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August 8, 2018

Game Preview | Lions vs. Eskimos

Home is where the heart is. And for Emmanuel Arceneaux and the BC Lions (2-4-0), they hope the return to the friendly confines of BC Place is just what the doctor ordered as they try and get back in the win column against the Edmonton Eskimos ( 5-2-0) on Thursday Night Football.

With just two home games under their belt, the feeling inside that locker room is there is still plenty of time to get back into this Western Division dogfight. Now the results must come quickly.

“You’re expected to win at home, that’s something we need to establish is that home field dominance,” explained Arceneaux.

The good news is they have taken care of business here already, winning both of their home contests against Montreal on June 16th and Winnipeg in thrilling fashion on July 14th.

But one area they still need to focus on is playing consistent football week in and week out.

“ I just want to see us put together 60 minutes of offence, defence and special teams where each phase of the ball compliments one another. That’s just what I’m waiting on. You run out of excuses at some point and right now we just don’t have any,” added the veteran.

Arceneaux leads all Lions receivers with 386 yards and is averaging an impressive 16.1 yards per reception. Having Travis Lulay back at the controls has done a lot to help him get back to being the difference maker he is capable of. Is Manny satisfied yet? Not a chance.

“The offence has improved, but not enough because we’re still not crossing into the end zone,” said Arceneaux.

“We’re showing flashes of the explosion plays and being able to move it on the ground, but we haven’t crossed the end zone. That’s what it boils down to. If we’re not scoring points we need to be able to flip the field and that’s something crucial moving forward. Nothing against our field goal kicker, but touchdowns are all the better. That’s the position we want to be in.”

The last meeting against Edmonton on June 29th was a prime example of what Arceneaux is talking about. Jonathon Jennings and the Lions’ offence was able to get deep in Eskimos’ territory three times in the opening quarter yet only came away with 11 points. Once Mike Reilly went to work, the Eskimos were able to pull away for a convincing 41-22 victory.

“We have another chance to make all of this right on Thursday,” added Arceneaux.

“I’m a fan of it (the short week) as far as getting the nasty taste out of our mouth. I’m not a fan of it when talking about how beat up the body can get. It’s football. Every team has to do it. You just man up and that’s just part of the adversity that comes with the game. Short week, long week, bye week whatever it is you have to do it and handle your business.”

It will serve as a nice test against Mike Reilly and company. In that first meeting in week three, the quarterback threw for 326 yards and three majors while running back CJ Gable racked up 165 yards on the ground.

Game # 7: Edmonton Eskimos (5-2-0) at BC Lions (2-4-0)

Thursday, August 9th.

BC Place Stadium

7:00 PM PT

TV: TSN/ESPN 2

Radio: TSN 1040

Lions latest result: a 27-18 loss at Calgary on August 4th.

Eskimos latest result: a 26-19 win over Saskatchewan on August 2nd.

2017 season series: Edmonton prevailed 41-22 back in week three at Commonwealth Stadium. The Eskimos will make one more visit to BC Place on Friday, October 19th.

Game day weather forecast: sunny with a high of 29 degrees Celsius.

Vegas betting line: The Eskimos are favoured by 3.5 points.

Van Headlines New Faces On Offence

Afer handling the kick return duties last week, Travon Van has another assignment in his second game in orange as he will start at tailback in place of Jeremiah Johnson (ankle). After a strong showing in training camp and pre-season, a family situation forced Van to spend a few weeks at home in San Diego. After recording 85 yards on five punt returns in Calgary, the University of Montana product is ready to show what he can do in the backfield.

“I’m definitely excited for the opportunity,” said Van.

“I really wanted a W (last week). I really don’t care too much about personal stats. Whatever it takes for the team to win.”

Van now has 19 CFL games under his belt, six of those coming with the Eskimos in 2017. He insists the victory is more important than gaining any type of revenge.

“It’s important to us because it’s the next game on our schedule. That’s what we try to focus on. If you try to take it too personally, you know you get out of your game plan.”

Wide receiver Shaq Johnson is back in the lineup after injuring his shoulder in practice last week, while Hunter Steward returns to left guard for the first time since week one. Steward had been battling back spasms and is cleared to play after two solid weeks of practice.

The Coach Says

During his media availability following Wednesday’s walkthrough practice, Wally Buono commented on a couple of key areas surrounding his squad and this week’s game.

On how good his offensive line depth has been with injuries to Steward and Jovan Olafioye: “I think it’s as good as it’s been since we won the Grey Cup in 2011. We have two very outstanding, physical tackles, we’ve got good size and physicality inside and we got depth, whether it’s Greaves, whether it’s Knevel, Godber, those guys have all stepped up and done a good job.”

On the offence under Lulay and how it’s changed over the last three weeks: “Our offence is made for the quarterback to make quick decisions and get the ball out of his hands quickly. I think since Travis has played, I don’t think we’ve given up a sack, the pressure has been very minimal. A lot of that has to do with experience, a lot of that has to do with pre-snap reads and a lot of that has to do with making a quick decision once you see what’s going on. He’s really good at that and younger quarterbacks, if you say one thing, that’s probably part of it is processing all of that information and making a decision.”

Three Keys To Victory

1.- Eliminate Big Plays- Bo Levi Mitchell and the Stampeders were able to capitalize on too many second and long situations last week.  That has been a big talking point in meetings.

2- Clean Up The Penalties- Ten for 81 yards was a tough pill to swallow in Calgary. Discipline will go a long way.

3- Jump On Them Early- Being that its the first home game in quite some time, giving the crowd something to cheer about early would set a nice tone.

Fan Poll
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Quotable

“I love competition and Mike is one of the best, if not the best, quarterbacks in this league. Playing against him, you know you’re going to get a true competitor. Going out there and competing against the best is one of the things I love to do.”- Otha Foster III on facing Mike Reilly.

Extra Yardage

Stats of the week: Reilly, last year’s CFL Most Outstanding Player, leads the league with 2,320 passing yards and has the highest passer efficiency rating at 106.5. His favourite target Duke Williams is tops in the league with 713 receiving yards to go along with five touchdown receptions. Williams shares the lead in that department with teammate Derel Walker and Calgary’s Eric Rogers.

The Eskimos also lead the CFL with 172 first downs and have averaged 74.9 yards per touchdown drive this season. They have also engineered four touchdown drives of 80 yards or more.

Despite only starting three games, Lulay has the sixth-highest total in passing yards with 932 while completing 64.3 per cent of his throws. Lulay is now just 210 passing yards shy of 20,000 for his career. Ricky Collins Jr. needs just 57 receiving yards to reach 1,000.

Last week, Arceneaux became the third receiver in franchise history to surpass the 8,000-yard mark. He trails only Geroy Simon ( 14,756) and Jim Young ( 9,248) on the club’s all-time list. Arceneaux now ranks number 45 all-time in league history. He also is riding a 108-game streak of at least one reception.

We’ve talked about the importance of getting off the field on second down. The Lions have allowed their opponents to convert on exactly 50 per cent of their second down opportunities (74/148) and are only better than Montreal and Toronto in that category.

Never count out Reilly and company. The Eskimos have trailed in each and every one of their games this season and have trailed after the first quarter in each of their last four victories.

The Lions are trying to avoid their first 2-5 start since 2011 when they would recover to win their sixth and most recent Grey Cup in franchise history.

Fans are encouraged to stay in their seats at halftime for a performance from Kelowna native Chad Brownlee. The country artist is here as part of the CFL’s Thursday Night Football concert series.

TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 5:00 PM PT with Lowell Ullrich and Chris Burns. Bob Marjanovich, Giulio Caravatta and sideline reporter Karen Surman bring you the action at 7:00 PM PT. Viewers can watch on TSN 1, while Lions fans south of the border can view it on ESPN 2.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com