Lulay leads Lions to victory over Argos
Travis Lulay and the B.C. Lions picked up where they left off.
Lulay threw a touchdown pass and ran for another while the Lions' defence had four interceptions in a 29-16 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night.
B.C. (3-6) earned its sixth victory in seven trips to Rogers Centre since 2005 and won for the third time in four games since starting the season 0-5. The Lions, coming off the bye following a 36-1 road win over Edmonton on Aug. 19, host Toronto on Sept. 10 to complete the home-and-home series.
"Having a pretty strong performance last game, you want to come back and be able to back that up," Lulay said. "I've been saying consistency is the thing we're really striving for and to put back-to-back performances together feels good and is a positive step in the right direction."
Lulay's five-yard run at 7:36 of the third capped a smart nine-play, 68-yard drive that put B.C. ahead 20-6 before a Rogers Centre gathering of 19,593. The Lions claimed their first win over an East Division opponent in five meetings this year and also won for the first time in nine Labour Day meetings (1-7-1) with the Argos.
Lulay was 25-of-36 passing for 309 yards with a TD and no interceptions. Against Edmonton, Lulay completed 22-of-37 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns while surrendering an interception.
Sophomore receiver Akeem Foster, who attended high school in nearby Ajax, Ont., was Lulay's favourite target with eight catches for 144 yards, both game highs.
B.C.'s defence did its part, forcing five total turnovers including four interceptions of Argos backup quarterback Dalton Bell. The Lions also had four picks against Edmonton two weeks earlier.
"Every championship team starts with defence and no matter what happens the defence has to set the tone," said middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian, the CFL's top rookie last season who had one of the interceptions. "Our goal coming in was to be physical, play fast and run to the ball and that's what we did.
"Definitely, we have momentum but we have to stay focused though. We all know how hard it is to win back-to-back games."
Wally Buono, the Lions head coach/GM, praised his defence for its stellar performance.
"Our defence, when it can do the things we want it do to — which is rush the four guys and change up the coverages and occasionally add some pressures — it does put a lot of pressure on the offence," he said. "We were good that way and tonight the guys did a good job of hawking the ball, which makes a big difference.
"When you can get turnovers and pressure on the quarterback with four guys, it does put pressure on the other team."
Toronto (2-7) lost for the seventh time in eight games but made it interesting with Chad Owens' 91-yard kickoff return TD at 8:15 of the fourth to pull to within 26-16. Then the home team stopped B.C. on a third-down gamble at the Argos' 41 with 3:44 remaining.
But Toronto turned the ball over on downs at the B.C. 52-yard line with 2:38 remaining, leading to a Lions' field goal and a 29-16 lead at 13:27. The Argos were abysmal offensively coming off their 24-18 home win over Saskatchewan on Aug. 18, and also lost tackle Rob Murphy to a season-ending knee injury in the opening half.
Owens had a club-record 245 kickoff return yards while the two teams combined for 423 kickoff return yards and combined 13 kickoff returns, both league records.
"I said I was going to get one tonight … it was just how we did it in practice," Owens said. "But I'd give up the yards and TDfor the win."
However, Toronto mustered just 184 total offensive yards, including only 99 passing as Lemon and Bell were a combined 16-of-31 through the air.
"That's as poor an offensive performance as I've seen here," said Argos head coach/GM Jim Barker. "That was disturbing.
"Cleo didn't get any help, there were a lot of dropped balls. But you can't change the entire offence, just one guy. We're a team that has to find its offence."
Lemon was 11-of-15 passing in the opening half, but for just 57 yards. Bell came on in the third and completed 5-of-16 passes for 42 yards.
"They played a lot of zone," Bell said. "I got greedy a couple of times and paid for it."
Added Owens: "We let Cleo down early with dropped balls. Make those catches and it could be different. This was on us."
This marked the first time since 1995 Toronto didn't face arch-rival Hamilton on Labour Day. A scheduling problem at Rogers Centre precipitated the change although the Argos will resume their rivalry with the Ticats next season.
Hamilton hosts Montreal on Monday.
The game was Toronto defensive end Ricky Foley's first against his former team. Foley did well with five tackles, a pass knockdown and fumble recovery but took no solace in his performance.
"No negativity against them," he said. "I honestly wanted to do well … but it's still just a game.
"No one thought we'd be 2-7. Maybe we thought we'd be better than we are?"
Arland Bruce III scored B.C.'s other touchdown. Paul McCallum added two converts and five field goals.
Toronto's Noel Prefontaine booted three field goals and a convert.
McCallum's 41-yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining staked B.C. to a 13-6 half-time lead. Toronto marched 43 yards on its opening possession to set up Prefontaine's 36-yard field goal but finished the half with just four first downs and 65 net yards offensively.
And in the second that drew the boo-birds out, especially when Toronto left the field to close out the half.
By comparison, B.C. managed 216 total offensive yards and had the half's only TD on Lulay's 16-yard strike to Bruce at 14:39 of the first.