Lions advance to CFL West final against Stampeders
There will not be a Grey Cup repeat for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The B.C. Lions took advantage of seven Riders turnovers, including a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ryan Phillips, in a 33-12 win in the Canadian Football League's West semifinal on Saturday.
"It's a good feeling right now," Lions quarterback Buck Pierce said. "We definitely made mistakes and you know those are going to happen but you have to shed those off and you have to move on.
"Luckily our defence played well for us and always gave us good field position."
The Lions will appear in their seventh division final since 1999 on Nov. 15 at Calgary against the Stampeders, who finished atop the West in the regular season with a 13-5 record.
Calgary swept the season series 3-0 and is coming off a 41-30 home win over the Lions on Nov. 1 in which backup quarterbacks Barrick Nealy and Will Proctor got the bulk of work in relief of Henry Burris.
Between them, they threw the ball just three times in the second half, instead relying on an effective running attack B.C. could not keep in check.
The Lions, though, held Saskatchewan to 69 yards on the ground Saturday as Wes Cates was limited to 23 yards on nine carries after finishing second in league rushing in the regular season (1,229).
B.C.'s Stefan Logan, meanwhile, rushed 18 times for 153 yards playing in place of the injured Charles Roberts.
Lions offence dominates 2nd half
B.C. scored three majors and kicker Paul McCallum was three-for-three in field-goal attempts against his former team.
The Roughriders closed to within 16-9 on a Luci Congi field goal in the third quarter, but the Lions outscored the home side 17-3 the rest of the way before a Mosaic Stadium sellout of 30,945.
Pierce shook off a sprained left ankle and completed 23 of 31 pass attempts for 221 yards and one touchdown in his first CFL playoff start.
He took what little momentum Saskatchewan had away by connecting on nine of his first 10 passes for 85 yards to open the second half.
After moving the B.C. offence into Riders territory, Pierce gave way to backup Jarious Jackson on second-and-one and watched him hook up with Geroy Simon on a 31-yard TD strike to put the game away at 26-9.
On the ensuing series, Saskatchewan had a glorious chance to cut into the Lions' lead when Pierce coughed up the football on a sack by linebacker Anton McKenzie that was recovered by defensive lineman John Chick, who ran it back to the B.C. 35-yard line.
But the Roughriders had to settle for Congi's fourth field goal of the day after quarterback Michael Bishop was unable to find the end zone.
"It's all on me," said Bishop. "I didn't play well and I'm not going to put the blame on anybody. If I play well, make those throws, instead of kicking those field goals, we get touchdowns."
Bishop a playoff disappointment
Bishop, who was inconsisent in mustering a 4-4 record following an Aug. 23 trade from Toronto, was shaky for the most part en route to his second loss in as many playoff games.
He misfired on several throws in the Argonauts' 19-9 loss to Winnipeg in last year's East final and had similar performance in cold and windy Regina on Saturday. Bishop hit on 14 of 27 passes for 172 yards but tossed three interceptions and was replaced by Darian Durant midway through the fourth quarter.
"You gotta give them credit. They came and they played well. The end result, you know they made more plays than we made," said Bishop of the Lions. "We fought hard on offence. We just couldn't get it to click."
Phillips intercepted his second pass of the game early in the quarter and ran it back all the way to complete the scoring. Lyle Green scored B.C.'s other touchdown.
The Roughriders, which turned the ball over eight times to B.C. in their previous meeting, coughed it up four times in the opening 15 minutes this time around — three of them courtesy of two Bishop pickoffs and a fumble — but only trailed 7-0 on pair of McCallum field goals and a 45-yard single.
"Our defence has been getting turnovers all year," Lions head coach Wally Buono said. "At the end of the day, pressure on the quarterback causes turnovers."
Saskatchewan finished second in the West this season with a 12-6 mark and overcame a barrage of injuries. At one time, 21 players were on various injured lists.
"There is no satisfaction unless you win your final game, but there's a certain amount of positive feeling of being around men who sacrificed so much and overcome so many adversities to be successful," Roughriders rookie head coach Ken Miller said.
Lions sloback Jason Clermont returned to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained knee and caught four passes for 46 yards.
With files from the Canadian Press