going with Winnipeg over the last couple years, so we knew it was going to be a game like that. The way the momentum shifted it felt like we had control in the first half and they had a couple of plays that really kept them in it. They really had the momentum for a lot of the second half.”
Momentum was the operative word for this one. Lulay and company opened up a 27-14 lead before a fake field by the Blue Bombers led to the first of two touchdown grabs for Darvin Adams. The visitors carried that momentum into the 3rd quarter and scored 21 more points to lead by 15 going into the break. That’s when Lulay took control.
“We had a couple of short fields and tied it up,” added Lulay. “These CFL games are just a battle. You’re going to get extra possessions, you can’t lose your cool, you’ve got to hang in ’til the end and ultimately we made just enough plays to win it.”
One of those short fields came when the football Gods really appeared to be on Lulay’s side. The Bombers elected to try a fake punt, with Justin Medlock’s pass getting knocked down by Dakota Brush. That set them up on the Winnipeg 26 before Lulay performed his rushing magic.
Wally Buono admits he doesn’t want all games to go like this, but still commended his team for a job well done.
“Our club has been resilient all year and today was different,” said Buono.
“The position we put ourselves (in) was very, in my mind, undisciplined and it hurt us. For some reason, the guys were able to keep their focus and I think we scored 18 points. It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of it we get paid to win and paid to entertain.”
This truly was a mirror image to that thrilling playoff game last November, especially when Medlock trotted out for a game-tying field goal on the final play. Just like last season, he was short and the Bombers were in disbelief. What a night and what a performance. It all sets up for a first place showdown next Friday against the 4-0 Eskimos at Commonwealth Stadium.
The Big Play
Ronnie Yell’s interception on a brilliant read set the stage for Long’s 4th quarter go-ahead points. For a defence that has made it their mission to create more takeaways, that was no doubt a banner moment.
Burn Baby Burn
146– The number of receiving yards for Bryan Burnham. The sure-handed playmaker averaged a staggering 24.8 yards per catch as well.
“I was a little surprised that Medlock did throw it, because we did prepare for them to run it with a fake all week. Honestly, I am happy that I didn’t make the interception because it helped the team get in a better scoring position to tie the game. At the end of the day, I did my job.”- Brush on his near-interception on the Bombers’ fateful fake punt attempt.
This comeback may seem all about the offence, but credit to the defence for holding down the fort. At one point in that 4th quarter they forced five consecutive two and outs to allow Lulay and company to operate.
Back-to-back 400-plus yard games for the Montana State legend. Hands up if you would ever see that from him again? And what about his touchdown run? Pure grit and toughness that we have been used to from number 14.
It is great to know he can still perform at the elite level that saw him take home the CFL Most Outstanding Player Award in 2011. Jonathon Jennings may very well be ready to throw next week. What do you do with two healthy quarterbacks? It’s a wonderful dilemma for Buono to have. That being said, they will for sure need both down the stretch if they want to get to where they need to be.
Hat tip to Arceneaux for passing “Swervin” Meryn Fernandez into third all-time in club receiving yards. He trails only Geroy Simon and Jim Young. This writer remembers sitting down for an interview with Manny in his first CFL camp, back in 2009. Little did I know I was talking to a future all-time great for this club. You can bet he would trade all of these individual accolades for a chance to win his first Grey Cup in 2017.
Micah Awe deserves a passing grade for filling in at weak side linebacker. His athleticism showed in various packages. He could go down as one of the best “finds” for Neil McEvoy, Ryan Rigmaiden and the rest of the scouts that evaluate talent continent-wide. Maxx Forde had perhaps his best game as a pro, recording his first CFL sack in the victory.
How big might this win be down the line? Consider they have the daunting task of making two trips to the Manitoba Capital in a three-week span in October. Needing just a split of those to win the season series makes it seem a little less daunting.
We will talk more about it between now and Friday, but you will be hard pressed to go back in recent history and find a bigger week six game than the one they will play in Edmonton. Buckle Up.
Matt Baker: firstname.lastname@example.org