July 10, 2014

Preview: Lions, Riders look to get back on track in Regina

CFL.ca Staff

REGINA — Two West Division titans look to overcome some early-season troubles, as the BC Lions visit Regina for a battle with the Saskatchewan Roughriders under the bright lights of Mosaic Stadium.

The Riders’ quick start to the season soured a little bit last Saturday, as the team was schooled in all phases en-route to a 48-15 road loss to the Toronto Argonauts. Aside from a sudden burst of 14 points late in the third quarter, the offence did little to resemble the one that guided the Green and White to a Grey Cup win on home turf last November.

On defence things were no better, as Ricky Ray and the Argos put up 559 yards of offence to mark the fourth-highest single-game total in the league since 2010. No matter how you chalk it all up, it was a performance uncharacteristic of a team expecting once again to contend for a championship four months from now.

Third-year head coach Corey Chamblin said his players aren’t dwelling on the loss, but that he expects a higher level of intensity as the team returns home for a Saturday night game.

“The guys didn’t sulk, they understood what it was and they bounced back,” Chamblin told Riderville.com. “That’s the first sign of a winning football team.”

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“I expect a lot more fire,” he continued. “There should be a lot more fire for those guys and that’s what we talked about – we have to have it not just coming out of the gate, but we have to have it for a full four quarters.”

For the Riders, then, the timing couldn’t be better for the first visit of the season by a hated rival. These teams have battled for West Division supremacy over the years and now with BC also looking to get back on track, the urgency is about as high as it could be for Week 3 of the season.

Ricky Foley came up just short of calling the situation a desperate one.

“I expect it to be a tight game, a hard-hitting game,” Foley said. “We’ve got two teams that need to show up and really come in and get a win.”

“Desperation’s really not the best term, but hungry – both teams need a win in the worst way and I guarantee we’ll be flying on defence.”

Foley enjoyed a hat-trick of sacks in his team’s season-opening 31-10 win over the Ticats, but last week he failed to record even a tackle. It’s safe to say Lions’ quarterback Kevin Glenn might want to stay out of Foley’s way if the go-getting pass-rusher can break through the Lions’ front-five.

“Every week we’re licking our chops trying to get after the other team’s quarterback, so it’s no different this week,” Foley started. “Maybe we’re a little bit hungrier this week because of our performance against Toronto, which was just unacceptable.”

“At the end of the day we didn’t perform as well as we wanted to,” he continued. “I don’t think any part of the team did.”

“We know we’ve got to go and show up better than that, especially in front of this crowd on a Saturday night. We’ll be flying, that’s for sure.”

Both teams could also draw some extra motivation from last year’s meeting in the Western Semi-Final, which played out on the exact same field on a frigid November afternoon. The Riders were able to escape with a dramatic 29-25 win to kick off their eventual Grey Cup run, and it was thanks to a performance quarterback Darian Durant will never forget.

The Lions’ defence just couldn’t contain number four, as Durant completed 19 of 23 passes for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Yet most impressive was the quarterback’s never say die attitude, after he continuously burned the Lions on second down with his legs to lift his team to victory.

He finished the game with 97 rushing yards on six carries, including a 35-yard run at the start of the fourth quarter that sparked a rally from nine points down.

“Obviously it catapulted me to a level that can be marked down in history,” said Durant. “It was an opportunity for me to take over a game which is something I hadn’t done in a while, and it just put me in a position where I can be mentioned among the greats here in Saskatchewan.”

What are the writers saying?

Jim Morris» Lions entering ‘must-win’ territory
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The veteran pivot said last November is still in the back of his mind heading into Saturday, however he realizes the Lions present a different kind of challenge this time around.

“It’s definitely a great feeling but it’s something we have to leave in the past,” Durant added. “This is a new team here, a new BC team and the results hopefully are the same, but you can’t go out there expecting that – you have to make things happen.”

While the defending Grey Cup Champs would like to get back to playing like the defending Grey Cup Champs, the Lions may be even hungrier heading into this crucial Week 3 matchup. After losing a tight ball-game to the Eskimos they continued to have trouble on offence in a 24-9 loss at Montreal, as the Lions amassed only 70 net yards in the first half and 153 yards through the first three quarters.

They turned the ball over four times and failed to find the end zone until the fourth quarter with just over a minute to go, when backup quarterback John Beck and Courtney Taylor hooked up for a seven-yard touchdown.

Kevin Glenn, filling in for Travis Lulay as he recovers from shoulder surgery, has been a lightning rod for criticism so far, but Head Coach Mike Benevides is deflecting the blame.

“Some guys weren’t making plays for him, the first four throws were drops that touched the hands so it’s not him – I’m aware of that and I see what’s going on,” Benevides told BCLions.com. “Kevin’s a pro, I’m gonna let those guys work through that.”

“He’s gotta play, he’s gotta find a way to get his play to where he wants it to get.”

For a team boasting a horde of dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball it’s too early to be desperate. There’s still plenty of season left and lots of time to get things turned around – however as receivers Emanuel Arceneaux and Marco Iannuzzi as well as left guard Kirby Fabien return to the lineup from injury, there’s a noticeable increase in the level of urgency. The Lions have the talent and the scheme, now it’s a matter of making the plays.

The last time they met

Last Meeting:
Sunday, November, 10 2013

Saskatchewan 29, BC 25
Darian Durant led the Riders to the win while Chris Milo kicked five field goals extending Saskatchewan’s season in the Western Semi-Final.
» Read more.

“There’s a point where there’s a throw to be made in the end zone, let’s make it; there’s an interception to be made, let’s make it; there’s a block with a huge crease on a return, let’s make it; there’s a ball on the ground outside the numbers, let’s all run to the ball and get the ball,” Benevides said.

“Every single one of us, we just need to find ways to make plays. We need to gain confidence, we need to get better right away because right now it’s not good enough at all.”

Glenn, a CFL veteran wise beyond his many pro seasons, added that it’s not about being desperate, rather the team just needs to settle in and focus.

“I wouldn’t push the panic button just yet,” Glenn said. “It’s a long season, there is a sense of urgency and I think everyone understands that around here just because of the nature of our profession.”

“But we don’t have to panic, we just have to make sure we understand what’s going on and we go out and we execute in the game.”

The Lions know a thing or two about having to bounce back from a slow start, especially after 2011 when they started 0-5 before going on to win the Grey Cup that same November on home turf. Their first win that year came in Week 6, against these very same Riders.

They hope a visit to hostile Mosaic Stadium can help them get things turned around this year.

“Honestly it’s the best place to play,” said linebacker Solomon Elimimian. “You have 42,000 strong-willed fans that hate you. I love playing there and we love playing there, and motivation is last year they ended our season in Regina.”

“There’s so much motivation you can pick from the game, but at the end of the day it’s about 2014 and getting to where we need to get to, and it all starts in Regina this weekend.”

Game Notes:

  • Lions punter Ricky Schmitt will face his former team for the first time, and so far has helped his team go from the bottom in punt and kickoff coverage last year to the top in 2014.
  • Whereas last weekend’s games averaged 705 yards and 53 points per game, the Riders and Lions were on the lower end of that, combining for just 24 points.
  • With 410 passing yards in two games, Glenn now has 39,828 career passing yards and sits 172 away from 40,000 for his career.
  • – Darian Durant sits 22nd all-time among CFL passers with 23,142 yards, and is eyeing Danny Barrett for 21st all-time at 23,419.
  • This is the first time since starting 0-5 in 2011 that the Lions have started 0-2, however that year they followed five losses with an 11-2 run and then two post-season victories.
  • The Riders’ 48-15 loss last weekend was the worst since back-to-back 37-point losses in 2011. It was the largest week-to-week turnaround since July 2007.
  • After opening the season with just one tackle in Week 1, Adam Bighill finished second in tackles in Week 2 with nine against Montreal.
  • Paul McCallum enters Saturday with a streak of eight consecutive field goals made, and has made 18 of his last 19 attempts.

Kickoff is at 9:30 P.M. ET, and can be seen live on TSN.

– With files from Riderville.com/BCLions.com