Story by Alex Rodgerson/ISN
The B.C. Lions dropped a 26-9 decision to the Calgary Stampeders on Saturday night at B.C. Place, failing to earn a victory in the final CFL regular season game in the career of beloved Lions’ coach Wally Buono. On a night honouring the CFL’s all-time wins leaders’ final regular season appearance, the Lions would come out flat against a motivated Calgary squad that looked to wrap-up first place with a win.
Lions’ starting QB Traivs Lulay would struggle on the night, being picked off twice before being replaced by Jonathon Jennings to start the second half. Meanwhile for the Stampeders, starting QB Bo Levi Mitchell would complete 20/31 passes while adding another TD pass to his league-leading total of thirty-five on the year.
Starting at their own twenty-five Travis Lulay would air it out on the Lions’ first possession, finding Cory Watson who would make a thirty-five yard catch and rumble just passed the Stampeders fifty. The Lions would be unable to convert on their next set of downs and would then be forced to punt. Ty Long, who was the B.C. Lions’ nomination for CFL Most Outstanding Player earlier this week, would do what he’s done all season and launch a picture-perfect punt that would go out of bounds at the Stampeders five-yard line.
Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stamps’ offence would get started on their first drive with tough field position, but would make their way into field goal range and jump out ahead 3-0 with 9:43 left in the first quarter. On the Lions’ next possession Lulay would go to the air once again, connecting with Bryan Burnham on second down. With the reception, Burnham would move passed the 1,000 yards receiving mark on the season. Lulay however would be picked off by Ciante Evans on the same drive, handing the ball right back to Calgary.
Starting with poor field position yet again, Stamps’ QB Mitchell would march Calgary all the way down field before connecting with Juwan Brescacin for a forty-two yard gain. This would put the Stamps back into field goal territory where they would make it a 6-0 game late in the first quarter. After another quick three-and-out for the Lions, the Stampeders would get themselves right back into the B.C. red-zone after a forty-four yard reception by Chris Matthews.
Calgary RB Don Jackson would then find the end-zone for the Stamps’ first TD of the night, putting Calgary up 12-0 to end the quarter. The Lions usually dominant secondary would have a difficult time containing a dynamic Stamps offensive early in the game, seeing Calgary collect a total of 202 net-yards in the first quarter.
Neither team would be able to put any points on the board early in the second quarter, with the Lions’ offence still looking to wake up after a first quarter where they were only able to muster 82-yards of net offence. With almost half the game gone, Travis Lulay and the B.C. offence would only be able to make it passed centre on one drive, their very first of the contest.
Calgary on the other hand would play opportunistic football through the game’s first half, capitalizing on each possession and making significant gains down field regardless of their field position. Late in the half, the Stampeders would put together an eleven play drive, marching all the way down field before QB Mitchell would find Markeith Ambles for a ten-yard major. After the convert Calgary would find themselves ahead 19-0 with 3:11 left to go in the half.
The Lions would have one last opportunity in the half to get on the board, but a lack of execution and some ill-timed penalties would keep them at bay. The half would come to an end with Calgary leading 25-0 and dominating on both sides of the football. Collecting a total of 322 net yards against just 127 for B.C., Stamps’ QB Bo Levi Mitchell would complete 71% of his first half passes, while Travis Lulay and the Lions would be unable to find any success on offence heading into the second half.
The Lions would start the third quarter needing a huge effort in order to comeback in this one, down 25-0 and in danger of dropping Wally’s send-off game in lack-luster fashion. After kicking off to start the half, B.C. would suffer an injury to defensive back Claudell Louis, who would leave the game favouring what looked like his right knee. Coach Buono noted after the game he believes Louis should be good for next weekend’s game against Hamilton.
After Calgary would be forced to punt, the Lions’ first possession of the second half would feature B.C. backup pivot Jonathon Jennings, who would take over after a difficult first half for Travis Lulay. In his first appearance since Oct 6th vs Toronto, Jennings would put together a nine-play drive for the Lions but would be sacked on a second down attempt which would force the Lions to punt once again.
After having a tough time containing the Stamps’ offence in the first half, the Lions’ defence would settle down in the second half and limit Calgary to no points in the third quarter. B.C.’s secondary would force Calgary all the way back to their own fifteen, before an errant snap on a Calgary third down would earn a Safety for the Lions. This would finally break the goose egg and get the Lions on the board trailing 25-2 heading into the final quarter.
DeVier Posey would get the Lions off to a good start in the fourth quarter, making a forty-yard catch and finally bringing B.C. into the red-zone. Third string running back Wayne Moore would would then make an appearance in the fourth quarter, putting together a couple of solid runs to set up a seven-yard TD pass to WR Posey. However, after an automatic review, the play would be overturned and it would be determined that Posey was down at the one-yard line. On the next play however, third string QB Cody Fajardo would sneak the ball in from about a yard out to make the game 25-9 for Calgary with a little over eleven minutes left to go.
As the game would draw to a close the Lions would have one last chance to bring the score within reach, but a fumble on third & inches would put the game away for Calgary. Despite struggling on offence all night, Jonathon Jennings would have a nice showing in his breif second half relief of Travis Lulay, completing 16 of 21 passes and throwing for 140 yards. However, Jennings efforts would not be enough to pull the Lions back into the game as B.C. would go on to fall by a final of 25-9.
For B.C. wide-receiver Bryan Burnham would finish the game with forty-three yards receiving on just four receptions. Despite this, Burnham would still manage to surpass the 1,000 yard mark for the third straight year. Also for the Lions Garry Peters and Anthony Orange would collect seven tackles each, but it wouldn’t be enough to stop a ferocious Calgary running game.
Despite the loss, Saturday night’s clash between Calgary and B.C. will be remembered as a classy tribute to a truly classy individual in coach Wally Buono. Now with 450 career regular season games under his belt, the greatest coach in CFL history will now look to turn the page and lead his team one last time into the playoffs.
After the game, the man of the night coach Wally Buono would take to the podium to discuss a tough loss to the Stampeders in his final ever CFL regular season contest.
“You gotta give Calgary credit, they weren’t going to let us run the football.” said coach Buono. “We just didn’t stay on the field enough.”
While the Lions were only able to muster forty-eight yards rushing on Saturday night, there were other factors which contributed to a difficult night on offence. Coach Buono then continued to discuss Saturday night’s offensive struggles as well as what he saw from Jonathon Jennings who came in during the second half.
“You gotta get first downs. When Jonathon came in we were able to get a number of first downs, and all of the sudden we were able to move the football.” said the Lions’ bench boss. “Had we not fumbled on that third down we could have made it interesting.”
After Saturday night’s defeat, Lions’ linebacker Micah Awe said B.C. wasn’t physical enough against the Stampeders. Buono then gave his take on whether he believes the Lions played tough enough against the powerhouse Stampeders.
“We didn’t stop the run and didn’t get much on our return game,” said Buono. “That usually has to do with physicality.”
The Stampeders were able to rack up 145-yards rushing against a B.C. defence that has been red-hot over the passed number of weeks, while adding 278-yards in the air. Coach Buono then spoke about what he believes the Lions need to do to be successful when they take on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in their opening round playoff match-up next week.
“I think it’s the things we’ve preached all year long,” said Buono. “We gotta play excellent defence, win the field position battle and the offence has to stay away from turnovers and get first downs.”
Next weekend’s CFL opening round playoff match-up between the Lions and Tiger-Cats gets underway Saturday at 10am pacific time in Hamilton.