VANCOUVER — BC Lions head coach Mike Benevides didn’t give his team much time to celebrate last week’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over the Calgary Stampeders.
Benevides had the Lions in a meeting less than nine hours after their plane touched down after that 25-24 triumph to emphasize that while beating the CFL’s last undefeated club was big, it wouldn’t mean much if they produce a dud this Friday at home against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“The guys had to have a quick turnaround. They were a little bit surprised by that,” said Benevides. “The first message was that I commended them for their performance, but the message that I really wanted to relay was we have really got to prepare to meet a huge challenge from the Tiger-Cats.”
The coach had good reason to get their attention early.
The last time the Lions stepped on the field at B.C. Place Stadium they were coming off two big wins and feeling pretty good about themselves, only to get embarrassed 23-6 by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
“We’ve got to stay consistent, we’ve got to find a way to get it done at home. The message has been clear,” said Benevides. “The veterans and captains and leaders have echoed that. I think we’re well prepared based on what I’ve seen this week.”
Lions running back Andrew Harris picked up his third weekly top Canadian award of the season for his performance in Calgary, and said it’s important the Lions keep pace in a very competitive West Division.
“We’ve had a tendency to have big games and then come back a little flat,” said Harris, who leads the CFL with 722 all-purpose yards. “We have to keep this fire burning and we’ve got to stay at a high energy and high pace with that same attitude we had against Calgary in the second half.
“It’s a struggle, but if we want to be a good team in this league and consistent and climb the ladder in the West, we need to be able to do that.”
B.C. quarterback Kevin Glenn said the Lions will have to be wary of a wounded Tiger-Cats team that is coming off a heartbreaking 27-26 last-second loss against Winnipeg that dropped them to 1-4.
“Every week you’ve got to make sure you come to play,” said Glenn. “We’ve got a team that’s coming in (and) their record could easily be reversed to where they have three, four wins and only one or two losses.
“We just want to make sure we come out and we match their intensity. They’re a team that’s going to come in here ready to play given their situation.”
Glenn will get the start again versus Hamilton, but the Lions will have a familiar face in uniform for the first time since last season.
Travis Lulay is slated to suit up as either the No. 2 or No. 3 quarterback on Friday for the first time since undergoing surgery on his throwing shoulder in the November. It has been a long road back for the Lions’ incumbent, who had hoped to be ready for the start of the season.
“It’s exciting. It’s not the end of the road, but this is a huge step for me,” said Lulay. “Just on a personal level it’s exciting to know it’s to the point now where we’re talking about where on the depth chart as opposed to whether or not you’re putting a helmet on.”
While the Lions’ offence has struggled at times under Glenn’s stewardship at times, the defence is ranked No. 2 in the league and has been lights out all season, led in large part by linebackers Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill.
“That’s the standard that we’ve set,” said Elimimian, who had 10 tackles last week and leads the league with 49 through just six games. “We set high standards for ourselves and we want to continue that because we understand that for this team to get to where we want to get to, the defence is a big part of that.”
Added Bighill: “It comes down to everyone just doing their job to the best of their ability. We’ve got guys making plays. We’ve just got to be consistent, because that’s what great teams do.”
After last week’s loss to the Blue Bombers, Tiger-Cats head coach Kent Austin said he would “rather lose 47-0 than lose like that.”
Despite that frustrating outcome, Hamilton finds itself just one game out of first place in the East Division as all four teams continue to scrap and claw for victories.
If the Tiger-Cats are going to walk out of B.C. Place with a win, a good candidate to have a big game would be C.J. Gable. The explosive running back has a team-high 353 yards from scrimmage and is a player the Lions expect to key on.
“Defensively we feel like we’ve been solid. We haven’t given up a lot in terms of points and yardage,” said Bighill. “They’re going to try to find ways to get (Gable) the ball, whether it’s throwing him the ball (or) running the ball out of the backfield. We’re going to have eyes on him at all times.”