Lions and Argos tangle in pivotal early-season matchup
Toronto, ON (Sports Network) - Hitting the road for the second of two straight outings, the British Columbia Lions find themselves with plenty of time to prepare for their meeting with the Toronto Argonauts at Rogers Centre on Monday.
The Lions, winners of last year's Grey Cup, kicked off the 2012 season with back-to-back victories over Winnipeg and Hamilton, but then lost consecutive games versus Saskatchewan and Edmonton which brought them back to the rest of the pack in the West Division. Last weekend, the team thumped Calgary on the road, 34-8, representing its best defensive effort to date, and subsequently moved into a three-way tie for first place in the division.
Off to a bit of a slow start last Saturday night, the Lions went from a mere three points in the first quarter in Calgary to generating double digits in each of the final three frames to slow the Stampeders down to a crawl. The defense also came to play for the visitors as they kept Calgary out of the end zone for a full 60 minutes.
Travis Lulay connected on 30-of-37 passes for 315 yards and three touchdowns for the Lions, adding another 41 yards on six rushing attempts as BC controlled the action for close to two-thirds of the meeting.
Andrew Harris was the leading rusher for the group with a game-high 55 yards in nine attempts, not to mention turning himself into a valued receiver who caught five balls for 37 yards and crossed the goal line twice.
From a defensive standpoint, the Lions limited the home team to just 14 first downs and a mere 29 yards rushing.
As for the Argonauts, their meeting with Montreal last Friday was vastly different than BC's runaway victory. For the second game in a row and the third time in as many victories on the season, Toronto won by just three points with a 23-20 triumph versus the Alouettes.
In week 2, the Argos notched their first win of the season with a 39-36 final against visiting Calgary, and then two weeks ago it was Winnipeg that felt the sting of a close call, 25-22. In fact, all five games thus far for Toronto have been decided by single digits.
However, last week the Argos were rather lucky to have escaped Montreal with a win as the hosts missed on a lengthy field goal attempt at the end of regulation, and quarterback Anthony Calvillo tossed his only interception of the meeting in the end zone which ended what could have been a significant scoring drive for the hosts.
While Ricky Ray tends to grab the spotlight regularly now for his new team, converting 20-of-30 pass attempts for 280 yards and two touchdowns, former Montreal member Chad Owens put forth yet another fantastic all-around display for the visitors. Primarily a kick returner for the Argos the two previous seasons, Owens is now getting his chance to shine with the offense and on Friday did just that as he reeled in a game-high seven passes for 97 yards and a pair of scores. Add to that his six kickoff returns for 121 yards and four punt returns for 59 yards, and he is clearly becoming one of the most dangerous performers in the game.
Owens, who led the CFL in combined yards with more than 3,000 in each of the previous campaigns, is again on top in that category with a staggering 1,291 yards through five games. Setting a blistering pace for the rest of the league to witness, Owens is on pace to put up mind-boggling numbers once again if he can stay healthy.
Even though he might be prone to being separated from the ball from time to time, Owens is already fourth in the league in receiving yards (392) and has found the end zone three times in the last couple of weeks in order to help move Toronto into a tie with Hamilton for first place in the East Division at 3-2.
Because of the efforts of Owens, Toronto leads the league in kickoff return yards with 738 and that has helped give Ray a shorter field than the competition, and yet the signal-caller is still second in the CFL in total passing yards with 1,542.
However, Ray and the offensive line will have to be on the lookout for BC's Keron Williams who leads the league in sacks with six, a total that is more than half of his career-high of 11 that he managed for the Lions last season.
In terms of the all-time series between these two clubs, BC maintains a 49-31-2 edge in regular-season matchups dating back to 1954. The Lions won the most recent meeting last September by a score of 28-6 in Vancouver, which means the squad has now taken three in a row and all but one of the last 14 encounters.
The teams are slated to compete against each other once more during this regular season, matching up at BC Place in the middle of September.