It took Travis Lulay almost two quarters to get his offence in synch, but once he did, the B.C. Lions rolled.
Lulay completed 30-of-37 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday to lead the Lions to a convincing 34-8 win over the Calgary Stampeders.
Lulay tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Andrew Harris in the second half, but it was his 17-yard completion to Akeem Harris in the end zone late in the second quarter that was the turning point in the game.
"Offensively, we had a little bit of miscommunication early in the game," said Lulay. "Once we settled in, that drive right before halftime, I think was the drive that kind of turned the tide for us just mentally on offence. It gave us some good momentum, some good confidence and we played much more complete football in the second half."
Lulay, who has now completed at least one touchdown pass in each of B.C.'s past 16 regular season games, drew praise from his coach Mike Benevides.
"Travis is an outstanding quarterback and an outstanding leader," said Benevides. "I think he doesn't get enough credit. He plays with tremendous poise, he's got great study habits and he understands the game."
Harris also commended Lulay for his poise as a starting quarterback.
"No matter what's going on — ups or downs — he's pretty level headed and stays the same kind of guy," Harris said. "It's great to have a leader like that. His vibe just filters throughout the team."
Paul McCallum kicked four field goals for the Lions (3-2), who snapped a two-game losing streak.
"It's a huge win for us especially on the road and against a western team," Harris said. "We've just got to build from this and continue on with more wins."
The Stampeders (2-3) couldn't get anything going against the B.C. defence and had to settle for just a safety and two field goals by Rene Paredes.
"We weren't able to do anything in any of the three phases to turn the momentum, to seize the momentum," said Calgary coach and general manager John Hufnagel. "That's such a large part of the game is momentum and we just weren't able to do it."
Calgary quarterback Kevin Glenn, who completed 19-of-28 passes for 245 yards, said the Stamps have to put the setback behind them leading into their next game on Aug. 9 in Hamilton against the Tiger-Cats.
"The important thing is we've got to get over it," Glenn said. "We've got to learn from it, but we've still got to forget it."
Calgary went up 2-0 at 7:08 of the first quarter when McCallum was forced to concede a safety in his own end zone.
On the Stampeders' next drive, B.C. linebacker Adam Bighill intercepted an errant pass by Glenn to give the Lions the ball back.
"We just played together tonight," said Bighill, who gave credit to B.C.'s defensive line for their solid play. "They put pressure on the quarterback [and] helped me get that interception. It all starts up front ... big credit to those guys up front really helping us out tonight."
After a nine-play, 40-yard drive, McCallum kicked a 39-yard field goal to put B.C. up by a point through one quarter of play.
Paredes kicked a 42-yard field goal at 6:47 of the second quarter for the Stampeders before McCallum responded with one of his own from 45 yards out for the Lions four minutes later.
Late in the first half, Lulay led B.C. on a seven-play, 74-yard drive that culminated with the 17-yard touchdown pass to Foster to put the Lions up 13-5.
Paredes opened the second half with a 45-yard field goal before McCallum replied with a 28 yarder.
With Calgary facing a third-and-three situation, the Stamps lined up in punt formation but instead tried a trick play when the ball was snapped directly to Arjei Franklin, who ran for a two-yard gain before being tackled. That resulted in a turnover on downs and gave the Lions great field position at Calgary's 44-yard line.
Eight plays later, Lulay threw a five-yard touchdown strike to Harris in the end zone to give the Lions a 23-8 lead through three quarters of play.
Harris also caught a 19-yard TD pass from Lulay in the fourth quarter, while McCallum added a 94-yard punt single and a nine-yard field goal.
Tiger-Cats 35, Roughriders 34
Just as he'd predicted, Hamilton Tiger-Cats slotback Andy Fantuz received a warm welcome from the Saskatchewan Roughriders fans on Saturday.
That reception cooled considerably though as Fantuz and quarterback Henry Burris u also a former Roughrider u led the Ticats to a 35-34 come-from-behind victory over Saskatchewan.
Burris threw three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to help Hamilton avenge a 43-16 loss to the Roughriders in Hamilton in late June.
"You know what they say. It's never over until it gets to zeros on the scoreboard time clock," said Tiger-Cats head coach George Cortez. "That's what you keep telling the players and you hope that eventually they believe it."
The sellout crowd of 32,898 at Mosaic Stadium fans treated Fantuz as just another player on the opposing team as soon as play began.
The Riders fans also kept up the tradition of greeting Burris with the mocking chant of "Hen-ry, Hen-ry, Hen-ry." Like Fantuz, the Tiger-Cats quarterback is a former Roughrider, having played with the Calgary Stampeders before being dealt to Hamilton in the off-season.
Before signing with the Tiger-Cats as a free agent last winter, Fantuz spent six seasons with the Riders and was an integral part of Saskatchewan's Grey Cup championship in 2007, a game in which he was named Outstanding Canadian.
On Saturday afternoon, Fantuz was restricted to two receptions for 39 yards u both coming in the first half u in a game that was dominated by the defences and the kickers until the offences finally shifted into gear in the second half.
"They did some things on defence that took Andy away from us, but we have other weapons on this offence we can go to and use effectively," said Burris, who completed 28 of 38 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions.
"This is a team that's trying to learn how to win on the road. What better place to do it than the toughest environment in the CFL here in Saskatchewan."
The victory, Hamilton's third in a row, improved the Tiger-Cats record to 3-2. The Roughriders have dropped to 3-2 with back-to-back losses. This marked the second time in as many week that Saskatchewan has blown a sizable lead in the fourth quarter.
"You get paid to tackle," said Roughriders head coach Corey Chamblin, whose reeling team lost to Calgary 41-38 in overtime on July 20.
Roughriders quarterback Darian Durant tossed touchdown passes of 74 yards to wide receiver Taj Smith and 20 yards to Jock Sanders in the third quarter. The timely TDs were a response to the Tiger-Cats, who had tied the game 14-14 on a Burris touchdown strike of 21 yards to Chris Williams.
Durant finished the game with 24 completions in 39 attempts for 380 yards and two touchdowns. He was picked off once, by Bo Smith.
Burris answered Durant in the fourth quarter with touchdown strikes of 10 yards to Onrea Jones and 16 yards to Dave Stala, before hitting Jones again with the go-ahead touchdown on third-and-five with just under three minutes remaining.
"We were down in terms of the score," Burris said. "But the offensive group and I knew we had a long way to go in the game yet."
The Roughriders opened the scoring on the game's first possession, with rookie tailback Kory Sheets finding the end zone on a third-down gamble from a yard out. The Tiger-Cats responded immediately with a 32-yard field goal by Luca Congi, another former Roughrider.
Following a 52-yard single by Hamilton punter Josh Bartel in the second quarter, Saskatchewan's Chris Milo and Congi exchanged field goals of 46 and 27 yards, respectively.
Late in the opening half, Milo added a second field for Saskatchewan, this one a chip shot of 13 yards, to give the Roughriders a 13-7 halftime lead.
Both teams now go into a bye week. The Tiger-Cats return to action on Aug. 9 in Hamilton against the Stamps while the next game for the Roughriders is Aug. 10 in Edmonton against the Eskimos.
"It's about focus. We have to see what we can do to get leads and hold leads. We're letting opportunities slip," said Chamblin. "It's still a 3-2 team. The sky is not falling down. When we come back [after the bye week] it's a new season."