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It was billed as a playoff game in late July. Only it was the Saskatchewan Roughriders who churned out a performance many teams would dream about having in November.
William Powell rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns while quarterback Cody Fajardo made things happen for a second straight week as the visiting Riders (3-3) cruised to a 45-18 victory over the BC Lions (1-6) on a steamy Saturday night at BC Place Stadium.
The loss moves the Lions four points back of Saskatchewan for fourth spot in the Western Division with the result also assuring the Riders of claiming the 2019 season series. The teams will meet one more time on October 18th here in Vancouver.
For now, Mike Reilly and the Lions will head into a bye week, perhaps a much-needed one.
“I think so,” Reilly said in another crestfallen post-game locker room.
“It will help the guys to just kind of clear their heads and re-assess what we’re trying to do here, what’s important and what it’s going to take. We’re certainly not in a great situation. There’s a lot of football left to play but it’s only going to matter if we start playing good football.”
Reilly was held to just eight completions and just 66 passing yards as the struggling Lions offence that failed to find the end zone.
Ryan Lankford provided the only highlights with a pair of return touchdowns; 118 yards on a missed field goal before the half and a 54-yard kickoff return that got the home side to within 16 in the third quarter. The hometown Lions would fail to capitalize on the momentum on both occasions.
“We came out in the second half and I think we had like two or three two-and-outs and we just really couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said head coach DeVone Claybrooks.
“They did a great job of staying off to take our RPOs out and just rallying down and tackling in. We couldn’t get to the second level on our run game tonight. We understand that and we’re going to have to identify the problems and keep plugging away until we find a way to fix them.”
Given the final outcome, Lankford wasn’t congratulating himself.
“I still got to be better, “ said Lankford.
“There was a couple of punt returns where I could have had more yards and put our team in a better position. So yeah, you can say you had two touchdowns but there was a lot more stuff out there that I could have done. We all got to get better.”
With a full week to lick their wounds and get ready for a trip to Hamilton on Saturday, August 10th, Reilly and company will try not to spend too much time scratching their heads over what went wrong in this one. Yet the film study will serve as a staunch reminder of what they need to do to play to the level many expected them to prior to the start of the season.
“We couldn’t get on track. That was the story offensively the whole night,” the quarterback said.
“There was maybe one drive for three or four plays where it felt like we got into a groove and got a couple of first downs. But outside of that, it was different, in a bad way, from last week’s game.”
Reilly’s counterpart Fajardo passed for only 169 yards but was backed by a solid running game and defence that put pressure on the Lions’ pivot for the second time in as many weeks.
Reilly was sacked four times in the loss, while Bryan Burnham ( five catches for 48 yards) was the only Lions receiver to register more than one reception.
110- the Lions total offence, one week after putting up 468 yards in a losing effort in Regina.
35- the number of Saskatchewan rushing attempts as the visitors aimed to control the ground game from the start.
38:03- the Rider’s time of possession en route to victory.
7.0- the average yards per rush for Powell.
0- the number of Lions’ sacks on Fajardo.
If anything, Lankford’s accolades should give some confidence to a special teams unit that has struggled so far this season. No moral victories, but still something to build on. Now it begs the question: will he get some looks on offence?
There was plenty of talk about ex-Lions Emmanuel Arceneaux and Solomon Elimimian making their return to BC Place tonight. Another former Leo who came to play was Loucheiz Purifoy. Not only did he return a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter, but he had two key pass knockdowns on the same third quarter drive while the Lions were looking to get back into it down 17.
We’ll echo what Reilly said about the upcoming break. It will no doubt be best for a lot of the guys to get away from it and re-charge before a tough stretch of games in the month of August.
After the bye, the Lions will travel to Hamilton on Saturday, August 10th. It is a 4:00 PM kickoff.