Travis Lulay took a conversation topic away from his critics Friday night.
For the first time this season, Lulay threw for more than 300 yards in a game as the B.C. Lions beat the Hamilton Tiger-Cats 29-26 at B.C. Place Stadium. More importantly, he completed three touchdown passes — including one for 80 yards to Emmanuel Arceneaux — and ran for another TD himself.
Lulay had come under fire because he had not managed to hurdle the 300 barrier.
"Honestly, I feel much better about the win than I do about 300 yards," said Lulay, who completed 26-of-36 passes for 359 yards.
'Honestly, I feel much better about the win than I do about 300 yards.'— Lions QB Travis Lulay after throwing for 359 yards
"The thing that's nice is that now we can stop talking about it, hopefully, a little bit."
He excelled after struggling against Montreal's blitz last week as the Alouettes pulled off a stunning comeback win. Lulay was only sacked once after he was downed five times in Montreal.
"We played much better," said Lulay, praising his offensive line for making him feel more comfortable. "We played much more confident, and we talked about playing more confident, playing faster, and the execution followed.
"Even early, I threw a couple balls a little high that a couple guys didn't handle, and we settled in and just kept playing. We overcame some of those little things. It doesn't have to be perfect. It's not going to be perfect. But when you're playing fast, and you're executing a little better, you're giving yourself more opportunities to make plays."
The B.C. quarterback surpassed 300 yards for the 14th time in his career, as the Lions improved to 6-3 at the season's halfway point.
"We're still in position to do what we want to do into the second half of the season," said Lulay, adding the Lions can head into the stretch drive with some momentum.
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.
"We have to have to get better, obviously," said Hamilton receiver Greg Ellingson, who pulled in a two yard touchdown pass with 25 seconds left in the game to give the Lions a scare. "When you don't come out with the win, you have to improve on things, and that's what we're going to do."
After some early B.C. offensive miscues that included a wide-open Arceneaux dropping a long-bomb attempt, Lulay found the big receiver on the spectacular 80-yard touchdown that put the Lions ahead 14-7 in the second quarter and gave them the lead for good. Hamilton linebacker Courtney Greene — the last man back after defensive backs blitzed — clipped Arceneaux's heels as he ran along the sidelines.
"We just found the will," said Arceneaux. "We came in here with the mindset that this was a must-win, like every game is, and we just competed to the end. It shouldn't have been that close, but things happen, and we're going to ride with the victory."
Arceneaux was glad to make the TD catch after his earlier drop. Lulay's original plan was to keep the ball himself or use the option of a pitchout or short pass. But he unloaded a deep ball on a blitz after Arceneaux waved his arm to signal his availability.
"It wasn't an all-round blitz, but they did have a guy come around," said Lulay. "I knew I was going to take a hit, but I just had to get it out there and give (Arceneaux) a chance."
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, with his first going to Bakari Grant before Ellingson's late heroics. 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.
But the game was all about passing as Lulay and Burris waged a quarterbacking battle, when their offences weren't struggling. The clubs only attempted one field goal and punted a combined 12 times.
When B.C.'s offence stalled, its defence came up big. The Lions recorded five QB sacks, with one by Keron Williams resulting in a forced fumble that made Hamilton go for its field goal late in the game rather than a touchdown during an ill-fated late rally.
"It's never close enough when you're on the other side of it," said Ellingson. "It doesn't matter whether you lose by one point or 10 or 50. A loss is a loss and we have to get better from here."
The Lions and Ticats conclude their home-and-home series next weekend in the Tabbies' temporary home in Guelph, Ont.
Notes: The Lions received a scare late in the second quarter as Lulay was hit along the sidelines by Simoni Lawrence on an incomplete pass that led to a punt. Lulay limped slightly as he went off and was attended by trainers but showed no ill effects afterward.