In many respects, it’s definitely not just another regular season finale. With your BC Lions (9-8-0) locked into 4th place in the West and heading to Hamilton as the crossover team next week, this Saturday’s tilt against the Calgary Stampeders (12-5-0) has zero implications in the standings for Bryan Burnham and company. Yet it goes without saying that they will not be taking the week off. With Wally Buono set to coach the 450th and final regular season game of his great career, Burnham and the Lions want to do everything they can to send him out with a victory and also give them a much-needed boost heading into the playoffs.
“There’s not enough I can say about Wally,” said Burnham during the week of practice.
“He’s obviously been here since I’ve been here, which isn’t saying much, but the level of respect that Wally gets from staff and people across the league is incredible. I’ve been lucky enough to play for him during the last couple of years of his career. He gave me the opportunity and when guys were trying to get me out of town in 2015 he stuck with me and told me the things I needed to do to succeed. I picked up on those things and that’s why I’m still here. A lot of that is a testament to the kind of guy Wally is and I’m going to miss him moving forward.”
The faith Buono showed in Burnham paid dividends. The receiver is just 14 yards shy of his third consecutive 1000-yard season. He would be joining some pretty exclusive company as the only others to do it three straight years for the franchise are Hall of Famer Geroy Simon, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Mervyn Fernandez and Darren Flutie.
Buono’s farewell aside, they know there is work to be done. Specifically, answering the question of what team they truly are? The squad that won six of seven following Labour Day or the one that allowed 199 rushing yards in Saskatchewan last week? That should give them enough motivation to treat it like there is something on the line.
“There is no such thing as meaningless games, especially at the professional level,” added Burnham.
“You provide for your family every time you go out there. Every time you put it on film, that’s your resume. Any time you get a chance to go out and compete, you compete as hard as you can. This isn’t a rest game. This is game 18 on our schedule and we’ve got to go out there and win. We want to send Wally out with a bang, but at the same time we want to go into the playoffs on a high note; not after losing two straight.”
At least they know they won’t have a hard time trying to match the intensity of their opponent. The struggling Stamps, losers of three straight after a 12-2 start, must tie or win this game in order to hang onto first in the West. A loss and they fall to second place and play host to Winnipeg in the west semi-final next Sunday.
“Calgary is always a tough game, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first or last game of the season it’s a tough matchup,” said Burnham.
“We know we’re going to have to bring it and they’re going to be hungry. We just have to play good football. We’re not scared of anybody, but we respect our opponents and we know we have to bring our A-game against Calgary.”
Winning for themselves and for their legendary head coach. But there are still way bigger opportunities ahead in the next couple of weeks.
“I’m going to miss him (Wally) moving forward, but I’m not going to think about that right now,” explained Burnham.
“I’m going to think about these next few games together and going out on top.”
Game # 18 | BC Lions (9-8-0) vs. Calgary Stampeders (12-5-0)
Saturday, November 3rd
BC Place Stadium
7:00 PM PT
Lions last result: a 35-16 loss at Saskatchewan on October 27th.
Stampeders last result: a 29-21 loss at Winnipeg on October 26th.
Latest meeting: the Lions prevailed 26-21 at Calgary’s McMahon Stadium back on October 13th.
Gameday weather forecast: 80 per cent chance of rain with a high of ten degrees Celsius.
Vegas Line: the Stampeders are listed as six-point favourites with the over/under set at 49 and a half.
2018 W/L record: 4-5-0. Statistics: 177/295 for 2,383 yards, 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Pass efficiency rating of 87.7.
- Lulay is expected to get a fair share of the reps as he and the offence look to clean up some things before the games become ‘do or die’ next week. He made his return from a shoulder injury in the last meeting with Calgary and now has an 8-6-0 career regular season record against the Stampeders.
2018 W/L record: 12-5-0. Statistics: 336/553 for 4,846 yards, 34 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Pass efficiency rating of 99.2.
- Mitchell is in unfamiliar territory: the first three-game losing streak of his career as a starting quarterback. Not that he is to blame with receivers DaVaris Daniels, Kamar Jorden, Reggie Begelton Marken Michel, and now Eric Rogers all out with injuries. Despite the recent shortcomings, Mitchell still leads the CFL in passing TDs and sits fourth overall in passing yards. This is the first time he has ever started Calgary’s final regular season game.
Wally Talks Farewell Tour And Another Playoff Run
As you would expect, Buono has tried his best to downplay the great farewell tour and not make it solely about himself. After all, this team feels they can make history by becoming the first crossover team to go all the way to the Grey Cup. Yet as his final home voyage is finally on the horizon, the CFL’s all-time leader in coaching victories admits he may allow some time for reflection on Saturday night.
“Obviously, my wife has scolded me more than once on just allowing the process to take its course, do what you’re asked and I appreciate, I guess, the kindness, support and the gesture that you’re getting,” said Buono.
“That said, we’ve stayed focused on what I believe we should, which is really our jobs. We didn’t play well last week, we not only embarrassed ourselves but we embarrassed our organization. It’s our last game at home, it allows us to hopefully be the team with the best home record, which is 8-1, and our fans have been very very supportive and I think they deserve a win.”
Buono was also very confident when asked if he believes this edition of the Lions can make history by representing the East in the 106th Grey Cup in three weeks time.
“Oh definitely,” stated the head coach.
“I totally believe that this team, if it plays the kind of football that we play when we win, that we can do that. Everybody that’s in the playoffs should have the same feeling and expectations. Our football team, when it plays physical, when it wins the field position battle and when it wins the turnover battle, we win. So we know what we need to do.”
But first will come a well-deserved farewell from the home fans.
Fans are encouraged to stay in their seats at halftime for a video tribute to Buono’s brilliant career in football. The first 5,000 fans through the gates will receive a commemorative bobblehead and 5,000 Buono ‘big heads’ will be randomly distributed to seats throughout the stadium.
Since coming over from Calgary in 2003, Buono has a 13-16-1 regular season record against the Stampeders as a head coach. One rare item missing from his bucket list is a win over his former squad in the playoffs- he dropped the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Western Finals to the Stamps- but that window is still open with the possibility of a Lions-Stampeders Grey Cup on November 25th. Hey, you never know in this league, right?
Buono’s first regular season game as a head coach was also a BC-Calgary tilt. His Stampeders played to a 38-38 tie at BC Place to kick off the 1990 regular season. Overall, this will be his 490th appearance as a head coach including playoffs and Grey Cups. The number is 690 when you also factor in his time as an assistant coach, director of player personnel and VP of football operations. And lastly, in his 25-year head coaching career, Buono has employed 20 different starting QBs. The man who has started the most games behind centre under Buono is none other than his sideline counterpart in this game, Dave Dickenson ( 76 starts, 54 wins).
This version of the Stamps is trying to avoid becoming the first team in CFL history to lose their last four regular season games after starting 12-2. They have also not lost four straight since September of 2004 when Matt Dunigan served as head coach.
The Stampeders defence has carried the torch for a lot more of their success than in years past. Their 354 points allowed are the lowest total in the league and they are also number one in forced fumbles. Alex Singelton is the straw that stirs their defensive drink as he leads the team with 115 tackles. Their Most Outstanding Defensive Player finalist Micah Johnson has a career-high 13 sacks and will provide a nice test for the Lions improved offensive line.
One stat the Lions can certainly be proud of: they enter the finale tied for first with Edmonton and Saskatchewan with 54 sacks. Speaking of sacks, Odell Willis needs three more to reach 100 for his career.
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 Karen Surman bring you the action at 7:00 PM. Viewers can watch on TSN 1 while Lions fans south of the border can stream the action on ESPN+. Fans in the UK and Ireland can stream it on BT Sport.