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They overcame both the loss of their starting quarterback and starting centre and had to battle through a stalemate for much of the second half. In the end, the BC Lions (4-6-0) were on the winning end of a 26-14 result against the East Division-leading Ottawa Redblacks ( 6-5-0) on Friday night.
For Jennings, it was no doubt a moment he was hoping he’d soon get to experience after losing the starting job to his friend eight weeks ago.
“I’m just glad we got the win honestly,” said Jennings in a victorious home locker room.
“Teammates believe in both me and Travis and that’s been the greatest thing. We’ve got two great quarterbacks and Wally has said we will need both of us. To get it done, to get the win, that meant a lot to all of us.
All this came after Travis Lulay was forced to leave the game and go through concussion protocol after a high hit forced him to go through concussion protocol. The veteran pivot said he could have returned to the game if needed.
“By the time I came back out on the field I felt pretty good,” said Lulay.
“I got to the point where I warmed up, I started doing some physical stuff and I felt good and fine. I think I would have been an option if say Jon would have gotten hurt in the fourth quarter, but we didn’t have to make that decision.”
Lulay found Ricky Collins Jr. for the game’s first major, a big early statement after the offence was granted a short field courtesy a punt block by Mitchell Barnett.
The home side could have led by more after they failed to execute a fake field goal, but still managed to take a 10-1 advantage to the locker room at halftime.
Jennings admitted as the game went on, he had to shake off the odd bout of jitters.
“You’re always going to have a little bit of nerves when you get back out there for the first time,” added Jennings.
“It felt good to get back out there. Once you’re on the field, it’s go time so the nerves have to be gone.”
Jennings credited the entire offence for how they came together and made sure they kept their foot on the gas pedal until the final whistle.
“That was huge. The O-line did a tremendous job,” explained number 10.
“At the end of the game you need the O-line to step up, make those holes and you need the running back to make plays. That’s what we did. Two key drives that really put the game away for us and that was huge. The defence played a heck of a game as well.”
Along with holding quarterback Trevor Harris to just 81 passing yards in the first half and sacking him six times, the defence forced three critical turnovers that led nine points.
“We played complementary football,” said defensive back TJ Lee.
“For the sacks, coverage held up good and then for the interceptions the D-line got push. That’s what it’s all about. We were able to make plays when we needed to and this is what we’ve been preaching, this is what we’ve been working on and we deserve it.”
Centre Cody Husband was taken for X-Rays after injuring his leg on the first play from scrimmage. Wally Buono indicated Peter Godber, who didn’t dress tonight, would be given a long look to possibly start in Husband’s place next week. Veteran Chris Greaves handled the snapping duties after Husband went down in this one.
Next man up is what it’s all about. Now the challenge will be to keep the momentum going an earn their first two-game winning streak since July of 2017.
“To us, every game is a playoff game from here on out,” added Lee.
“Once we celebrate in the locker room, once we leave here, it’s gone. Next game, next opponent.”
Said Jennings: “You’ve got to start somewhere. To get the win tonight was huge and now we hope to keep on building from this.”
Your Lions visit the Montreal Alouettes on Friday at Percival Molson Stadium.
6- the sack total recorded by an opportunistic Lions’ defence. Three of those were from Odell Willis.
3- the number of interceptions by Mark Washington’s group. Winson Rose, Bo Lokombo and Anthony Thompson each had one.
83.3- Jennings’ completion percentage (10/12).
52- the percentage of second down conversions (11/21) made by the Lions’ offence.
105- Collins’ receiving yards, his highest total of the season.
14- consecutive home field goal attempts made by Ty Long, dating back to September of last year.
Buono on his team overcoming injuries and adversity to get a big win: “I’ve never felt that this team has quit or that it was ever an issue. A guy like JJ standing up and making plays and helping us win, that’s great for his confidence, great for the team’s confidence. The injuries, unfortunately, are part of the game. Chris Greaves had to come in, had to overcome all the bad snaps and stuff, and I thought he did. This is not something we haven’t practiced. The thing that I appreciated is they kept their composure.”
Buono quickly brushing aside the notion of a quarterback controversy: “There’s no decision to make. Travis still gives us, I believe, the best chance to win but it was good to see Jonathan step up and get some confidence.”
Our thoughts are with veteran fullback Rolly Lumbala who played with a heavy heart just two days after the passing of his father. Lumbala received the only game ball following the victory. You can watch the emotional game balls presentation HERE.
It took a few weeks, but man how good is it to have all three facets come up big in the same night? The Barnett blocked punt was a major tone-setter and the physicality of the defensive line is what we knew this unit was capable of from day one of camp. A classic team win.
Buono was diplomatic, saying he would “leave it up to the league”, but you have to think the coach was steemed at the helmet to helmet hit that caused Lulay to leave. Maybe not intentional, but definitely no place for it.
Get your popcorn ready. Saturday should be an interesting day of scoreboard watching. This win moved the Lions to within two points of Winnipeg for a crossover playoff spot. In addition, they could potentially end the week with the same amount of losses as Edmonton and just be four points back of second place Saskatchewan. Oh, the wild wild west. A potential home playoff game is still very much in play. The Saturday tripleheader is as follows: Toronto hosts Hamilton at 10 AM, the ‘Banjo Bowl’ featuring Winnipeg at home to Saskatchewan is at 1 PM and the nightcap features the Stampeders travelling up highway 2 for their annual Labour Day rematch with the Eskimos at 4 PM.
The Lions will aim for their first road win of 2018 when they visit the Montreal Alouettes on Friday, September 14th at 4:30 PM. Fans are encouraged to head to the downtown Vancouver Shark Club for our viewing party.