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VANCOUVER — Travis Lulay threw for a season-high 390 yards and two touchdowns, while the Lions defence held off a late surge by the Argonauts, as BC downed Toronto 28-23 at BC Place.
Saturday’s matchup at BC Place marked the second meeting between the two teams, with the Lions earning an 18-9 win at Rogers Centre in Week 6.
The Argos were without starting running back Chad Kackert for the outing, as the sophomore Boatman continues to suffer from a leg injury that he sustained one week ago.
As a result of Kackert’s absence, 28-year-old Gerald Riggs Jr. made his first CFL start in the Argos backfield.
The Lions would strike first, but certainly not in the fashion they would have preferred, as veteran kicker Paul McCallum missed a 39-yard field goal attempt that remaied in the endzone for a single point.
The miss marked the third-straight game in which McCallum missed an attempt.
But after the Argos played to a quick two-and-out on their first possession of the game, the Lions offence would begin to develop some traction, highlighted by a 46-yard catch by receiver Geroy Simon, who was making his return to the lineup after sitting out last week’s game vs. the Alouettes.
It’s been somewhat of a frustrating season for Simon, who heading into today’s matchup had yet to reach the endzone.
With the first quarter winding down and the Argos offence still trying to find their rhythm, the Toronto defence would decide to make their presence felt, in what developed into a bizarre play.
After Lulay connected with Andrew Harris on a short pass, Argos cornerback Pacino Horne would force the Canadian running back to fumble, with the ball falling directly into the grasp of defensive end Kevin Huntley.
The six-foot-eight, 299-pound Huntley would begin to rumble down the sidelines inside the BC 10-yard line, but would then fumble the ball on a great second effort strip by BC receiver Marco Iannuzzi.
However, with the ball rolling its way into the endzone, Iannuzzi would inadvertently deflect the ball straight into the hands of Toronto defensive back Matt Black, who trotted untouched into the endzone to give the Double Blue a 7-1 lead.
But the defences would begin to tighten up in the early parts of the second quarter.
With Ray and the Argos threatening with the ball, Lions middle linebacker Adam Bighill would come up big on consecutive plays, the second of which being a massive hit on Riggs to break up a potential completion.
Bighill’s strong defensive play may have translated into some momentum for the Lions offence.
On the unit’s next possession, Lulay would lead an impressive drive into Toronto territory thanks to a 24-yard completion to Simon. On the play, Lulay was hit hard by Brandon Isaac as he threw, forcing the referee to flag the linebacker with a roughing the passer penalty.
Fortunately for Isaac, the drive would eventually stall, forcing the Lions to send out the field goal unit for the second time of the half.
This time, McCallum would connect on his attempt, cutting Toronto’s lead to just three points.
Just minutes later, it appeared as though the Lions had taken the lead, with punt returner Tim Brown taking a Swayze Waters offering back 83 yards to the endzone.
However, the Lions would be called for an illegal block penalty on the return, negating the touchdown and bringing the drive all the way back to their own 42-yard line.
But regardless of their field position, the Lions offence would not be stopped on their ensuing possession.
Lulay would complete five consecutive passes, the last of which found the hands of receiver Shawn Gore, who breezed his way into the endzone for a 39-yard touchdown, giving the Lions an 11-7 lead.
With the strike, Lulay extended his streak of games with at least one touchdown pass to 22 games, the second longest streak in CFL history.
Before the half came to a close, the Lions offence would strike again.
With the Lions pinned deep in their own zone on second down, Lulay would connect on a 46-yard bomb to Gore for a crucial second-down conversion. Five plays later, Lulay threw his second touchdown pass of the game, finding Arland Bruce in the endzone for a 20-yard strike.
The major was the third in as many games for Bruce, who now has five touchdowns this season.
At the end of the half, the Lions appeared to be dominating on the score sheet.
Through two quarters, Lulay had completed 14 passes for 258 yards and a pair of majors, compared to just seven completions for 74 yards by Ray.
As a result of Lulay’s excellent first 30 minutes, the Lions receivers were also putting up strong outings.
Simon and Gore had combined for six receptions for 178 yards, with Simon bringing in four catches for 91 yards, while Gore hauled in two tosses for 87.
But the second half saw the Argos begin to slowly claw their way back into the game.
On their first drive of the third quarter, Ray would orchestrate a solid eight-play, 54-yard drive that was capped off by a 41-yard field by Waters that cut BC’s lead to just eight.
With less than five minutes to go in the third quarter, the Argos defence continued to make its mark on the game.
After Lulay connected on a 26-yard pass to Iannuzzi, Toronto’s defence forced another fumble, with the ball being scooped up and returned 23 yards by Patrick Watkins.
The Lions opted to challenge the ruling on the field, but after a thorough review, the call was ultimately upheld.
The turnover seemingly shifted momentum in Toronto’s favour, as Ray proceeded to connect on a 45-yard bomb to receiver Spencer Watt.
However, the Argos would once again be unable to find the endzone, as they were forced to settle on a 37-yard field goal by Waters that cut BC’s l
ead to just five.
But the Lions would reclaim their eight point lead, as McCallum capped off a nine-play, 40-yard drive with his second field goal of the outing, this time splitting the uprights from 43 yards.
On Toronto’s ensuing possession, the crowd at BC Place was silenced momentarily, as it appeared that Watt had taken a Ray pass 47 yards for a touchdown. However, the touchdown was recalled, as Argos receiver Maurice Mann was flagged 10 yards for holding.
Four plays later, Waters would bring the Boatmen back within five thanks to a 37-yard field goal – his third of the game.
However, numerous penalties by the Argos would allow the Lions to continue earning precious yardage with the fourth quarter winding down.
The Boatmen would take three costly penalties on BC’s next drive, paving the way for the Lions to extend their lead to 12, thanks to a one-yard plunge by fullback Rolly Lumbala.
But the Argos refused to go down quietly, as Ray orchestrated a seven-play, 67-yard drive that was punctuated by a 53-yard touchdown catch by Chad Owens, bringing Toronto back within five of the Lions’ lead with under five to go.