Andrew Harris, Lions hold off Argonauts in home opener
Running back rushes for 103 yards, TD in B.C. win
Andrew Harris showed Thursday night what he can do when he gets mad.
Harris ran for 103 yards and a touchdown as B.C. beat the Toronto Argonauts 24-16. That gave the Lions a win at the home opener of their 60th season before a crowd of 25,255 at B.C. Place Stadium.
Harris atoned for a poor showing in B.C.'s (1-1) season-opening loss in Calgary a week earlier. He also caught six passes for 49 yards.
"I wanted to bounce back, and I felt like I did," said Harris, who only rushed for 20 yards in Week 1. "It was definitely disappointing last week, so this week was huge for me."
The Argos dropped to 1-1 as they remained winless in Vancouver since 2002. Toronto hasn't started a season 2-0 since 1997. Harris helped the Lions rack up 396 yards in net offence while they allowed a modest 242.
"I felt like we were pretty consistent moving the ball," said Harris. "When we needed to score, we got those points in."
B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay completed 20 of 34 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. Toronto QB Ricky Ray was good on 28 of 39 pass attempts for 215 yards, and ran for a meaningless touchdown in the game's final minute.
"They played a good game and, offensively, we just really couldn't get anything started and couldn't keep anything going," said Ray. "When we didn't have a chance, we just didn't make the plays."
Lulay praised Harris for delivering a "phenomenal" performance after struggling a week earlier. The QB said Harris helped the Lions maintain momentum, although they still need to work on getting the ball into the end zone more often.
"Last week, he was disappointed," said Lulay. "He's a competitor, he wants to contribute.
"So it was huge for us and huge for him to get him going. You see what happens when we get our run game going and Andrew gets some balls out of the backfield. That's what makes our offence go."
Controversial defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell played his first game against B.C. after being traded to the Argos in the off-season. He and his linemates applied steady pressure on Lulay, but the Lions quarterback eluded it most of the time as B.C. led from start to finish despite a scare late in the fourth quarter.
The Argos only managed one sack, by Mitchell, and his late needless roughing-the-passer penalty set up a fourth-quarter Harris touchdown after Toronto had reduced its deficit to 17-9.
"Especially early in the football game, they challenged us, and I thought our offensive line really answered the bell really well," said Lulay. "Most of those times I did get hit, it was because they outnumbered us.
"So hats off to the offensive line. They took a lot of heat after last week. They wanted to play better, and I thought they really did."
Instead of Mitchell and company, it was the B.C. defence that shined, even after linebacker Adam Bighill, a CFL all-star in 2012, left the game with an injury in the third quarter after an Argo fell on the back of his leg. B.C. limited Toronto to three field goals until the game was decided.
"They did a good job of keeping a lot of things in front of them," said Ray. "I felt like I was checking the ball down quite a bit, and they just did a good job rallying up and tackling."
The game featured two replacement kickers, who accounted for much of the scoring as Hugh O'Neill filled in for injured B.C. kicker Paul McCallum. McCallum is out with a groin injury suffered in the warmup before the first pre-season game. The Argos' Noel Prefontaine substituted for Swayze Waters after he injured his groin on a convert attempt in Week 1.
Like his Toronto counterpart, O'Neill kicked three field goals, and earned a single off a miss.
B.C.'s lone touchdown pass came as Lulay hit Courtney Taylor with a six-yard strike to open the scoring nine minutes into the first quarter. The scoring play was set up by Lulay's 43-yard pass to a wide open Nick Moore two plays earlier.
Moore had a strong night, recording six receptions for 107 yards.
O'Neill accounted for the rest of the B.C. scoring as the Lions took built a 13-0 lead and enjoyed a 14-3 advantage at halftime.
Trailing 17-3, the Argos finally caught a pair of breaks as Jalil Carter intercepted a Lulay pass in B.C. territory late in the third quarter and Janzen Jackson blocked an O'Neill punt early in the fourth quarter. But on both occasions, the Argos had to settle for field goals.
Toronto's comeback stalled after Lions defensive back Korey Banks recovered a Ray fumble after B.C.'s Eric Taylor stripped the ball away from the Argos quarterback as he being swarmed by B.C. defenders in the pocket.
Then Mitchell's temperamental ways came back to haunt him and the Argos. The former Lion was penalized as he hit Lulay well after the play, giving B.C. a first-and-goal situation.
One play later, Harris, who had been critical of Mitchell and tweeted "good riddance" after he was traded, scampered four yards up the middle into the end zone, staking the Lions to an insurmountable 24-9 lead.
"I was out in the flat, and I just saw a bunch of guys scuffling it up," said Harris. "But that's what Khalif does, so it's not really surprising if it was him."
Mitchell showed no emotion towards the penalty.
"It is what it is," he nonchalantly told reporters.