November 3, 2012

Defence rules as Lions shut down Riders in finale


VANCOUVER — Andrew Harris moved into first place in the CFL in yards from scrimmage this season, while five different quarterbacks took snaps in the game as the Lions won the final game of the regular season, 17-6 over the Roughriders at BC Place on Saturday night.

Harris had 57 yards and a touchdown on nine carries before sitting out in the fourth quarter, while Travis Lulay, in his first start since Oct. 12 against the Ticats, completed nine of 14 passes for 88 yards in just over a quarter of action.

The Lions would get on the board first after a slow start, getting the ball at the Saskatchewan 31-yard-line to start the drive and finishing a two-play drive with a 20-yard touchdown run from Harris.

Harris took the ball up the middle on a draw play, bursting through the seam for his 11th touchdown of the season to give the Lions a 7-0 lead.

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Shawn Gore

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On the very next series, Drew Willy looked to make something happen in just his second career start, but on a second down play and under pressure was picked off by breakout linebacker Adam Bighill.

That wrapped up a quarter in which the Green and White had just five net yards of offence.

Lulay played one more drive in the opening half, before making way to promising backup quarterback Mike Reilly. Lulay finished with 88 passing yards on 9-14 passing with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Although he only played in 18 minutes of action, Lulay’s streak of 26 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass came to an end.

With his first drive of the game starting at the three-yard-line, Reilly had his work cut out for him. But the third-year product of Central Washington was up for the challenge.

After a 13-yard run for a first down from under the shadow of his own goalpost, Reilly completed passes to Rolly Lumbala, Marco Iannuzzi, and Shawn Gore to give the Lions the ball deep in Rider territory.

In total the young pivot completed five straight passes, before the Riders defence held up near the goal line to force a 13-yard field goal from McCallum to give the Lions an 11-0 lead.

Willy and the Riders would finally get on the board for their first points in the dying seconds of the half, as Sandro DeAngelis struck on a 42-yarder to cap off a defensive first half of football.

In the second half the Roughriders turned to their usual third-string quarterback, J.T. O’Sullivan. But the defensive duel continued well into the third quarter, as the punters remained the busiest players in the game.

By the end of the third quarter there were 14 punts between McCallum and DeAngelis, to go with three turnovers between each team.

But after a quiet second half so far, Reilly led the Lions offence back into action on the opening drive of the fourth quarter.

A long run from the young pivot followed by a pass interference penalty moved the Lions within close scoring range. That led to Paul McCallum’s second field goal of the night, as the veteran kicker struck from 19 yards out to give BC a 14-3 lead.

The Riders responded quickly though, with help from a 26-yard completion from O’Sullivan to Brandon West. The drive stalled, but DeAngelis marched onto the field and booted his second kick of the night, a 47-yard field goal to make him two for two.

The king of yards from scrimmage
Andrew Harris

Andrew Harris ran for 57 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, moving him into first place in the league in yards from scrimmage this season.

» By the Numbers: Andrew Harris

But with a chance to tie the game down by just a score, the Riders couldn’t contain Lions third-string quarterback Thomas DeMarco on the following drive, who completed six straight passes in his first action of the game to set-up a 33-yard field goal from McCallum.

That gave the Lions an 11-point lead once again, putting the game out of reach with just over a minute remaining and sealing the deal for the Lions’ 13th win of the season.

Reilly finished the game with a team-best 101 yards on 9-13 passing for the Lions, while DeMarco’s late drive finished him with 56 yards on six completions.

Willy, meanwhile, showed poise for the Riders in the face of sustained pressure from the Lions defensive line, but finished with just 67 yards and an interception on 8-12 passing.

O’Sullivan, the veteran backup who’s played for 14 teams in his professional career — including as a starter for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers — completed nine of 14 passes for 83 yards in his first glimpse of extended playing time as a Rider.

Of the five quarterbacks who played, though, none threw a touchdown pass, marking the first game this season without any touchdown tosses since July 8th, when the Eskimos played the Riders.

The Lions will now rest up until Nov. 18, when they host the West Division final. The Riders, meanwhile, will play for a chance to be there with BC next Sunday, when they visit the Calgary Stampeders for the semi-final.