They saved perhaps their best offensive performance for when they needed it most. And it was more than good enough to cash in for a return November trip to Winnipeg. Vernon Adams Jr. led the charge as the BC Lions took down the Calgary Stampeders 41-30 in front of 30,149 fans at Save-On-Foods Field at BC Place. The win sets up a Western Final rematch against the 14-40 Blue Bombers next Saturday at Winnipeg’s IG Field.
VA and the Offence Lead Charge
A couple of keen hosts of our 1st and Now podcast said on this week’s episode that if the Lions were to prevail, we would be talking about the play of Vernon Adams Jr. Boy, were they right….
Following a Garry Peters interception with the Lions trailing 7-0 early on, Adams Jr. marched them down the field on a nine-play, 75-yard drive in which he hit Jevon Cottoy to even the score.
He then erased all doubt of any lingering effects of the knee injury with a pair of touchdown runs on the following series’ while he found Keon Hatcher for another major to close out the half where they led 28-13. Talk about reaping the benefits of a fast start offensively.
“He was a stud tonight. He was on top of his game with his throws and his reads, and a bonus for him was using his legs to buy time to find receivers or run for first downs. I thought he was really,” said head coach Rick Campbell on his quarterback after the win.
After a lackluster start to the second half which included their only turnover of the night, Adams Jr. scampered for a third rushing major to make it 41-19 and all but salt it away before the Stampeders mustered up 11 points when it was already too late. Perhaps his most impressive play of the night was a run to move the chains on a 1st and 20 which led to Sean Whyte’s lone field goal of the game.
“I was locked in from the jump,” explained Adams Jr.
“We went two-and-out, but we should have had a first down on that second play, and it just didn’t happen. I was locked in. Honestly, our defence was whooping our butt this week. I didn’t have the best practice week. I was a little frustrated, but I was just locked into my preparation, trusted the process, and gave these guys a chance. They just made me look good.”
Along with completing 28 of 39 passes for 413 yards- a new single-game franchise playoff record previously held by Roy Dewalt- and the two touchdowns, the duel-threat quarterback added a team-high 54 rushing yards on seven total carries. He once again referenced his dad, Vernon Adams Sr., as leading the charge in encouraging him to run more.
“You know last night he had to talk with me,” laughed Adams Jr.
“He said ‘You better use your feet.’ I knew I needed to do that so I didn’t hear him tonight. Like I said, it feels good. I think everyone sees this and kind of says it. When I use my feet a bit, I’m more into the game. When I can extend plays and scramble, it just opens the game up a little bit more. The defence has to play a little bit more honest rather than just all getting back, they have to put a spy on me now. It just opens up someone else.”
The Lions’ defence turned in a solid performance of their own, holding Jake Maier and the Stampeders to five field goals sandwiched in between an opening drive touchdown and another with just over a minute to play. The head coach praised his group for handling adversity right from the get-go.
“We were better with our poise tonight,” added Campbell.
“When something didn’t go our way, like the start of the game, where we weren’t complaining or pointing fingers, and stuff. They worked it and watched what they needed to correct and all of that stuff. That was better from our standpoint and we’re going to need that going forward when you’re playing a team like Winnipeg that can make some plays, you need to be able to bounce back, so good on our guys for doing that.”
482– net offensive total for this Lions unit who wouldn’t be denied on this night.
195- a game-high in receiving yards for Hatcher. It was still well short of the playoff franchise record held by Mervyn Fernandez- 260 yards in the 1983 Western Final- but it proved once again that on any given week, a new receiver will step up and lead the charge.
5– touchdowns engineered by Adams Jr. with three coming on the ground and the strikes to Cottoy and Hatcher. Adams’ three touchdowns scored tied a franchise playoff record shared by Fernandez, Tony Cherry, Jon Volpe, and Darren Flutie
11- a game-high in defensive tackles for Josh Woods who earned the start at WILL linebacker, proving once again he is one of the team’s most improved defensive players.
77– total rushing yards for Calgary. Next week presents a whole new challenge with Brady Oliveira and the Bomber backfield.
The Lions lost linebackers Ben Hladik and Jack Hinsperger in this one. Hladik hurt his knee after some friendly fire with Peters on his interception. Campbell said the first instinct is it’s not serious. Hinsperger was being evaluated for a head injury after his big collision on a Peyton Logan return in the fourth which resulted in both being on the turf for an extended period of time. Hinsperger walked off on his own power after a few anxious moments.
The Western Final rematch goes down at Winnipeg’s IG Field next Saturday, November 11 with kickoff at 3:30 pm PT. The 14-4-0 Blue Bombers took two of three regular season meetings with the Lions, prevailing 50-14 in their house on August 3 and 34-26 in overtime at Save-On-Foods Field on October 6. The Lions cruised to a 30-6 victory in Winnipeg in week three on June 30.