In a game they needed to win, the B.C. Lions knocked off the Montreal Alouettes 34-25 Saturday night in Montreal.
The victory alleviated any concerns that the Lions might be going into a mid-season tailspin after losing consecutive games to the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats – both of which started third-string quarterbacks against the Leos.
Even more concerning was the lack of energy the Lions had in losing 30-13 to the Tiger-Cats at BC Place Stadium last Saturday.
That wasn’t the case at Percival Molson Memorial Stadium where the Lions had to overcome some adversity to defeat the Alouettes and showed plenty of energy in the process.
“I’m super proud of the guys. Our spirit on the sideline, is more typical of what it is. I’m not sure we had that the last couple of weeks. That was the number one thing. I said you’ve got that and it just comes down to making plays. I think if you’re a fan, you love this game. More teams were making plays and we made more at the end that mattered and got it done,” Lions Head Coach Rick Campbell said after the game
Perhaps the first sign that the Lions were out for blood came early in the contest, when on the Lions second possession, Campbell elected to go for it facing a third-and-five situation on the Montreal 44. Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. found receiver Justin McInnis for a 10-yard reception which allowed the Lions to continue the drive that eventually resulted in Adams connecting with receiver Alexander Hollins on a six-yard touchdown pass to give B.C. a 7-3 lead.
This was a back-and-forth affair which would see six lead changes during the course of the game.
The Lions resolved would be critically tested in the fourth quarter but on both occasions, they found a way to overcome the adversity.
The first was when Montreal running back William Stanback scored on a 69-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Montreal a 25-24 lead but B.C. would regain the lead a couple of series later on a 65-yard drive that culminated in a 31-yard field goal by Sean Whyte to make the score 27-25.
The Alouettes weren’t done yet as they would again come up with another big play from punt formation when back-up running back Jeshrun Antwi took a direct snap on a third-and-five from the Montreal 45 and ripped off a 43-yard run that gave Montreal the ball at the B.C. 22.
On the very next play however, Montreal quarterback Cody Fajardo inexplicably threw a jump ball to receiver Austin Mack in the end zone. The problem was that Mack was blanketed by Lions defensive backs Manny Rugumba and Quincy Mauger with the latter coming down with his first interception of the season.
“Me and Manny…we’ve been practising attacking the ball. When watching film having Mack in that three spot and running that corner route, I had to make that play. Anytime the ball is in the air, the DB’s mentality is to make that play. That’s exactly what happened right there,” Mauger told the media afterwards.
The offense would then go on a nine play 80-yard drive that ended with running back Smoke Mizzell gaining the edge to score on a seven-yard run with 1:33 remaining to seal the deal at 34-25.
The final drive was aided by a pair of Montreal penalties – the first being linebacker Tyrice Beverette’s unnecessary roughness penalty which occurred when he decided to head butt Lions offensive lineman Andrew Peirson after the play which took the Leos out of a second-and-13 at their own 41 and instead put them in a first-and-ten at the Montreal 54.
Two plays later, Campbell challenged defensive tackle Almondo Sewell’s quarterback sack for roughing the passer and was successful. A second-and-17 at the Montreal 50 turned into a first-and-ten at the Montreal 28.
Four plays later, Mizzell’s touchdown sealed the victory.
The Sewell sack created quite the social media buzz and rightfully so.
There is a rule in football that is taught to defenders – see what you hit. In other words, keep your head up when you make contact and don’t lead with the crown of your helmet.
Sewell followed that rule to a tee but he did have helmet-to-helmet contact with Adams Jr., which by the letter of the rule, was a penalty.
The issue is that Sewell’s sack was a football play and there was no intent to lead with his helmet or injure Adams Jr. If it were a judgement call, there would not have been a penalty but that wasn’t the case. Forget the CFL, leagues in every sport are trying to take judgement calls out of the game and have them replaced by black-and-white decisions.
In this instance, the Lions were beneficiaries.
* Fajardo’s 308 yards passing allowed him to catapult over Wally Gabler (13,080), McLeod Bethel-Thompson (13,261) and Chuck Ealey (13,326) to 57th on the CFL’s all-time passing yardage totals with 13,368 yards.
* It was the 14th Labour Day meeting between the two teams with B.C. now holding an 8-6 advantage and also having won six of the last eight.
* The Lions will enjoy their final bye of the seasons this week with their next game taking place on Saturday, Sept. 16 when the Ottawa REDBLACKS visit BC Place Stadium.
* With Saskatchewan defeating Winnipeg 32-30 on Labour Day, the Lions now control their own destiny in regards to finishing in first place in the Western Division.
* With two completions of over 20 yards in the game, Adams Jr. leads the CFL with 38 completions of 20 yards or more. Lions receiver Keon Hatcher finished the game with five catches for 56 yards to give him 27 catches for 427 yards in his last four games. You have to go back to 2016 and Manny Arceneaux to find a more productive four-game run by a Lions receiver.
Veteran B.C. sports personality Bob “the Moj” Marjanovich writes twice weekly for Black Press Media. And check out his weekly podcast every Monday at Today in B.C. or your local Black Press Media website.