July 27, 2023

Morris: Evans’ experience an asset as Lions face Elks

David Friedrich/BCLions.com

The BC Lions are enjoying a luxury other CFL teams don’t have this year.

With Vernon Adams Jr. out with a knee injury, veteran quarterback Dane Evans will start for the West Division leading Lions (5-1) when they face the Edmonton Elks (0-7) Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.

While other teams have been forced to replace injured quarterbacks with rookies or backups with limited experience, Evans dressed for 63 games over four seasons with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and played in two Grey Cups.

“This is what I live for,” Evans said after practice this week at the Lions’ facility in Surrey. “I love this game. When you actually get to play, you just become a little kid in the backyard again.”

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Evans, who came to BC in a February trade, was forced into action when Adams was hurt in the first quarter of the Lions’ 19-9 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders last Saturday. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception. His longest throw was a 53-yard play to Keon Hatcher which set up a 27-yard strike to Alexander Hollins.

While he got the job done Evans hopes to be better against the Elks.

“I hope to execute a little better,” said the 29-year-old who was born in Chickasha, Okla., and attended the University of Tulsa. “After watching the film (of the Rider game) I did OK but there were certain things that I missed, some things just knocking some rust off.

“One of the hardest things to do is come in cold off the bench like that. Just getting reps in is huge and I’m excited about it.”

Jordan Maksymic, BC’s offensive coordinator, said having a veteran like Evans able to step in removes some of the uncertainty a younger player can bring.

“The big part is not having to teach . . . the nuances of the CFL,” said Maksymic. “You don’t have to worry about his ability to operate the offence, about time-count penalties, about a guy lacking control in the huddle or anything.

“He (Evans) is going to be completely fine on all of that so we can just hone in on the game plan for Edmonton and that’s the focus all week.”

There isn’t much difference in style between Evans and Adams, said Maksymic. The other players on the team also trust Evans’ ability.

“When you get a younger guy in there, the rest of the group might be pushing a little too hard or trying to do a little bit extra,” said Maksymic. “That’s when some unfortunate things potentially happen.

“Our guys can go out there with a clear mind and just do their job and operate as if (Vernon Adams Jr.) was in there.”

In 17 games with Hamilton last year Evans completed 305 of 457 passes for 3,883 yards, 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

“I’ve played a couple of games in this league, so I feel fairly confidence,” he said. “I hope the guys feel confident in me too.

“That’s really the biggest job as a quarterback, to give the team hope.”

The Elks are off the worst start in franchise history and have lost a CFL-record 20 consecutive home games dating back to Oct. 12, 2019.


Evans said it would be dangerous for the Lions to view the Elks as easy prey.

“They’re a good football team,” he said. “It’s not like they’re losing because they’re bad. It’s just they’ve had the ball bounce the wrong way.

“We’ve got to go in there, do our job and take care of business. It’s going to be a good game. It’s going to be tight.”

Rick Campbell, the Lions’ head coach and co-general manager, said he made the decision to start Evans so he would have a full week of practice to get ready for Edmonton.

Dominique Davis will be the backup while Adams may dress as the No. 3.

“We need to be fair to our quarterbacks,” said Campbell. “We wanted to let them know what was going on as soon as possible.

“We want to get Dane as many reps as he can and Dominique to be prepared to be the backup.”
Campbell doesn’t expect Adams to miss many games.

“We expect him back sooner than later,” he said. “We’re just going to be smart about it. We’re not going to put a guy that’s limited out there.”

Injuries had taken their toll on CFL quarterbacks this year. Mason Fine made his third career start for the Roughriders against the Lions after Trevor Harris was placed on the six-game injured list after suffering a tibial plateau fracture in his right knee.

The Ottawa REDBLACKS have lost veteran Jeremiah Masoli (Achilles) and second-year player Tyrie Adams (ACL) to season-ending injuries. They have been replaced by second-year player Dustin Crum who has led Ottawa to a pair of overtime wins against Winnipeg and Calgary.

In Hamilton, rookie Taylor Powell has been forced into action with veterans Bo Levi Mitchell and Matt Shiltz both on the six-game injured list.

Evans became expandable in Hamilton after the Tiger-Cats signed Mitchell. He was dealt to BC for a conditional fourth-round selection in the 2024 CFL Draft.

Once the seasons started several teams reached out to the Lions asking about a possible trade for Evans, but the organization didn’t want to part company with him.

“It’s rare that we go through a whole season without needing at least two quarterbacks,” said Campbell.

“He’s a proven winner and a hungry guy.”

Evans came to the Lions knowing Adams would be the starter. It’s a role he accepted but that didn’t make it any easier watching from the sidelines.

“The competitor in anybody, you want to be out there to help your team,” he said. “I knew I’d be fighting that competitor. I don’t think it’s anything bad, as long as you do it the right way. It’s not like I’m going to go in there and voice my opinion of not playing.

“This is my turn now to get us to the next stop. We’ll see what happens after that. I’m just trying to do what this team brought me here to do.”

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