When it comes to the B.C. Lions' success this season, Travis Lulay's passing statistics don't tell the whole story.
The B.C. quarterback is quietly enjoying a solid season, even if his numbers don't always back up the fact.
Heading into Tuesday's game against the Argonauts in Toronto, Lulay ranks fifth in the CFL with 71 completions on 112 attempts a 63.4 per cent success rate. He has yet to throw for more than 300 yards this season, and was held under 200 on one occasion.
Is he concerned about his difficulties getting above 300?
"Honestly, I'm not," he said on the weekend before the Lions headed east Sunday. "If you're thinking about your passing yardage, you're worried about the wrong thing."
Of course, wins matter most to Lulay. And, when it comes to leading his team to them, the 29-year-old is over-achieving.
The Lions (3-1) can extend their victory streak to four games as they battle the Argos (2-2). Another win will move the Lions into a tie for second place in the West Division with the Calgary Stampeders.
Ready for Toronto
Lulay is expecting the defending Grey Cup champion Argos to produce a better effort than they did in a July 4 loss to the Lions in Vancouver. B.C. is coming off a victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on July 20.
The win gave the Lions a sweep of home-and-home games with the Eskimos in which B.C. broke open a close game by bettering Edmonton in the second half.
Lulay wants his club to end its trend of slow starts.
"That's something that we'll continue to look at — how to operate at a high level from the get-go," said Lulay.
He is looking for the Lions to duplicate the offensive effort in their home opener against Toronto, when the hosts built a 14-3 lead at halftime and Toronto was forced to make an unsuccessful comeback effort before the Lions prevailed 24-16.
"Offensively, we were able to score some points," he told reporters last week. "We were able to run the football well. That was really critical for us, and we got Andrew (Harris) going a good bit (103 yards and a touchdown) in that game. Any time you're running the football well, and you can (increase) time of possession and you're able to finish some of those drives with points, that's a recipe for success.
"That won't change, really, in this game in what we need to do to win."
Still a key player
Despite the offence's occasional offensive sputtering, Lulay has given Lions coach Mike Benevides and general manager Wally Buono little to worry about this season after being rewarded with a new two-year contract in the off-season.
While struggling to get his club into the end zone at times, Lulay has been able to move the B.C. offence consistently as the Lions have produced 11 touchdowns, 86 first downs and average time of possession of 31 minutes 27 seconds. Those stats ranked B.C. among league leaders in the respective categories heading into the weekend.
In other words, Lulay has guided a steady, albeit at times unproductive, offence — and still dazzled occasionally, like he did on a 77-yard touchdown strike to Emmanuel Arceneaux against Edmonton.
The QB has provided stability to a position that, circa 2009 and 2010, caused the Lions problems due to multiple injuries to former starter Buck Pierce, now battling health woes with Winnipeg, and the vagaries of Casey Printers, who was released in October 2010 after he went into a tantrum, threw his helmet and berated a teammate following a game-ending interception in a double-overtime loss to Winnipeg.
Lulay was anointed the starter after Printers' release, and he has kept the job ever since. This season, he has also been able to stay healthy while other clubs have been forced to start backups this season.
The Argos will go with their No. 2 quarterback, Zach Collaros as he makes his first CFL start due to a knee injury to Ricky Ray, and Calgary and Saskatchewan won with their backups on the weekend.
Accordingly, Lulay, a former NFL journeyman who was chosen the CFL's most outstanding player in 2011 after leading the Lions to the Grey Cup, is revelling in his personal stability, which includes a new year-round home in Blaine, Wash., not far from the Lions' practice facility. He coveted a chance to be a team leader almost from the day he arrived in 2009, and now has clearly established himself as one.
"This is (the most) comfortable and confident as I've felt since I've been here," said Lulay, who is in his fifth season with the Lions.
But the Lions will have less room for comfort on offence as wide receiver Arceneaux sits out with a sprained ankle. Arceneaux, who returned to the Lions this season after a two-year NFL journey, has averaged 26 yards per catch on just 13 receptions while also recording three touchdowns. He will be replaced by Ernest Jackson, a second-year Lion, who draws into the lineup for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, linebacker Adam Bighill is slated to return after missing the past two games with a high-ankle sprain and some torn ligaments suffered in the previous meeting with the Argos.
With the emotion obvious in his voice, Bigill said it was very hard to watch while he was sidelined. Lulay has also been getting restless, considering the Lions will have had a full week off, and then some, before Tuesday's contest.
"We're excited to be getting back on the field," said Lulay. "This week has felt like a mini-bye week."
Note: Lions defensive back Keynan Parker will play after fellow DB Matt McGarva suffered a season-ending knee injury against Edmonton. Parker, the son of CFL hall of famer James (Quick) Parker, is slated to contribute mainly on special teams, but could also toil as a backup safety.