Wally Buono courtesy of CFL.ca
Story by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The B.C. Lions will be looking to make it back-to-back victories for the first time all season when they take on the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night in Montreal. After dropping four of their last five games heading into last weekend’s game against the Redblacks, the Lions responded with one of their most complete games of the season against an Ottawa team that currently holds down first place in the East. B.C. would control the tempo from the onset, dealing the Redblacks a 26-14 defeat and successfully keeping their slim playoff hopes alive.

After QB Travis Lulay had to leave the game after taking a high hit backup QB Jonathon Jennings would step in and look impressive, completing 10/12 passes to successfully lead the Lions offense the rest of the way. However, one of the most notable improvements for the Lions in Week 13 was their efficiency on defense, as B.C. limited Ottawa to just fourteen points while and forcing three interceptions and recording six sacks on the night. I had an opportunity on Wednesday to speak with the unofficial Godfather of the BC Lions, head coach Wally Buono, about what he noticed the most from last Friday’s key victory over the Redblacks.

“I think defensively we were way more aggressive, way more physical,” said coach Buono “We had way more opportunities on the ball. Offensively the composure was good, the ability to not turn the ball over and to create turnovers, that’s huge in the CFL.”

In addition to being more aggressive and opportunistic against Ottawa, the Lions showed on Friday night that they aren’t giving up on the season. One of the intangible elements in the game of Football, and in all sports for that matter, is the factor of competitive nature. While having players with speed, skill and strength can never be undersold in value to any team, having players that hate to lose can also be a huge factor in determining wins and losses. Coach Buono then gave his take on how competitive nature can factor into its success.

 Wally Buono BCLions.com
Wally Buono BCLions.com
“I’d rather refer to it as self motivated players,” said Buono “How much are you willing to prepare, how much are you willing to sacrifice? I’ve always said my job isn’t to motivate the players, my job is to give them the best tools. It can take a long time to get a team to where they have the concept of self-motivation.”

In the CFL and in pro-sports in general the word Intensity is a very rounded word that encompasses a lot of different meanings. However, there’s no denying how much an intense and competitive group of individuals/players can change the climate of any game. Coach Buono then went on to talk about whether he feels intensity is something that can even be taught.

“It’s not possible to teach because we can be intense today, and have no intensity on Friday.” said Buono “I think it’s something you can talk about, and something you can hold people accountable for. At the end of the day it’s the willingness to prepare, and be physical. It’s really an all encompassing word.”

With the Lions currently still sitting at the bottom of the CFL’s western conference, their chances to make the post season will rely heavily on their resilience as a team for the season’s duration. The Lions next four games will feature match-ups against teams that are also near the bottom of the standings, so this will be the Lions’ last opportunity to climb back into playoff relevance. The Lions first stop on the comeback trail comes Friday night in Montreal, when the Lions visit an Alouettes team that has struggled to remain competitive this season. Montreal has had their fair share of challenges on offense and defense, currently leading the league in the category of most turnovers and sacks allowed, while boasting the worst offensive possession time of any team in the CFL. However, it is important to note that the Alouettes have won their last two games after going 1-8 to start the season, and cannot be taken lightly.

Aside from what could be the Lions last trip to Montreal this season, for coach Wally Buono it could be the final trip to Montreal of his CFL coaching career. During his illustrious career that has seen him capture five Grey Cups – three with Calgary and two with B.C., Buono has seemingly done it all in the CFL. Known as one of the greatest offensive minds in league history, Wally has compiled an all-time best 277 victories as a head coach in the CFL while influencing many along the way. None more so than Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson, who spent time in B.C. under Buono in the early 2000’s. Wally then spoke about what his approach has been like to his final CFL season.

“I don’t smell the roses,” said Buono “The seasons are way too long, expectations are high, and the pressure, not that it bothers me – but it’s there all the time. My view is once it’s all over, then I can take a deep breath.”

Friday night’s must-win meeting with the Montreal Alouettes gets underway at 4:30 Pacific with Travis Lulay expected to start at quarterback against Montreal’s Antonio Pipkin.