Jeremiah Johnson runs the ball against the Toronto Argonauts on June 30th/2017 at BMO Field. Photo: David Derner
It’s the classic mentality used in every sport: “you’re only as good as your last game.” And while the BC Lions (3-4-0) are definitely feeling the solid vibes from last week’s complete team effort against the Edmonton Eskimos, the common theme inside the locker room is that there is still plenty of room for improvement when they strap them on and face the Toronto Argonauts (2-5-0) on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field.
Never one to shy away from a metaphor, running back Jeremiah Johnson had this to say regarding the offence:
“We just want to add on to that and just keep this thing going like a big snowball rolling down the hill,” said the charismatic running back.
“It gathers snow and at the end of his route, it’s just this big massive snowball and that should carry us to the Grey Cup. It’s an awesome feeling to see.”
Johnson is back in the mix after re-injuring his ankle two weeks ago in Calgary. Always a team guy first, he was right there on the sidelines encouraging Travon Van and the rest of his teammates as they rallied for the much-needed win against Mike Reilly and company.
There is now, however, one lingering element hanging over their heads: the fact they are winless in four road contests this season. Johnson was around in 2016 when it seemed like they could walk into any stadium in this league and feel they had a good chance to prevail. It’s time to bring that mindset back.
“I think that’s one of the good things: it’s just something we’ve done before as a group,” added Johnson.
“We’ve got a lot of new pieces and for them to just to adapt to what we’re used to, going into any stadium and getting that W, is definitely a good point. As a team right now we just want to make sure we keep this positive morale going and just have the mindset that we’re playing football, just in another province. Play like we’re back in Surrey, back in BC Place and just have the mindset and we’ll be alright.”
Quarterback Travis Lulay knows all too well that you can’t get fat and happy after one good result.
“I’ve been in this league long enough to know you have to earn every single game,” said the veteran pivot.
“What happened last week really doesn’t matter, regardless of record. We’re just looking for our first road win and we have to put together a good performance to get it. I think they have some good guys up front, I think they will challenge your pass protection, they play some tough coverages on second and long so just like any game you have to be in second and manageable situations. First down is going to be very important for us.”
Lulay is making his fifth straight start, his longest run since September of 2015.
Game # 8: BC Lions (3-4-0) at Toronto Argonauts (2-5-0)
Saturday, August 18th
1:00 PM PT
TV: TSN/ESPN 2
Radio: TSN 1040
Lions latest result: a 31-23 win over Edmonton on August 9th.
Argonauts latest result: a 42-41 win over Ottawa on August 2nd.
2017 season series: these teams split their two regular season meetings with the Lions prevailing 28-15 in Toronto on June 30th and the Argonauts cruising to a 40-13 win at BC Place on November 4th. That victory in the final week wrapped up first place in the East.
Gameday weather forecast: a mix of sun and clouds with a high of 26 degrees Celsius.
Vegas Line: The Lions are listed as 1.5 point favourites.
Preparing For Bethel-Thompson
The Lions defence gets a crack at an unfamiliar quarterback this week. Starting in favour of the struggling James Franklin, former Sacramento State standout McLeod Bethel-Thompson engineered the big comeback against the Redblacks two weeks ago. After trailing by 24 points, Bethel-Thompson rallied his troops and found Armanti Edwards for a game-winning score in the dying seconds and finished with 302 yards passing. Not bad considering prior to that had only attempted two CFL passes.
One guy who knows a thing or two about Bethel-Thompson is defensive end Shawn Lemon who came over from the Argonauts in a trade last month. Lemon had some pretty high praise for his ex-teammate.
“He reminds me a lot of Bo Levi Mitchell,” said Lemon.
“Just being around him last year and seeing him grow in the scheme, he learned from one of the Hall of Fame quarterbacks Ricky Ray. He’s going to come out and try and get comfortable as early as possible so we just have to try and get to him quick.”
Bethel-Thompson has taken quite the windy path to Toronto. After debuting in pro football with the Arena League’s San Jose Sabrecats in 2011, he would try out for no less than five NFL squads and then return to the Arena League with the Sacramento Mountain Lions. He signed with the Argonauts in May of 2017.
One thing is for certain: if this Leos’ defence comes out with the attitude it showed in the second half last week, it could be a long day for the home squad.
“I haven’t seen anybody in a long time hit Mike Reilly, one of the best quarterbacks in the league, that many times in a game,” added Lemon.
“We grew a lot as a group. The DBs played well. We just have to keep adding to that this week.”
Nobody is getting fooled by the Argonauts’ dismal record either. As Lemon knows all too well, they still are the same team that sipped from the Grey Cup eight months ago.
“I know their DNA over there, ” said The Lemononator.
“They’re going to come out, try to fight and try to play hard. We just have to come out, bring it to them and continue to add to what we did last week. I think we’ll be fine.”
And of course, he would love nothing more than to add to his sack total against his old friends.
“Most definitely. I plan on getting some Lemon Drops at BMO Field one more time.”
The Juicy Matchup
Lions defensive backs versus Argonauts receivers:
The new-look secondary played a big role in the defence silencing some of those doubters last week. This next challenge will be worth watching as the Argonauts have a couple of capable game-breakers at receiver. S.J. Green is on pace for a sixth season of over 1,000 yards receiving while Edwards proved he can still be counted on when the game is on the line. In addition, running back James Wilder Jr. has also been a threat in the passing game, racking up 322 yards on 31 receptions. He is the Argos’ second-leading receiver behind Green.
Stats of the week: Despite only four appearances, Lulay has climbed to fifth overall in league passing yards with 1,171. His completion percentage sits at 62.4. Odell Willis enters this week in a three-way tie with Winnipeg’s Jackson Jeffcoat and Edmonton’s Kwaku Boateng with five quarterback sacks.
How about this Lulay nugget from CFL stats man Steve Daniel: since he was named the club’s starting quarterback in October of 2010 the Lions have a regular season winning percentage of .629 (44-26) in games he has started. That’s compared to a .478 percentage (33-36) in games he has not started in that time frame.
The Lions have enjoyed some success in the Big Smoke lately, winning both of their previous trips to BMO Field and six of their last seven visits to Toronto overall. As for the Argonauts’ fortunes in their newer venue, they have a 10-12-0 regular season record at BMO since moving there for the start of the 2016 season. These two teams have also split their season series every year since 2013.
Twin Towers meet for the first time: This will no doubt be a conflicted week for the Herdman clan as twin brothers Jordan and Justin will clash for the first time as professionals. Justin, an Argonauts linebacker and special teams regular, was inactive for both meetings last season. Needless to say, it will be a special moment for both.
“I’m always excited to see him, but it’s special because we’ll be on the field at the same time,” Jordan told bclions.com.
“We’re going to take Mom out for dinner and have a good time. It’s going to be different hitting him. It’s going to be exciting.”
Their father James Reed was a linebacker in both the CFL and NFL.
TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 11:00 AM with Lowell Ullrich and Chris Burns. Bob Marjanovich, Giulio Caravatta and sideline reporter Karen Surman bring you the action at 1:00 PM. Viewers can watch on TSN while Lions fans south of the border can tune in on ESPN 2.