BY MATT BAKKER
THEY fought hard to the bitter end, but it wasn’t quite good enough against a stingy green defence.
Travis Lulay and the BC Lions (3-6-0) were limited to just one offensive touchdown and five field goals from Ty Long in a 24-21 loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-5-0) on Saturday night at BC Place. What will sting about this one was the fact it seemed like it was there for the taking as the two teams combined for just seven points in the second half.
“They had us pinned deep in most of the fourth quarter there and we just couldn’t flip the field. That made it tough on us. We had a chance at the end there and just came up short. We’re on the edge of field goal range trying to put it into overtime. Just a battle, we didn’t make enough plays.”
Their fate was sealed after they couldn’t convert on a 3rd and 1 from the Saskatchewan 46-yard line with 31 seconds to go. The decision to go for it may be second-guessed by some, especially when you consider Long was money in the kicking game, but Bryan Burnham felt it was a play that should have been made to keep the drive going with time still left on the clock.
“I think we had the mindset that it was going to be easy to pick up and they were of the mind they were going to stop us. They wanted it more,” explained Burnham.
“I can only speak for myself, I can’t speak for the O-Line or anything like that, but we weren’t;t thinking about just making sure we’ll give our everything on this play. When it comes down to third and one plays like that it’s who wants it more? They won.”
You can only make up ground one week at a time and now the feeling inside that room is they have plenty of work to do if they want to get back into the playoff race in the second half of their season. The third and final bye week could serve as some valuable time to do a little soul searching.
“We’re about to go into week ten and talk is cheap at this point. We’ve got to go out there and prove it. A lot of guys in here are just upset at the fact that we’re good. We’ve got a lot of good athletes on this team and we’re 3-6 right now. That’s frustrating.”
Burnham’s touchdown grab late in the first half pulled the home side to within five points before Long’s fourth field goal of the night made it a 20-18 deficit going into the break. And then the defences took over.
“Saskatchewan’s battling, they were feeling good about themselves, we knew we had to play a clean football game to give ourselves a chance and we didn’t do that.”
Lulay has been in this boat before and if you think he is going to dwell on it, you’re sadly mistaken.
“It’s just gotta be a fresh slate,” said the veteran QB.
“You can’t win more than one game a week. You have to slowly dig yourselves out of a hole. It’s major gut check time, right? We’re scratching and clawing to dig ourselves out of a big hole now. That’s what we’ll be doing. You can best believe we’re going to work our ass off to get where we need to be.”
Lulay finished with 240 yards and the touchdown toss to Burnham while his counterpart Zach Collaros passed for 215 yards and a major to Jordan Williams-Lambert.
Another lost opportunity came when the Lions couldn’t muster up any points after a fourth quarter interception from Anthony Orange set them up at midfield with 5:19 to play. Story of the night: not capitalizing.
Manny Arceneaux will be re-evaluated on Monday after leaving in the first half with a knee injury.
10- the number of Saskatchewan points gained from two critical first half turnovers: a fumble by Lulay that was forced by CFL sack leader Charleson Hughes and a Chris Rainey muffed punt.
12- the number of consecutive home field goals made by Long, dating back to last year.
72- Burnham’s game-high in receiving yards.
314- the Lions’ total offence, 96 yards fewer than last week’s defeat in Toronto.
33- the total of rushing yards for Jeremiah Johnson, his second-lowest output in 2018.
THE LAST WORD
“When you can’t make plays, you must not have the right guys, right? That’s something I’ll sit down with Ed and go through it. Losing Manny hurt, but that’s just one guy. At the end of it, these are all professional players. Some of the catches would have been spectacular. Some of them were quite normal.”- Wally Buono on the dropped balls.
The Lions will head into their third and final bye week of 2018 before returning home to face the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday, September 7th.
Before the game, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, in partnership with the B.C. Lions and the Canadian Football League (CFL) hosted a special citizenship ceremony at B.C. Place to welcome 30 new citizens. This citizenship ceremony was one of three ceremonies hosted by the CFL in celebration of the league’s Diversity is Strength campaign.