Lions 17, Tiger-Cats 12: B.C. goes to work and gets a lunch bucket win over Hamilton

B.C. Lions move into second place tie in the West with the home victory over the Tiger-Cats

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats saved their best for last.

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So did the B.C. Lions.

The visiting Ticats put together a 14-play, 89-yard drive that took them from the shadow of their own goalposts all the way into Lions territory, looking to take the lead with a touchdown. But B.C. stood firm, with Marcus Sayles knocking down a Dane Evans pass to Tim White in the back of the end zone.

A Tunde Adelke interception of Nate Rourke at midfield gave the visitors life again, but the Lions defence once again held firm, as B.C. bounced back from their Winnipeg loss with a blue-collar 17-12 win over the Ticats. All three of Hamilton’s final three drives ended on failed third-down plays, as a defence that bent all night stiffened up when it mattered most.


NEXT GAME

Friday, July 29

B.C. Lions vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders

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6 p.m., Mosaic StadiumTV: TSN, Radio: AM730


B.C. (4-1) moves into a second-place tie with the idle Calgary Stampeders, while Hamilton falls to 1-5 and third in the East.

Here’s what we learned …

B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) looks to pass during the first half of CFL football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
B.C. Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) looks to pass during the first half of CFL football game against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Photo by DARRYL DYCK THE CANADIAN PRESS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

BY THE NUMBERS

Two QBs entered. One would leave as the CFL passing leader.

Rourke finished the night 22-of-30 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and now has 1,605 yards passing on the season.

Hamilton’s Dane Evans was 26-of-38 for 297 yards and a touchdown, and lost for the first time against the Lions. He now leads the CFL with 1,720 yards passing.

The Lions put up 330 total yards of offence but gave up 410 to Hamilton, including a surprising 117 yards rushing to the league’s worst rushing attack.

B.C. Lions’ Lucky Whitehead (7) tries to run the ball past Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Tunde Adeleke during the first half of CFL football game in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
B.C. Lions’ Lucky Whitehead (7) tries to run the ball past Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Tunde Adeleke during the first half of CFL football game in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Photo by DARRYL DYCK THE CANADIAN PRESS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

END ZONE, FINALLY

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Lucky Whitehead, on Monday: “It feels good to finally get out there again running around and not just being a decoy.”

Lucky Whitehead, on Thursday: 111 yards and a touchdown.

An ankle injury suffered against the Argos had slowed the Lions receiver the past few games, and he’d yet to make it into the end zone this season. That changed on Thursday, with the former Dallas Cowboy pulling in a season-high in receiving yards, catching eight of nine targets. His one drop turned into Rourke’s first interception of the night.

After his 33-yard third-quarter touchdown, Whitehead and nearly the entire Lions offence paid tribute to the armed forces members in attendance on Salute to Service. The Lions dropped to their chests and mimicked crawling under barbed wire, like in basic training.

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He wasn’t the only Lion who made it in; Jevon Cottoy capped off a six-play, 76-yard drive with a 14-yard catch in the second quarter.

B.C. Lions’ James Butler (24) is tackled by Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Kameron Kelly (11) during the first half of CFL football game in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 21, 2022.
B.C. Lions’ James Butler (24) is tackled by Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ Kameron Kelly (11) during the first half of CFL football game in Vancouver, on Thursday, July 21, 2022. Photo by DARRYL DYCK THE CANADIAN PRESS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

BUT BUT BUTLER

B.C. wanted to make a point of getting James Butler III back into their play calls this week, but the first half saw him touch the ball just six times, five of them carries.

He busted a massive 37-yarder in the first quarter, a backfield juke followed by him bursting through the line like the old-school Kool-Aid commercials. A couple stiff arms to the face of Tunde Adelke gained him another 20 yards before he was pushed out of bounds.

He finished the game with 13 carries for 76 yards.

SECOND CHANCES

Coming into the game, the Lions had converted on 63 per cent of their second downs in their three wins. Their one loss to Winnipeg, in which they didn’t get inside the 30-yard line? A mere 37.5.

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On Thursday, they were 4-of-10 in the first half, with the first two drives stalling on a third-down quarterback sneak, and an interception when Whitehead tipped the ball in the air, where defensive end Julian Howsare — dropped into coverage — bobbled it twice before securing the interception.

In the second half, the Lions were 5-of-11 and finished the game at a 43 per cent conversion rate.

NOT SO SPECIALS

The Lions return game has done little to impact the field position battle this season.

Their kickoff return average coming in was 18.8 yards, last in the CFL, while the punt return game has been mediocre, at 10 yards per return — fifth overall. On the other side of the ball, the Leos allow the most punt return yards (12.5) and the third-most kickoff return yards (25.3).

On Thursday, Whitehead had just 12 yards on three returns

Sean Whyte has been the special teams bright spot this season, connecting on every kick he attempted.

He had a 36 yard field goal in the first quarter — he’s now hit on seven of seven — and was 2-for-2 on converts, making him 19-of-19 overall.

He’s still the only kicker not to have missed a field goal or convert this season.

Whyte lined up to take a 50-yarder on a 3-and-1 in the third quarter, but it was just a clever ploy as his golfing buddy David Mackie took the snap and plunged forward for the first down.

Four plays later, Rourke found Whitehead all alone in the front corner of the end zone from 33 yards to make it 17-6.

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CONDOLENCES POUR IN

Former B.C. Lion and CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell passed away on Wednesday at the age of 83.

Mitchell, who also played at UBC and is the namesake of the Doug Mitchell Sporting Centre where the Thunderbirds hockey teams play, was recently inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame as a builder, was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2004, and also inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2019.

Among other family members, he leaves behind his wife, former Alberta lieutenant-governor Lois Mitchell, and son Scott, president of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats Football Club.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Lions opponents next week, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, had their Friday game rescheduled to Sunday after five staff and 13 players — including quarterbacks Cody Fajardo and Mason fine — tested positive for COVID-19.

Jake Dolegala, the third string quarterback, was the lone pivot to practice on Thursday, and is expected to be the starter on Sunday.

“It was strange,” Dolegala told Postmedia. “I was warming up by myself and I’m used to chatting amongst the other quarterbacks. It was different.”

It will be a short turnaround for the Riders, who are scheduled to face B.C. on Friday at Mosaic Stadium, who will be looking to jump back above the Lions in the standings.

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