August 13, 2017

Game Preview | Rematch In Regina

B.C. Lions quarterback Jonathon Jennings (#10) takes off with the ball under pressure from Saskatchewan Roughriders defensive lineman Justin Capicciotti (#7) during first half CFL action in Regina on Saturday, July 16th, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rick Elvin

Matchup: BC Lions (5-2) at Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-4)

Date: Sunday, August 13th, 5:00 PM PT
Venue: New Mosaic Stadium
On the air: TSN 1, ESPN 2, TSN 1040
Kickoff forecast: Sunny, 27 degrees Celsius

Players approach the scenario in different ways. When Solomon Elimimian made his return to Hamilton in week two of last year, the same place where he suffered the devastating Achilles injury in 2015, he made it his mission to have a great game.

“This was personal for me,” Elimimian told bclions.com after recording six defensive tackles and a forced fumble in the 28-3 stifling.

Fast forward 13 months and Nick Moore is taking a bit different, but equally as impressive, approach to Sunday’s rematch in Saskatchewan. He’s just ready to strap them on and play.

It was at the old Mosaic Stadium last year where Moore’s season came to an end in week four. His seemingly innocent touchdown celebration went bad when he landed awkwardly and suffered a torn ACL.

“I think I might be more excited just to go to the new stadium to be honest, “ said Moore on this latest challenge.

“I’m sure I’ll hear a few hecklers during the game. It’s all a part of the game and I’m looking forward to it. I take it with a grain of salt and hopefully at the end of the game I will have the last laugh.”

Getting that last laugh will also mean Moore’s squad will have swept the season series and opened up an eight point cushion on the Riders. Records aside, Moore is and company will be approaching this like a playoff game.

“Every West game is a big game and you know, the CFL is a funny league,” explained Moore.

“Any given week, any team can win. We have that in the back of our minds and we’re coming out to practice this week and trying to improve on the things that we did good last week.”

Although the 33-15 home victory was impressive on a few fronts, one thing Moore and company will be looking to do is finish. Despite racking up 547 yards in total offence, they only found the end zone twice and had to settle for four Ty Long field goals on five attempts.

“We moved the ball right off the bat, but we want to score touchdowns instead of field goals and that’s one of our focuses this week; actually taking care of the small details and everything so we can get more points on the board.”

“It’s a new game and you have to make adjustments,” added GM/head coach Wally Buono.

“You have to look at how they attacked you and from there you have to be able to try to take advantage of that. We don’t have to break down as much film, but you still have to go back and see how they play at home. When you line up on Sunday afternoon, everything is different.”

Buono is very much of the mind they can still be a lot better: even if though last week’s 33-15 score probably flattered the visitors.

“Honestly, we weren’t real pleased with our effort in the game at BC Place. I didn’t think our defence played with the intensity or effort that’s expected. They were told that and they have to play at a much higher level this week.”

Adjusting to road life has not been tough lately: they have a 3-1 record away from BC Place and have won nine of 13 regular season away contests since the start of 2016.

“Wally always preaches for us to be road warriors,” added Moore.

“Championship teams are always road warriors. When we pack up and go on the road we know it’s a business trip and we have to get the W.”

Moore’s resurgence following his knee re-construction is one of a few positive storylines in the den this season. Another win over Saskatchewan and a 6-2 record would be just what the doctor ordered.

 Jennings Ready 

Buono remained non-committal throughout the week, in terms of who starts at quarterback. Jonathon Jennings took a majority of the first team reps. at practice and appears to be the guy. Keep in mind some of number 10’s finest work has come against the Roughriders, including a career best 429 passing yards in a victory at old Mosaic last July.

After nearly four weeks of rehab and exercise, Jennings is pretty much back to where he needs to be.

“Throwing wise, I feel great,” said Jennings.

“I’ve been working up to this point and throwing in the previous weeks, but it’s finally getting to that point where I feel like I pretty much have all my strength throwing the ball.”

“I think they’re going to present us with some different things. We did some good things against them last week and I feel they will have to change a couple things up to try to combat that. I’m excited about playing against his (Riders’ head coach Chris Jones) defence. The biggest thing I can do is stay true to my reads and make sure I’m going through my progressions as I’m supposed to. The rest will kinda play itself out,” explained the quarterback about his mindset.

The job Travis Lulay has done in relief might be the greatest CFL storyline so far this season. It was even more impressive to see the 33-year old get up and finish the job, despite taking that shot to the ribs last week. It might not be an overstatement to suggest the squad will need both quarterbacks healthy as the stretch drive really kicks into high here.

“That’s why we’re a team,” added Jennings.

“We’re all in this together and we’re shooting for the common goal. Travis and me both understand the situation, it is just part of the business. We have to come in here and work as hard as we can and the rest is in the coaches’ hands.”

Lulay will also dress, despite dealing with sore ribs after the sack by AJ Jefferson late in the second quarter last Saturday.

Yell vs. Carter: The Rematch

Duron Carter managed a long touchdown catch in garbage time, but it was Ronnie Yell and the secondary getting the last laugh in the first instalment of this home and home. A lot was made of the fact Kevin Glenn didn’t seem to take too many shots down field: he only had one completion over 20 yards all game.

“Any time you have big play receivers on the other side of the ball such as Carter, Roosevelt and Grant, the shots could come at any time. I know they didn’t try us last week, I take that as a respect thing, but I know this week they want to win. I’m sure they’ll be taking a few shots this game.”

Yell and Carter are two of the game’s biggest competitors and you know both will feed off of going up against one another for a second straight week.

“I enjoy going against Duron. He’s one of the best, elite receivers in the league. To have a good performance against him means we’re just preparing right. I’ll be locked in, I’ll be ready to go,” added Yell.

Entering this week’s action, Carter was tied for second in the CFL with four touchdown catches. Naaman Roosevelt is one behind and leads the Riders with 458 yards.

 Three Keys To Victory

 Pound The Rock- Jeremiah Johnson was more active last week, rushing for 74 yards. With the crowd set to be a huge factor, gaining big yards on the ground will only add to their capabilities on offence. One thing they have done well is spread it around with Chris Rainey and most recently, Shaquille Murray-Lawrence getting some touches.

 Finish Drives- they know they can’t afford to leave points on the field again. With the wind in Regina always a factor, finishing one or two more of those drives would also take some pressure off Long.

 Disrupt the QB…. Again- Glenn had only 168 yards passing before getting the hook last week and only had two completions of 20-plus yards. Limiting Glenn’s mobility also helps take playmakers Carter and Naaman Roosevelt out of the equation.

Fan Poll
What is the biggest key to victory in Regina?
Establish run game
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Finish Drives
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Pressure the QB
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Other
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Quotable

 “I was actually disappointed in the effort. Happy with the outcome, happy with the win but generally speaking, our effort could have been better. It was sloppy football. We weren’t clean in our execution like we need to be. We need to play faster; which I know we’ll do.”- Defensive coordinator Mark Washington echoing Buono’s assessment of his unit.

Extra Yardage

 Analytical stats of the week: The Leos remain first in the CFL in red zone production at 22 for 28, a 78.6 percent conversion rate. In total, the offence has scored 22 offensive touchdowns on exactly 100 possessions. That 22 percent rate is tied with Edmonton for second in the league. Calgary leads at 25 percent.

The Lions have owned the season series with Saskatchewan lately, winning seven straight meetings since the start of 2015. Manny Arceneaux has racked up 568 receiving yards and six touchdowns in those victories.

As Lions head coach, Buono is 21-8 all-time in games that are part of back-to-back regular season meetings. The only time he ever got swept was last year in a home and home series with the Blue Bombers. Going 22-8 in these games would be a nice little feather in the cap.

Perhaps Washington was correct in his statement, despite the convincing win: Saskatchewan had a total of 119 yards after the catch, compared to just 63 for the home side. That tells you he is looking for better tackling from his defenders.

Diamond and Diamond Injury updates: Cody Husband was back at practice on Friday and is good to go at Centre, after leaving last week’s win in the second half. Bryan Burnham made the trip and, according to Buono, is “50/50” to suit up after he suffered a foot injury in practice on Wednesday. Anthony Gaitor is on the shelf for at least one more week. That domino effect in the secondary means former Oakland Raider Tevin McDonald suits up for his first CFL game behind Buddy Jackson at halfback.

Newcomers and one-time Lions Ricky Foley and Andrew Jones will both dress as backups and should factor in on various packages on each side of the ball.

The Roughriders’ new state of the art stadium has already provided somewhat of a home field advantage. They are 2-1 at home this season with the only loss coming to Winnipeg in a 43-40 overtime thriller. Victories over Hamilton and Toronto followed. We had the opportunity to tour new Mosaic last year and spent a lot of time inside on CFL Combine week in March. Simply put, the stadium is fantastic. It is great for the league to have venues like this being built.

You can catch the action on TSN 1040; beginning with the pre-game show at 3:00PM PT. Bob Marjanovich and Giulio Caravatta have the call at 5:00PM. Viewers can tune in on TSN 1 while our fans south of the border can watch on ESPN 2.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com