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August 12, 2019

Game Preview | Lions at Tiger-Cats

The Matchup: Regular Season Game 8

BC Lions (1-6-0) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats ( 5-2-0)

Saturday, August 10th

4:00 PM

Tim Hortons Field

Lions last result: a 45-18 home loss to Saskatchewan on Saturday, July 27th.

Ticats last result: a 24-19 road loss at Saskatchewan on Thursday, August 1st.

Recent History: these clubs split two regular season meetings in 2018, with the Lions prevailing in a 35-32 overtime thriller on September 22nd. The Ticats then cruised to a 48-8 victory in the Eastern Semi-Final on November 11th.

Vegas odds: The Ticats are listed as 11.5 point favourites with the over/under set at 51.5.

3 Things

Protect, Protect, Protect

This shall come as a surprise to very few if any, but head coach DeVone Claybrooks and the staff identified the offensive line as the number one priority in terms of making improvements going forward. The newly-acquired Justin Renfrow did a lot of the work at right tackle this week while Philip Norman moved to the centre position. At this rate, any tweak will be worth trying as they focus on protecting their most important asset in quarterback Mike Reilly. The Lions enter this one having allowed a league-high 25 sacks.

“A lot more goes into it, than most people think than the front five that are blocking,” said Claybrooks.

“It’s communication with the receivers, the running back; a lot of people have to be on the same page. We feel like we had to make some changes and we feel like the lineup we have going into this game will give us the opportunity to run the ball, be physical up front and the things that you want out of your front.”

Renfrow suited up in seven games over the last three seasons with Calgary and previously had NFL stints with Arizona, Green Bay, Seattle, San Francisco and Buffalo. It will be a nice test against a Hamilton front that has recorded the third-most sacks (20) in the league trailing only Edmonton and Saskatchewan. Sukh Chungh makes his return at right guard after missing two games with a tricep injury.

New Opposition QB, Same Approach

For a defence looking to prove it can be more dominant than it has shown so far, you would think facing an inexperienced quarterback may be just what the doctor ordered. However, Aaron Grymes and company don’t view this matchup against the young Dane Evans different than had they been facing Jeremiah Masoli who is lost for the season with a torn ACL. They still expect a big challenge.

“It won’t change it (the preparation) too much, no. We got a little bit of game film on him now,” explained Grymes.

“He’s played a game-and-a-half, I think. We’re going to try to pick up on his tendencies and things like that, but he’s a professional quarterback, right? They’ve still got playmakers so we’ve got to approach it like we’re still playing Masoli. Let’s not mistake it. He is a professional quarterback. Calgary’s quarterback went down, they’re 5-2. They’re tied for 1st place right now. That’s what professional football is about, next man up. We know we’re going to get the best effort from them, they’re putting in a good game plan right now to try to exploit us and we’re going to do the same.”

Evans took over in the first half of Hamilton’s big victory over the Blue Bombers two weeks back and made his first career start in their setback to the Roughriders. He made six appearances for the Ticats in 2018 and was viewed as a big reason they were willing to end the Johnny Manziel experiment by dealing him to Montreal mid-season.

Must Contain Speedy B/Return Game

Way easier said, than done. Brandon Banks has continued to demonstrate he is the league’s top playmaker and his contributions on offence have proven that while he has also racked up 235 return yards on field goals, including a big touchdown to swing momentum in a victory over Calgary last month.

“He’s a dynamic guy. They find unique ways to get him the ball on reverses and things like that or screens. They call him Speedy B for a reason,” explained Claybrooks.

As for the ongoing battles on special teams, Frankie Williams has carried much of the punt and kickoff return duties and has 814 all-purpose yards through seven games. Should the Lions not allow special teams to be a difference like it has the last couple of games, the chances of escaping Steeltown with a much-needed victory improve immensely.

“Special teams is one-third of the game. It’s a bigger aspect of the game than any facet,” reminded the head coach.

“We’ve been out of games because we gave up plays on special teams that have killed the momentum of which we’ve had, so we understand how important the kicking game is and the guys understand the challenges that it presents. They’ve (Hamilton) have taken four kicks to the house so we understand that aspect and we know that Williams is a dynamic returner as well as Speedy B. With the missed field goals I told Sergio ‘if you don’t want to go down there, make the field goal (laughs).’ So that’s an easy answer to that equation.”

QB Comparison

Mike Reilly:

2019 W/L record: 1-6-0. Statistics: 151/227 for 1,668 yards, 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

  • Reilly enters this one with a 6-5-0 lifetime record against the Tiger-Cats. Not included in that mark is a victory in the Eastern Semi-Final with Edmonton in November of 2016.

Dane Evans:

2019 W/L record: 0-1-0. Statistics: 37/60 for 385 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

  • The product of the University of Tulsa has the unenviable task of steering the Hamilton ship after Masoli went down with a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago. Evans’ lone 60-minute appearance was last week’s setback in Regina where he finished 19/29 for 196 yards and a touchdown strike to Anthony Coombs.

Extra Yardage

Of the last six regular season series’ between these two clubs, five have resulted in splits. The last sweep came in 2016 when the Lions took both meetings en route to finishing with a 12-6-0 regular season record.

Nowhere to go but up. Specifically, for Mike Reilly and the Lions’ offence following a dismal outing against Saskatchewan where they put up just 68 net yards and held to two-and-outs on nine of their 12 series.’

Bryan Burnham enters this one having recorded at least one reception in the last 71 games he has played in.

About the defence: Maleki Harris slides over to middle linebacker in place of the injured Jordan Herdman-Reed. 2018 draft pick and Laurier product Isaiah Guzylak-Messam gets a shot at the WILL linebacker spot while Adam Konar returns from injury and is listed as his backup.

More on Speedy B: the Ticats lost each of their last six regular season contests where he was out of the lineup. It’s safe to say he will be welcomed back with open arms.

Following this contest, the Lions will camp out in Southern Ontario until making their way to Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon. The squad is slated to have full practices at Hamilton’s McMaster University on Monday and Tuesday.

TSN 1040 has you covered, beginning with the pre-game show at 2:00 PM PT. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta have the call at 4:00 PM PT. Viewers can watch on TSN 1 while Lions fans south of the border can stream the game on ESPN+. Fans across the pond in the UK and Ireland can watch on BT Sport.

In addition, fans n the lower mainland can take in a viewing party at the downtown Vancouver Shark Club location at 180 W. Georgia Street. Season members can bring their cards and earn some free prizes and all fans can take advantage of food and beverage specials.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com