Travis Lulay threw three touchdown passes — including one for 80 yards to Emmanuel Arceneaux — and ran for another himself as the B.C. Lions beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 29-26 in CFL action Friday night.
Lulay passed for more than 300 yards for the first time this season, and 14th time in his career, as the Lions improved to 6-3. Hamilton (4-5) saw its win streak end at three games.
The Ticats were denied their first four-game win streak since 2010. It would have been only their second four-game victory run since 1998.
Shawn Gore and Marco Iannuzzi also scored touchdowns for B.C., while kicker Paul McCallum supplied their other points on four converts and a single off a missed field goal.
Lulay completed 26 of 36 passes for 359 yards. He excelled after struggling against Montreal's blitz last week as the Alouettes pulled off a stunning comeback win.
Hamilton tried to unleash its blitz often, too, but the Lions QB countered with mid-range slant passes and the long-bomb touchdown to Arceneaux that gave the Lions an insurmountable lead in the second quarter.
After the Ticats pulled within three points, to trail 22-19, Lulay ran for what proved to be a winning two-yard touchdown with six minutes left in the game before Hamilton scored in the final minute.
Hamilton quarterback Henry Burris threw two touchdown passes, to Bakari Grant and Greg Ellingson with only 25 seconds left in the game. Burris matched Lulay's 36 pass attempts, completing 29 for 352 yards.
Backup quarterback Dan Lefevour ran for Hamilton's other TD. A Luca Congi field goal and safety conceded by B.C., accounted for the rest of the Ticat scoring.
B.C. got off to a slow start that has been typical of many games this season. But the Lions were able to gain some traction on their second series after Hamilton defensive end Brandon Boudreaux took an unnecessary roughness penalty for throwing Lulay to the turf on what would have been a sack.
Gore put the Lions on the board about six and a half minutes into the game with a five-yard touchdown reception. It was fitting that Gore scored, because he made two consecutive receptions, for 17 and 12 yards respectively, getting B.C. into Hamilton territory.
Although Lulay was better able to counter against pressure than he did against Montreal eight days earlier, Hamilton managed to hold B.C. in check the rest of the first quarter. The Ticats also enjoyed some good fortune when Arceneaux dropped the ball on a long-bomb pass from Lulay.
The Lions offence showed signs of coming alive early in the second quarter when running back Andrew Harris ran for 19 yards on the first play of the period. The run matched his entire offensive output against Montreal a week earlier. But the Lions still could not get in scoring range.
Instead, it was the Ticats who got going as Burris completed five consecutive passes on a scoring drive that culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Grant.
Lions answer back
But the Lions quickly countered as Arceneaux made no mistake on a Lulay's second long-bomb attempt, pulling in the ball for a spectacular 80-yard touchdown. Hamilton linebacker Courtney Greene — the last man back after defensive backs blitzed — clipped Arceneaux's heels as he ran along the sidelines.
But Arceneaux shook off the tackle attempt and romped into the end zone.
With the offence struggling after that, the Lions depended on their defence — despite the loss of middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian to a hamstring injury — for the rest of the second quarter.
In one sequence, Brandon Jordan sacked Ticats backup QB Chris LeFevour on a short-yardage situation, forcing the Tabbies to punt. In another, Korey Banks sacked Burris on first down and pressured him for an incompletion on the next play to create another punting situation.
But the Lions then ran into penalty trouble as they were called for an illegal block on the punt return and Harris took an objectionable conduct penalty after he was held for a one-yard gain, threw the ball down in disgust with himself after the play and unintentionally hit a Hamilton player.
As a result, Paul McCallum conceded a safety instead of punting, and the Lions held a precarious 14-9 lead at halftime.
The Lions got off to a hot start in the third quarter as Lulay connected with Marco Iannuzzi for a 57-yard pass. A few plays later, Iannuzzi culminated a seven-play, 77-yard scoring drive with a two-yard touchdown reception on a third-and-two gamble.
The risky move staked the Lions to a 21-9 lead. The touchdown came after Lulay was sacked by Boudreaux at the outset of the drive. The Ticat pulled him down by his shirt collar, bringing his shoulder pad out, but was not penalized.
But the Tiger-Cats were able to reduce their deficit to 21-16 on a one-yard touchdown push by LeFevour, which capped a nine-play, 86-yard scoring drive. His cause was helped after B.C. defensive back Josh Bell was called for pass interference in the end zone, giving Hamilton a first-and-goal situation.
The Lions went up another point on McCallum's 45-yard missed field-goal attempt 1:58 into the fourth quarter. It was the first field goal try by either club in the game.
Hamilton's first field-goal attempt came reluctantly at 5:21 of the fourth quarter as Congi was good from 34 yards out, reducing the Ticats' deficit to 22-19. The three-pointer came after B.C. cornerback Cord Parks knocked down a pass in the end zone intended for Greg Ellingson, and then Keron Williams forced a fumble, which was recovered by Hamilton, while sacking Burris.
After B.C. went up 29-19 following Lulay's touchdown, and Dante Marsh intercepted a Burris pass, the Lions threatened to score again. But backup quarterback Thomas DeMarco fumbled in a short-yardage situation, giving Hamilton a chance at a late comeback.
Following Ellingson's two-yard touchdown catch, Ticats coach Kent Austin elected to boot a convert and hope for success on an onside kick. But B.C.'s Paris Jackson caught Congi's kickoff and fell down, ensuring the win for the Lions — and a memorable night for Lulay.