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September 5, 2018

Game Preview | Lions vs. Roughriders

Technically, it’s never a ‘must win’ game unless a loss means you’re going home for the offseason.

But that’s not to suggest Bryan Burnham and your BC Lions (3-5-0) are approaching this late summer clash against the Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-4-0) that way. The math says it all: a victory means the two squads are likely in a neck and neck battle for a playoff spot.

A loss means not only would Burnham and the Lions fall four points back, they would also be behind the eight ball in terms of the head to head tiebreaker.

“I guess you kind of have to,” said Burnham on labelling the importance that way.

“We got to start winning. We’ve dug ourselves in a hole so unfortunately, that’s the way it is at this point. Saskatchewan is a good team. It’s Saskatchewan versus BC and it’s in BC Place so I know it will be a playoff atmosphere.”

We have seen first hand how much the outlook can change on a week-to-week basis. After the big comeback against Edmonton on August 9th, it felt like the type of result that can serve as a springboard to something greater.

And now the Riders are likely thinking that exact same thing after knocking off the previously undefeated Calgary Stampeders just last Sunday. Props to the schedule makers for having these two squads lock horns in the final week of August. If all goes according to plan for Burnham and company, the trip to Regina in late October will also serve as a big opportunity. But they know that have to go out and earn it, especially against an opportunistic Riders’ defence.

“A lot of good athletes across the board,” explained Burnham.

“They have a lot of good guys who I have either played with in the past or played against in the past. They’re a solid bunch but I think we have just as many athletes. I think it will be about who makes fewer mistakes and who makes the most plays.”

As far as the veteran slotback goes, number 16 will play a huge role in the quest for this Lions offence to remain consistent week in and week out.

With four receptions for 91 yards and a big touchdown in last week’s narrow loss at Toronto, Burnham was the club’s leading receiver and now has an outside shot at eclipsing the 1000-yard mark for the third time in four seasons.

“I think that’s one of the things we’ve been working on is building off of our success,” said number 16.

“I’ve been taking steps this year, haven’t started as fast as I’ve had in the past but that’s the way it goes sometimes. Just continue to build off my success and hope the team comes with it.”

Every starter on offence will have to do his part.

“I think we’re all just looking forward to getting back on the field and being back home,” added Burnham.

And they know they have to bust their hump in all three phases to keep the perfect home record intact.

Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive back Graig Newman (#42) tries to bring down B.C. Lions wide receiver Bryan Burnham (#16) during second half CFL action in Regina on Saturday, July 16th, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rick Elvin

Game # 9: Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-4-0) at BC Lions (3-5-0)

Saturday, August 25th

BC Place Stadium

7:00 PM PT

TV: TSN/RDS/ESPN+

Radio: TSN 1040

Lions latest result: a 24-23 loss at Toronto on August 18th.

Roughriders latest result: a 40-27 victory over Calgary on August 19th.

2017 season series: these teams split a home and home series with the Lions winning 30-15 at BC Place on August 5th and losing in disappointing fashion 41-8 in Regina eight nights later.

Gameday Weather forecast: a 60 per cent chance of showers with highs to 19 degrees Celsius.

Vegas betting line: The Lions are favoured by three points.

Fan Poll
What is the biggest key to a victory against Saskatchewan?
Line of Scrimmage
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Extending Drives
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Matching Riders Intensity
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Other
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Another Big Battle Up Front

Speaking of that Rider defence: the line of scrimmage is always a big difference maker in any game, but that is especially true this week as Joel Figueroa and the Lions offensive line prepares to face a pass rush that boasts the league’s sack leader in Charleston Hughes and the always dangerous Willie Jefferson lined up on the other end. Don’t expect Figeuora and company to be starstruck.

“They have defensive ends who are pretty good at what they do, but so does everybody else in this league,” said the left tackle.

“The way they run their schemes, the defence really gives those guys the opportunity to be successful in what they do. As an offensive line, we’re not worried about those things. We’re going to dictate the pace and they’re going to have to adjust to us, not the other way around.”

Not many will dispute the fact Dan Dorazio’s unit has shown big improvements from the last couple of seasons, especially when you consider the injuries they have dealt with on both the right and left sides. That being said, they know they can be more consistent week in and week out.

“We just have to believe in what we’re doing. As cliche as it sounds, we’re just a few plays away,” added the former Miami Hurricane.

They hope the return home provides them with the shot in the arm they need. Figueroa and the Lions are a perfect 3-0 at BC Place in 2018.

“Nobody wants to open their door and see someone on their couch eating your food and watching your TV,” said Figueroa.

“You want to take care of home first. We’re going to continue to do that.”

Joel Figueroa (61) of the BC Lions during the game against the Edmonton Eskimos at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, BC on Thursday, August 9, 2018. (Photo: Johany Jutras / CFL)

QB Comparison

Travis Lulay:

2018: W/L record- 2-3-0. Statistics: 109/175 for 1,456 yards and six TDs. Quarterback efficiency rating of 90.6.

  • Lulay has a remarkable 9-2-0 career regular season record in starts against the Roughriders. One of those victories was the August 15th meeting last season, one week before Jonathon Jennings returned from his shoulder injury.

Zach Collaros:

2018 W/L record- 2-2-0. Statistics: 69/103 for 840 yards and three touchdowns. Quarterback efficiency rating of 93.5.

  • Collaros has a 3-2-0 career regular season record in starts against the Lions, each of his victories coming at home: 2013 as a member of the Toronto Argonauts and one each in 2014 and 2015 as a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

VANCOUVER, BC – JULY 14: The Winnipeg Blue Bombers play the BC Lions in their CFL game July 14, 2018 at BC Place in Vancouver, BC. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions)

Three Keys To The Game

Extend Drives- they don’t want a repeat of last week in Toronto where they struggled to get first downs for most of the second half. Finish remains the operative word.

Own The Trenches- like Figueroa mentioned, it’s a matter of cleaning up the odd play here or there. On defence, they’ll want to get to Collaros more consistently.

Match The Riders’ Intensity- the Riders are in town and that means a lot of their fans are coming with them. The visitors should also be riding high after knocking Calgary off their perch.

The Coach Says

We asked Wally Buono his thoughts on a couple of key areas, including the belief that last week’s second quarter in Toronto was perhaps the best quarter they had put together all season before seeing that motivation go away in the second half:

“I think, first of all, you have to not self-inflict. I think in the second half we had six offensive penalties. Last time I looked at stats they say when there is a penalty on the defensive side there is usually a score and when there is a penalty on the offensive side there is usually what? A punt. We’ve done, I think, a decent job this year of not taking a lot of defensive penalties and we’ve done a great job on special teams of not getting penalties, but I don’t believe on offence I would say the same thing.”

On the Riders perhaps coming in with a bit of swagger after knocking off the first-place Stampeders:

“That was a great win. Obviously, they had a lot of things going for them. They were playing at home, it was the second time Calgary was coming into their house and when you look at it, you have to give Chris Jones and his team a tremendous amount of credit. They did what they had to do, they put pressure on the quarterback, they neutralized a lot of their big-play guys and they scored in all three facets. When all three can contribute, usually you’re going to win a lot of games.”

Extra Yardage

Stats of the week: We talked in our keys to the game about the importance of extending drives. This Riders defence leads the entire CFL with 57 forced two and outs by the opposing offence. On the other side of the ball, they have allowed a league-low ten sacks. Those are two areas the Lions must focus on. One major area the home team must focus on is the turnover battle: Through eight games, they are minus four with only Hamilton and Montreal behind them entering this week.

The Roughriders have struggled in BC as of late, losing each of their last four regular season meetings and seven of their last nine dating back to October 31st of 2010. Overall, the Lions hold a 14-6-0 advantage in the regular season series since 2011. The Riders are 1-2-0 away from home this season, winning at Hamilton and dropping decisions in Ottawa and Calgary.

Another big reason for the home versus road discrepancy has been the fourth quarter. The Lions have won the fourth quarter in all three home games and lost it in each of their five eventual defeats on the road. The final 15 minutes will be extra important this week as the Riders have a 14-2-0 record in games they have led after the third quarter since 2016.

Diamond and Diamond Injury Report: After playing through some minor ailments the last couple of weeks, WR Shaq Johnson will sit this one out. His starting spot will be occupied by Ricky Collins Jr. who returns from his hamstring injury. 2018 fourth-round pick Isaiah Guzylak-Messam will make his CFL debut in a special teams role, taking the roster spot of Dominique Termansen. Micah Awe will be scratched after just two full practices since his return to the club on Tuesday. Full depth chart listed below.

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

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com