VANCOUVER — The BC Lions continued their defensive dominance over the rest of the CFL on Sunday, while Travis Lulay and the offence also impressed as the Lions rolled over the Riders 24-3 at BC Place.
Cauchy Muamba had two of the Lions’ three interceptions on Riders’ pivot Darian Durant, who struggled to find any rhythm against a Lions defence in top form, completing 18 of 27 passes for 170 yards and no touchdowns.
The BC defence extended its impressive streak to 13 quarters without a touchdown, dating back to almost a month ago when Hugh Charles scored for the Esks in the third quarter of a game on July 20th.
While the focus was on defence in this one, Lulay had another solid performance, throwing for 257 yards and a touchdown and avoiding turnovers on 22-30 passing.
After the Riders failed on a short kick to open the football game, Lulay and the Lions offence took over with strong field position to open the game. But the Green and White ‘D’ made up for it quickly and turned momentum when Odell Willis forced a Lulay fumble on the game’s first offensive play, setting the Riders up on the BC 42 yard-line.
It was the Lions’ first fumble of 2012, but the league’s highest-rated defence would give up little room from there, forcing Sandro DeAngelis to kick a 36-yard field goal to put the Riders ahead 3-0.
Midway through the opening quarter the Riders would look to strike again, getting their drive started with a quick first down, along with another 15 yards on a facemask penalty from Korey Banks. Durant moved the chains multiple times on second down with key completions, but the drive would be snuffed inside the 30 when the Rider pivot threw an errant pass on second down that would be picked off by BC safety Muamba for the game’s second turnover.
After the teams exchanged punts and battled for field position, the Lions offence looked to be close to scoring the game’s first major as Lulay engineered a lengthy drive deep into Rider territory with a chance to get on the board.
But a yard away from a first down and just a couple yards from the goal line, Benevides opted to keep his offence on the field to attempt a third down conversion. Mike Reilly came into the game for the Lions, but the Riders defensive line rose to the occasion in a big way, forcing their second turnover of the game and getting the ball back with a 3-0 lead.
Backed up on their own goal line, the Riders offence responded to the defensive effort with a lengthy drive of their own. But after getting all the way into field goal range, DeAngelis couldn’t connect on a 48-yard field goal attempt, and Lions return-man Tim Brown would return the missed kick 63 yards to give the Lions a chance to score before the half.
The Riders appeared to have Lulay and the Lions held to a field goal, but a second roughing the passer penalty of the game for the Green and White defence extended the drive, giving the Lions a fresh set of downs at 10 yard-line.
It was then on second and goal from the five that Lulay, last year’s Most Outstanding Player, would find some running room around the left corner and take it in himself for the game’s first touchdown, with just 18 seconds remaining in the first half.
In the second half, the defences picked up right where they left off, as a quick Rider two-and-out would be followed up by a Tearrius George sack on Lulay, the game’s first sack which would lead to another two-and-out.
As both offences struggled to make a push, it was time for a big defensive play with under six minutes to go in the second quarter, as Dante Marsh jumped a Durant pass attempt to Weston Dressler, returning it deep into Rider territory and once again setting the Lions up with a short field.
But the Rider defence stood tall, forcing a quick stop and a 24-yard Paul McCallum field goal, giving the Lions a 10-3 lead late in the third quarter.
The Lions would quickly get the ball back after a quick stop on defence, and this time they’d produce the game’s first big offensive play. Lulay scrambled right to avoid pressure, and found an open Arland Bruce sneaking behind the Rider defensive backs for a wide open catch.
Bruce took advantage of the extra space and showed off some speed, sprinting to the end zone on a 55-yard touchdown catch to give the Lions a 17-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Defence continued to be the theme in the fourth quarter, and with the Riders crossing midfield and appearing to find some success on offence, their drive would come to a sudden end. Backup Drew Willy looked to move the chains on third-and-one for the Riders, but was stuffed by that hungry Lions defensive line, flipping possession back to BC.
The Lions would strike soon after, as Lulay led an efficient, time-consuming drive into the red zone that would be capped off on a 15-yard run by receiver Ernest Jackson, who caught the Rider defence off-guard and made a quick burst around the corner for his first career touchdown.
It would only go from bad to worse for the Riders. On the very first play of the next series, Durant fired his third interception of the game, as Muamba jumped the route for his second interception of the game to put the game out of reach.
With the win, the Lions improve to 5-2 this season, putting them alone in first place in both the West Division standings as well as the entire CFL. They’ve now gone 13 quarters without giving up a touchdown on defence, and as a team have given up just 20 points over the last three games.
The Riders, meanwhile, dropped their fourth in a row, and will look to get back on track against the Stampeders at Mosaic Stadium next weekend.