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August 14, 2017

ROAR Report: Lions Stumble Out Of Gate In Loss at Saskatchewan

Regina, Sask- Jonathon Jennings is a young quarterback with the type of veteran savviness every player should aspire to. So as you might expect, the young pivot was not sugarcoating anything after tonight’s loss at the hands of Saskatchewan.

“It was the toughest game of my career, toughest game of my life,” explained Jennings after the loss.

He and the offence fell behind the eight-ball early and never recovered in a 41-8 loss to the Roughriders in front of a raucous, sold out crowd at Mosaic Stadium.

Jennings managed just 14 completions and threw four interceptions, including one to Ed Gainey that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown. Gainey finished the night with four takeaways for a Rider’s defence that never let up.

Riders’ starting quarterback Kevin Glenn improved from his effort last week, passing for 327 yards and three touchdowns as the home side jumped out to a 29-0 halftime lead and never looked back.
“We’re going to figure out how we can get better obviously, but it’s only one game,” added Jennings.
“I had some big mistakes that made it tough, but they were dropping deep and switching up coverages, giving us man (coverage)at times and they got pressure at times. That made it tough.”
Travis Lulay replaced Jennings for the second quarter before Wally Buono went back to his original starter for the second half.
“I think we have to accept the responsibility. We knew we were coming into a hostile place, we knew this team was going to be a lot more motivated than it was last week and, unfortunately, our guys didn’t get the message,” said Buono.
“They couldn’t match Saskatchewan’s intensity and we had too many bad plays early.”
They broke the shut out when Jennings completed a nice, 56-yard bomb to newcomer Chris Williams. It was his first touchdown catch in his second game with the club. At the end of the day it was one of just a few positives for a Lions offence that seemed out of sync all game.
They did not pick up a first down until there was 9:32 remaining in the first half and the rust clearly showed on number 10’s part.“You saw a guy that hasn’t played for five weeks and at times he didn’t trust himself,” said Buono.

“Hopefully that’s out of his system and he’ll be better next week.”

 “You have got to give Chris (Jones) and his group credit. Guys played hard, they played physical and we were no match for them tonight.”
The Lions fall to 5-3 on the season and return home Friday night for a critical Western Division matchup against the Calgary Stampeders. Perhaps the short week may serve as a positive and they can file this one away sooner as a result.
“We’re ready to wipe this clean and move on to the next game,” added Jennings. “We’ve got to get into the meeting room and get better. Like I said, it starts with me.”

Key Numbers

7– Number of turnovers committed by the visitors: five fumbles, one interception and a turn over on downs just prior to the half.

10– Total number of rushing attempts by the Lions. Falling behind early may have had something to do with it.

76– the completion percentage for Glenn. He finished 19 for 25 in the first victory over the Lions in green.

Quotable

“Every man has to be accountable, knowing that it’s just not good enough. You can’t look at the next man, you have to look at yourself and say ‘what can I do better?’ That’s the mindset we have to have. I’m optimistic. I believe we have the right group of guys in the locker room, guys that work hard and guys who are committed to one another. Every team faces adversity. Every team has to look in the mirror and just prove who they are. Right now, that’s what we have to do.”- Solomon Elimimian on the mood amongst the group and how they have to approach it now.

Bake’s Takes

Two plays really told me this wasn’t their night: A 3rd and 10 gamble just before halftime that resulted in a sack on Lulay and the interception on a ball that was deflected by Williams when they were down at the five on the first drive of the third quarter. Those were two drives that could have closed the gap and made things interesting. The Riders capitalized and denied the visitors any opportunity to make it a game. I really loved the idea to go for it on that third down. A 44-yard field goal try into the wind could have been dicey and at that point a touchdown was needed. Trailing 29-3 at halftime wouldn’t have done much good.

Kudos to Jennings for owning it afterwards. This is a player who has made a habit of bouncing back after tough losses and you know he is already watching film in anticipation of the Stampeders’ visit.

It may not be an overstatement to call Friday the biggest regular season contest in the last five years. A much needed win over their nemesis would put them back on the right track for what should be a thrilling race in the second half.

You have to commend the Roughriders for not only their preparation, but also how they never let up. Case in point: A big 4th quarter special teams tackle on Shaquille Murray-Lawrence that had their special teams unit jacked up. You can tell how bad they wanted it and how important this game was to them. They have now worked themselves back into the ultra-competitive playoff race in the West.

Diamond and Diamond Injury Update

Bryan Burnham (foot) was a late scratch, while fellow receiver Nick Moore (back) did not return after the second half. Mic’hael Brooks (leg) was also knocked out early. All of them will be evaluated at the club’s practice facility on Monday.

 Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com