Lions hold on to beat Argonauts
Travis Lulay extends touchdown streak to 22 games
For the second straight week, Travis Lulay put on a show.
But this time, he needed some help from his defence to make it count.
The B.C. quarterback passed for 390 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as the Lions held on to beat the Toronto Argonauts 28-23. The strong performance followed his four TD passes in a blowout win over Montreal.
Lulay extended his touchdown-pass streak to 22 games, moving into second place all-time behind Alouettes legend Sam Etcheverry.
Elimimian sidesteps questions about CFL future
Solomon Elimimian is glad to be back with the B.C. Lions, but how long he stays still remains to be seen.
The middle linebacker met reporters for the first time since returning to the CFL club this week after unsuccessful attempts to make the NFL's Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns.
"I look at the positives of things," he said Saturday before the Lions hosted the Toronto Argonauts at B.C. Place Stadium. "That (NFL experience) is in the past, and right now the present is to play for the B.C. Lions. Whatever that (role) is, I'll do the best I can."
Elimimian, the CFL's rookie of the year in 2010 and a league all-star last season, signed with Minnesota in the off-season but was cut in the pre-season and later joined Cleveland's practice roster but was quickly released.
Since leaving B.C. after helping the Lions win the 2011 Grey Cup, he has been displaced in the centre of the B.C. defence by Adam Bighill, who ranks among the league leaders in tackles.
According to CFL roster rules, the Lions have until Monday, the fifth day since Elimimian rejoined the team, to make a decision on him. His return means the Lions face the difficult decision of whether to replace Bighill. Coach Mike Benevides and defensive co-ordinator Rich Stubler do not appear to be in a rush to do so.
Elimimian, who suffered a hamstring injury with the Vikings, watched Saturday's game in street clothes and Benevides admitted he postponed the new arrival's media availability so that he would not be a distraction.
Stressing that he and Bighill are close and have stayed in contact all season, Elimimian wished the best for the second-year Lion.
"I hope Adam continues to have a great season. ... If he keeps going, he could be defensive player of the year," said Elimimian, adding he just hopes to do his best when he gets on the field.
One option could be to place Elimimian on the injured list. When asked about the state of his hamstring, Elimimian replied with a terse: "No comment."
The team has indicated it will evaluate his injury before he returns to practice.
Elimimian, who is in the option year of his Lions contract, also sidestepped the question of whether he would be a Lion next year, but added he still believes he can play in the NFL.
"I don't look past this week," Elimimian said. "I can't control the future. I don't predict the future. I thought things were going to be different. That's why I'm here. In terms of what's going to happen next week, or next year, it's beyond me. I'm just happy to be here. I really am happy to be here."
— The Canadian Press
However the win was not secured until B.C. middle linebacker Adam Bighill recovered a Ricky Ray fumble in the final minute with the Argos threatening to take the lead. The turnover enabled the Lions to run out the clock after Toronto had advance to the B.C. 20-yard line.
"The last offensive drive before the kneel-down, we had an opportunity to put the game away and we didn't do it, so hats off to our defence for holding strong," said Lulay, who completed 24-of-40 passes as the Lions (8-3) posted their sixth win in seven games.
Lulay guided the Lions to 515 yards in net offence compared to Toronto's 364.
The Lions led most of the game but had to hold off the late Toronto rally after Chad Owens' 52-yard touchdown reception with just over five minutes left in the game. B.C. got a reprieve when a 62-yard Spencer Watt pass-and-run touchdown was called back due to a holding penalty on Toronto's Maurice Mann.
"It wasn't good enough and we're not into moral victories," said Argos head coach Scott Milanovich. "We're sick that we didn't get this one."
Shawn Gore, Arland Bruce and Rolly Lumbala scored touchdowns for B.C., while kicker Paul McCallum supplied the other points with two field goals, a single off a miss three-point attempt and three converts.
Cornerback Matt Black, off a fumble return, also scored a touchdown for the Argos (6-5), while Swayze Waters booted three field goals and a couple of converts.
"We didn't give up an offensive touchdown all game and then it came down to [Owens' touchdown] at the very end," said Lions head coach Mike Benevides. "It shouldn't happen but it did and the defence responded and got the big play we needed to. They did a great job of keeping a great quarterback down most of the game."
Ray completed 19-of-38 passes for 311 yards as the clubs combined for 701 yards through the air alone.
"We battled hard," said Ray. "We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of penalties and some things we didn't do well, but it was a 60-minute game. [We] just came up short."
Toronto was assessed 132 yards in penalties just a week after racking up 257 penalty yards — the second-highest total CFL history. Owens said the Argos would have won if not for untimely miscues.
"We have to be more disciplined," said Owens. "I'm not going to sit here and talk about penalties. It is what it is. We had an opportunity at the end to win the game and I truly believed we were going to win."
After overcoming a 7-1 first-quarter deficit, B.C. took an 18-7 lead into the dressing room at halftime. But Toronto managed to stay close as Waters kicked a pair of third-quarter field goals to reduce its deficit to 18-13.
McCallum hit a 43-yard field goal early in the third quarter to increase B.C.'s advantage to 21-13. The Lions then caught a break as Watt's touchdown was called back. But the Argos still produced a 36-yard field goal on the drive, pulling within five points.
However, Toronto penalties helped the Lions reach the end zone for the decisive points midway through the fourth quarter. Facemasking, pass interference and illegal contact infractions gave the Lions the ball at the Argos one-yard line. From there, Lumbala plunged across the goal-line, staking the Lions to a 28-16 advantage before a Waters fake punt set the stage for Owens' touchdown and Bighill's game-saving fumble recovery.
Bighill's play came as his future as the starting middle linebacker was in doubt because of Solomon Elimimian's return from the NFL. Elimimian watched the game in street clothes.
But Bighill, a 23-year-old Montesano, Wash., native out of Central Washington University, downplayed the significance of his performance at a crucial time.
"Whatever the coaches decide is going to win a championship, I'm going to play my role to help this team win a championship," said Bighill.
He also excelled on special teams as the Lions held Toronto's return yards to just 26 yards on punts and 109 yards on kick-offs.
B.C. slotback Geroy Simon, who returned after missing his first game in four years last weekend with a hamstring injury, had a strong night too, leading all receivers with six catches for 117 yards. He made key receptions on B.C.'s last two touchdown drives as the Lions overcame their early deficit.
"Slow starts don't matter," he said. "It's about how you finish."