Lions set to pounce on Roughriders
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - With a stout defense that has held the last two opponents to single digits, the British Columbia Lions try to continue their strong play on Sunday when they entertain the Saskatchewan Roughriders at BC Place.
Since losing to Edmonton on July 20 by a score of 27-14 at home, the Lions have dialed up the pressure on defense and played much better in the last two road outings, defeating Calgary 34-8 and then stopping Toronto, 18-9, in the most recent contest back on August 6 before the bye week. Thanks to the latest victory, BC is currently tied with Edmonton for the best record in the CFL and first place in the West Division with a record of 4-2.
Against Toronto, the Lions held the hosts scoreless in both the first and fourth quarters and kept the Argos out of the end zone altogether by allowing a mere three field goals to Swayze Waters. The Argonauts generated just 252 yards of total offense against BC and while the score could have easily been even more one-sided, Toronto benefited from the visitors being flagged 16 times for 100 yards in penalties.
Quarterback Travis Lulay converted 18-of-27 passes for 205 yards and a score, while Mike Reilly sealed the victory with a one-yard run in the final period to cap off a seven-play, 69-yard drive that ate up 4:29 off the clock.
As for the Roughriders, they were most recently in action on August 10 when they came out on the short end of a 28-20 final versus Edmonton on the road. The defeat, the third in as many games for a team that opened 2012 with three straight victories, saw Saskatchewan score a couple of rushing touchdowns, one each by Drew Willy and Darian Durant, as the squad generated a hefty 507 yards of total offense. However, the Riders lost 90 yards of field position due to 13 penalties, were guilty of one lost fumble and two interceptions.
Durant, who has spent all seven of his CFL campaigns with the Roughriders, had his best game of this season in terms of passing yardage with 401 as he converted 24-of-35, but he also failed to throw a TD for the third time in five games and was picked off twice. Through the first three games of the season Durant had more than 700 yards and four touchdowns, without a single INT, but now his numbers have begun to level off a bit.
When Durant isn't exploiting defenses, Kory Sheets tends to be the one who steps in and picks up the slack. Here in his CFL rookie campaign, Sheets has been a steady producer with a total of 440 rushing yards, second-most in the league. Up until the last game when he was kept out of the end zone, Sheets had also scored at least one TD in five straight contests to begin his career. While he didn't score last time out, Sheets did counter by turning six receptions into a game-high 138 yards versus Edmonton.
Right behind Sheets with five catches for 84 yards versus the Eskimos was Weston Dressler, a slotback who already is nearly halfway to his career high of 81 receptions, sporting 40 grabs for 513 yards and four TDs thus far in 2012. Averaging just under 13 yards per catch, Dressler is first in the league in total receiving yards after six games.
While Dressler is at the top of the receiving list as far as yards is concerned, the Lions don't have a single player within the top-12 in that department right now. Geroy Simon, who kicked off the season with a bang by becoming the league's all-time leading receiver, has turned his 22 catches this year into 329 yards to pace BC, but for someone who now has 957 receptions to his name and needs just two TDs to reach 100 for his career, he has yet to cross the goal line in 2012. You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find a longer stretch to open a season where Simon has been shutout in this manner.
Because of the last two games, British Columbia is now first in the league in defense, holding the opposition to just 277.1 ypg. Combine that with the fact that the Lions are also first on offense with 400.5 ypg and those numbers would indicate a dominating club. Being tied for the top spot in the turnover department with a plus-6 is certainly another strong indication of how good the Lions can be when they put all the pieces together for a solid 60-minute effort.
The Roughriders won the first meeting of this season back on July 14 with a 23-20 triumph at home. In that contest Saskatchewan's Tristan Jackson returned a missed field goal a staggering 129 yards for what proved to be the winning score in the fourth quarter. The Riders generated just 266 yards of total offense, while giving up 460 to the visitors. Lulay threw for 345 yards and a couple of majors for BC, but he also tossed a pair of interceptions in the setback as well.
BC ran the table against the Riders last season, winning all three matchups by at least double figures and by a combined score of 95-34. The all-time series now stands at 91-80-4 in favor of Saskatchewan when considering just regular- season matchups dating back to 1954.
The teams are set to meet two more times during the 2012 regular season, late September in Saskatchewan and then November 3 in the regular-season finale back at BC Place.