While the weather across Greater Vancouver may still indicate Summer is in the air but for the 8-4-0 BC Lions, Fall is definitely on their minds. With six games to go and a playoff spot well within reach, the opportunity lies for the squad to make some real noise over the final six regular season contests.
The stretch drive begins Saturday with the 3-9-0 Ottawa REDBLACKS paying a visit to Save-On-Foods Field at BC Place (4:00 PM/TSN/RDS/CFL+/AM730). They know what lies ahead, but Sukh Chungh and the Lions also are of the mind they can’t focus on anything beyond the next test.
“Personally, I’m not looking at it as a big stretch. We’re taking it one game at a time and Ottawa is a good opponent. We start there and we go from there,” said the Lions’ veteran guard.
These REDBLACKS enter this contest with a six-game losing streak and have fallen to four points behind Hamilton for the Eastern Division’s final playoff spot. That won’t matter come kickoff as this rejuvenated Lions’ offence can expect a test up front with the reigning Most Outstanding Player Lorenzo Mauldin and veteran Cleyon Laing performing at a high level. That Ottawa defence has also kept them in most games, as six of their nine defeats have been by eight points or less.
“They’re a good squad, have a good defence and lost a couple of real close ones,” added Chungh.
“We’ve been there before as a group, a couple of years ago. Cleyon is great inside, 94 (Mauldin), we know what he’s capable of and Jovan (Santos-Knox), he’s a really good player. I’ve played with and against him. We’ve got to run the ball, move the chains and keep our defence fresh.”
It was a solid recipe in the 34-25 win over Montreal when they kept Vernon Adams Jr. upright and helped the offence wrap up 122 rushing yards. That’s the playoff-type mentality they know that have to bring from here on out.
“I think it’s a pretty generic template. Every offensive line wants over 100 yards on the ground and to protect the quarterback. That’s easy to say, but it’s the standard every week,” said Chungh.
“We want to get Smoke (Taquan Mizzell) going, keep VA clean and let those guys play ball.”
“The position we’re in right now, we have so much to play for down the home stretch, that regardless of who we’re playing in these last six games it’s going to have a huge impact on the standings. So, we’ve got to play for us and we’re obviously going to study the opponent and have game plans but we’ve it’s got to be about us and playing as good of football as we can play to get to where we want to be in the standings.”
Rick Campbell on not focussing on the opponent’s losing record.
4 Lions To Watch
WR Justin McInnis #18– Whenever the big target has made a catch, it seems to be a big one. Case in point: the 3rd and 5 reception to keep an eventual scoring drive alive in Montreal two weeks back.
RB Taquan Mizzell # 25– With 68 tough yards on the ground and his first rushing touchdown last time out, Mizzell proved he can be a factor as the ground game will loom large over these final six games. Physicality up front and in the run game will both be key to success against these REDBLACKS.
LB Josh Woods # 2– The third-year Lion is pressed into starting duty as Bo Lokombo is slated to miss some time with injured ribs. Woods has been a serviceable defensive backup and a key piece on the special team units. Expect the former UCLA Bruin to rise to the occasion.
DB Jalon Edwards-Cooper #29– The bye week enabled ‘Coop’ to get healthy once again as this Lion secondary gears up for a stretch drive that will be a big litmus test for the defence. Edwards-Cooper returns to the starting lineup in place of Mike Jones.
Happy Friday BC! It’s Depth Chart day!
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) September 15, 2023
The Lion defence gets a first live look at Ottawa quarterback Dustin Crum who had racked up 1,858 passing yards and five touchdowns while going 161 of 230 on attempts (70.0 percent). He has also added 521 yards and five majors on 70 rushing attempts.
More on the REDBLACKS’ habit of playing close games: 11 of their contests this season have been decided in the final three minutes. They have only prevailed in two of those.
Knocking on November’s door: The Lions can’t clinch a playoff spot this week but they can see the November dance from here. The magic number to clinch a post-season berth remains at two. One more win plus a Calgary loss to Montreal next Saturday puts BC into the post-season tournament for a second straight year. They have not qualified in two consecutive seasons since a 20-year streak ended in 2017.
Home stretch. The push for a playoff spot and quest for a first-place finish in the West sees the Lions playing four of their remaining six games on home turf. The Lions are 4-1 at Save-On-Foods Field with a point differential of plus-59.
Adams Jr. by the numbers: The Lions’ starting pivot entered this week third in CFL passing yards (2,957), second in passing TDs (20) and third in QB rating (105.3). Adams Jr. has also recorded over 300 passing yards in seven games this season. With four straight games of over 300 yards and 11 touchdown passes, Adams Jr. is enjoying the most productive four-game run of his career. He is now 28-17 lifetime as a starter and 11-5 with the Lions.
The pursuit of 1K: Lion receiving yards leader Alex Hollins (879) as well as Keon Hatcher (820) are closing in on 1,000 yards for 2023. The Lions boasted three 1,000-yard receivers in 2022: Hatcher, Lucky Whitehead and Dominique Rhymes.
Rick Campbell aims to pass Eagle Keys for seventh on the club’s all-time coaching wins list with 26. Next on the list would be Grey Cup champion Dave Ritchie with 31 Lion victories. Campbell is also a perfect 4-0 against his old REDBLACKS squad, having swept them in 2021 and 2022.