EDMONTON – Two consecutive touchdown drives to open the second half was all the BC Lions needed on a rainy night in Edmonton, leaving Commonwealth with a 17-3 win over the Eskimos.
Saturday night’s game marked the first regular season meeting between the teacher, Travis Lulay, and his former understudy Mike Reilly.
The two met briefly in the pre-season, each seeing three quarters, with Reilly coming out on top of his former club with 202 yards in a 27-22 exhibition win.
Lulay got the better of his old backup in this one however, passing for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Reilly completed 13 of 21 passes but only generated 97 yards.
Lulay also led his team in rushing, tucking the ball and running 9 times for 82 yards - 12 yards more than starting running back Andrew Harris.
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» Images: WPG at HAM
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» Preview: Lions, Esks kick off home and home
It was a rainy evening at Commonwealth Stadium with the Eskimos playing in their second straight downpour in six days after outlasting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats last weekend in a soaked Guelph, Ontario for their first win of the season.
The poor weather made its mark on the game early when the Lions attempted to gamble on third-and-one. A snap between centre and backup QB Thomas DeMarco slipped out of the short-yardage pivot’s hands forcing a turnover on downs.
The bobbled exchange set the Esks up in BC territory and eventually led to a 31-yard Grant Shaw field goal and a 3-0 Edmonton advantage.
The Esks special teams unit would come up with a big play again as linebacker Rennie Curran – in his CFL debut – blocked a Hugh O’Neill punt to force their second turnover of the game.
It set up a field goal attempt from 42 yards out by Shaw but holder Kerry Joseph couldn’t handle the snap in the wet conditions and it too resulted in a turnover. The Esks were about to attempt the kick from 32 yards out but an objectionable conduct call on running back Calvin McCarty moved the ball back.
The Lions tried to get on the board after a 22-yard reception by Harris and a 12-yard Lulay scamper set up an O’Neill field goal attempt. Not unlike Joseph, DeMarco couldn’t grasp the snap and O’Neill picked up the loose ball and booted it into the endzone. Eskimos linebacker JC Sherritt fielded the ball and conceded the single.
The teams entered halftime with Edmonton holding a 3-1 lead.
It took over two quarters but the game finally got its first major score and it came credit of receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux. Lulay engineered a 9-play drive, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown toss to Arceneaux who showed great concentration while giving his team an 8-3 third quarter lead.
Coming off a score on their first possession of the second half, the Lions followed it up with another major on the next series.
Harris took a swing pass out of the backfield and powered his way 16-yards for a major. The 8-play, 75-yard drive extended the Leos lead to 15-3.
As the rain started to ease, Lulay began finding his receivers but he made respectable noise with his legs, rushing for 77 yards on 7 attempts through just three quarters of play.
As the game entered its final seven minutes, Lulay continued to engineer drives that didn't necessarily result in major scores but did flip the field, making matters more difficult for Reilly and the Eskimos offence who couldn't seem to gain traction in the second half.
BC earned two more points with just over four minutes to play when Shaw conceded a safety on a punt, putting the score at 17-3 Lions.
Reilly had a chance to make a dent into the lead and try to mount a comeback late but an interception thrown to DB Cord Parks with 1:58 on the clock sealed the win for the Lions.
The two teams complete a home-and-home under the roof of BC Place next Saturday night at 10pm ET.