October 26, 2018

Game Preview | Lions at Roughriders

Lions defensive end Shawn Lemon makes a run for Saskatchewan QB Zach Collaros on August 25th, 2018 at BC Place. Photo: David Friederich

He had a one-year hiatus in Montreal and didn’t get to experience the usual late-October build up that had become an annual event in his football life. For the first eight seasons of his career in orange, Jovan Olafioye would be getting amped up for playoff football at this time of year. With the Alouettes, it didn’t quite go that way. Needless to say, the big right tackle is pretty amped up for Saturday’s visit to the 11-6-0 Saskatchewan Roughriders (4:00 PM/TSN 1/TSN 1040/ESPN+) that has plenty of implications on the line.

“I’m definitely jacked,” said Olafioye at practice this week.

“Last year was the first time I wasn’t in the playoffs, which I was disappointed in. I’m glad to be going back, glad to be home and hopefully we can send Wally off on a great note in his final season.”

With Buono’s last year of professional coaching guaranteed to have an encore, the main dangling carrot in Regina is the chance to stay alive in the race to finish second in the West and play host to the division semi-final on November 11th. Olafioye and the Lions must win this game by at least four points, defeat Calgary in the regular season finale next week and also have the Winnipeg Blue Bombers drop one of their remaining two games for it to happen. They can also finish third and head back to Regina in two weeks. Or drop to fourth and head East as the crossover team. For now, they are just focused on what they can control. And they know this week presents a stiff test.

“We approach every week as a challenge and treat every game the same, really,” explained the big lineman.

“As an offensive line, we know what we need to do. We have to block for Travis Lulay and open holes for Sutty (Tyrell Sutton). If we take care of all that, I know we’ll do well.”

It’s no secret Saskatchewan head coach Chris Jones, who also doubles as defensive coordinator, loves to bring pressure. CFL sack leader Charleston Hughes returns this week, while the Riders have also gotten solid production from the likes of Willie Jefferson and linebackers Samuel Eguavoen and Sam Hurl. Factor in both the venue and time of year and this one is shaping up to be a good old fashioned street fight.

“I know it’s a hostile environment,” explained Olafioye of Mosaic Stadium.

“They have a good defensive front and I know the silent account is something we’ll have to rely on. We know what we can do up front and what we can do with the team we have. We’re going to be okay.”

We’ve spoken at length about how effective Olafioye and the new-look offensive line has been this season. With a bruising running back like Sutton now in the fold, the benefits of solid protection and excellent run blocking will be huge with the Lions heading back to the playoffs in a couple of weeks time.

“I think we’re a lot better,” stated Olafioye.

“With the addition of Joel Figueroa and guys like (David) Foucault really coming along, I think he’s playing really well this year just like Fig and all of the other guys have. Even with guys going down to injury we’ve had guys stepping in and playing really well. That’s not surprising because I saw all of these young guys in camp improving every day. It’s no surprise how good we are this year and hopefully, we can finish the season really well.”

And of course, we couldn’t resist the temptation to ask him about his best memory of Regina: scoring a touchdown at old Mosaic Stadium during a big victory in July of 2016.

“I dream sometimes about getting another one, but I think those days are over with,” laughed Olafioye.

“That was a special moment for me in my career. Very exciting.”

Based on his play this season, you wouldn’t underestimate the chances of even more exciting moments to come.

B.C. Lions tackle Jovan Olafioye (#63) catches a touchdown pass against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during second half CFL action in Regina on Saturday, July 16th, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rick Elvin

Game # 17: BC Lions (9-7-0) at Saskatchewan Roughriders (11-6-0)

Saturday, October 27th

Mosaic Stadium

4:00 PM PT

Lions last result: a playoff-clinching 42-32 win over Edmonton on October, 19th.

Roughriders last result: a 29-24 win over Calgary on October 20th.

Latest meeting: Saskatchewan hung on for a 24-21 victory over the Lions at BC Place back on August 25th.

Gameday weather forecast:  freezing rain with highs of 9 degrees Celsius and lows of minus-3 Celsius. Winds upwards of 41 KM/hour are projected.

Vegas Line: The Roughriders are favoured by four and a half points with the over/under set at 52.5.

QB Comparison

Travis Lulay:

2018 W/L record: 4-4-0. Statistics: 168/275 for 2,289 yards, 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Pass efficiency rating of 91.6.

  • Since he once again took over for Jonathon Jennings as the team’s starter, Lulay has helped engineer the Lions’ second three-game winning streak of 2018. He has a 9-3-0 career regular season record against the Roughriders.

Zach Collaros: 

2018 W/L record: 8-5-0. Statistics: 229/374 for 2,947 yards, 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Pass efficiency rating of 91.6.

  • Collaros is coming off a season-high 352 passing yards in the Riders’ huge win in Calgary, although he has failed to record a touchdown pass in each of the last three games. Collaros has a 4-2-0 career regular season record against the Lions.

VANCOUVER, BC – AUGUST 25: The Saskatchewan Roughriders play the BC Lions in their CFL game August 25, 2018 at BC Place in Vancouver, BC. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/BC Lions)

Coach Speak

As he prepares for his final regular season voyage into the sea of green, Wally Buono remains focused on the big task at hand. Buono firmly believes there is a benefit to still having plenty to play for despite the fact they already have the playoff ‘X’ next to their name in the standings.

” It’s a tough environment to go to. There’s a lot at stake for them, a lot at stake for us and I think this is what makes this the time of year so exciting for the fans and for the organizations,” said Buono.

“I’ve already sold this game as a dress rehearsal for the playoffs because when you look at our last two games they’re, in principle I guess, a scenario that we can both have: a game on the road against a very good team, a very hostile place with a lot of things going against you and that’s our game in Regina. That’s the way we’re looking at it. It’s a great experience to go out and do something like this. There’s a lot of value for us because it still gives us a direction about the playoffs and any time you can on the road against a good team it’s always a positive.”

Meanwhile, Jones held court with the Saskatchewan media this week and broke down a Lions squad he feels is much better than the one they defeated by three points in late August.

“We certainly have a BC team coming in here that’s well-coached by Wally, as you know,” said the Riders’ GM/head coach.

“They’re physical, they’re good in all three phases and they’re a hot football team. Them and Winnipeg are probably playing as good a football as anybody in the league right now. They added the big running back, DeVier Posey certainly is a big threat and they already had good players before they added those guys. Again, we’ve got our work cut out.”

Extra Yardage

Lineup notes: the big change for the visitors comes in the return game where Shakeir Ryan makes his Lions debut in place of Jeremiah Johnson. Ryan was added to the practice roster on October 3rd after a stint with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He had a 104-yard return touchdown for the Ticats against Calgary on September 15th

Big plays the key? The Lions enter this week with 49 big plays, second only to the Calgary Stampeders. The CFL defines ‘big plays’ as any pass of 30-plus yards or any run of 20-plus yards. The Roughriders are tied for 5th in the league in that category.

Speaking of big plays: CFL stats guru Steve Daniel has determined that dating back to 1994, no CFL player had ever recorded three touchdowns in one quarter until DeVier Posey did last week against Edmonton.

The Roughriders are a perfect 7-0-0 when they take a lead into the fourth quarter. When the Lions trail after three quarters their record is 3-5-0.

Regina has been the Lions’ favourite stop in recent years. Dating back to the start of 2013, they have won four of five visits to Riderville. This year’s version of the Riders finished 6-3-0 on the road and are 5-4-0 at home. They will have a bye in the final week of regular season play.

TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 2:00 PM PT with Lowell Ullrich and Chris Burns. Bob Marjanovich, Giulio Caravatta and sideline reporter Karen Surman bring you the action at 4:00 PM PT.

Matt Baker: