Lions Game Day: Get ready for a slugfest, maybe even a literal one, at B.C. Place on Saturday

Last meeting saw a post-game punch and scuffle, after a second straight razor-margin Leos’ win. What will Saturday’s game between B.C. and Calgary bring?

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Calgary Stampeders (8-5) at B.C. Lions (9-3) 

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Saturday, 7 p.m. B.C. Place. TV: TSN. Radio: AM730. Line: Lions by 1. Weather: 17 C, no wind, no rain, partially cloudy, roof open.

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FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

NICE TO HAVE A RIVAL AGAIN

It started in the pre-season. “That will not be forgotten anytime soon,” an angry Michael O’Connor said after an unnecessary (in their eyes) fourth-quarter blitz left fellow quarterback Kevin Thomson with a separated shoulder. They didn’t. Two wins, one by a single point, one by two. Tempers flared post-game last week, with Cam Judge punching Lucky Whitehead, and the parking lot showdown.

Teams that hate each other make for great football.

JUDGE’S VERDICT

Judge was handed a one-game suspension for his post-game overhand right on the 5-10, 177 pound Whitehead. The 6-2, 235 pound Canadian linebacker deemed Whitehead crossed the line (in his eyes) with his family focused trash talk. His absence leaves a big hole in their defence. He leads Calgary in tackles (66), and last game topped the Stamps with nine tackles, a strip sack and a fumble recovery. Calgary has to juggle their Canadian ratio now to make up for the loss of the Montreal-born standout.

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Nearly half of his tackles in last week’s game were on plays that held B.C. to two yards or less, including ripping the ball from Vernon Adams Jr. in the second quarter, leading to a 16-yard loss.

BALANCING ACT

In their two losses since Nathan Rourke’s injury, James Butler had 10 carries and one catch. Last week, he ran the ball 13 times for 83 yards and two touchdowns — his first scores in eight games. The Leos realized utilizing him both as a check-down safety valve and ball-carrying grunt would take the load off of Adams Jr.

Example: In the second quarter, in the shadow of the goalposts on a first down from the seven, Adams dropped back into the end zone in a collapsing pocket before spotting Butler open. He took a four-yard pass another six yards for a first down and breathing space.

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The balance showed in the first-down total; 10 gains through rushes for B.C., 13 by pass. The Stamps, by comparison, were 4/16. It also showed in the time of possession, with B.C. getting back to their league-leading ways, holding the ball for 35:28.

LESS BIG CHUNKS, MORE SMALL CHIPS

The Stamps average 7.8 yards on first-down plays (first) and a seven-yard average per play (second), but are middle-of-the-pack in second-down conversions (48.8 per cent). Against the Lions last week, they were just 6-of-18 (33 per cent) on second-down conversions and had too many drives end in punts or long field goals.

EUNUCH FOOTBALL

The Stampeders have done something no other CFL team has managed: keep the B.C. Lions sackless. In two games and 71 drop backs, no Leo has gotten home in time on the Stamps’ QBs. B.C. (35) is only three behind Saskatchewan (38) for the league lead in sacks, but Calgary has only allowed 12 all year, a CFL best.

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KEY MATCHUP

Stamps RB Ka’Deem Carey vs. Lions LB Jordan Williams 

Ka’Deem Carey is, undeniably, a beast. He has more yards (773), more touchdowns (seven), a higher average per carry (6.7), more yards per game (77.3), more 100-yard games (three) and more 20-plus-yard runs (nine) than any other CFL running back.

But B.C. held him to just 61 yards rushing, matching his second-lowest (non-injury-affected) output of the season last game out. The Lions’ run defence has been exposed at times this season, but has been stout in the two games against Calgary.

Linebacker Jordan Williams, who has had more valleys than peaks in his sophomore season, is finding the form that made him the CFL’s Outstanding Rookie in 2021. He has more tackles in his last four games than he did in his first eight this season.

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NOTEWORTHIES

The Lions were 1-5 in one-score games last season. This year, they’re 4-0, including two victories over the Stamps by a combined three points. If Rene Parades’ 48-yarder doesn’t miss with 23 seconds left, that record would have its first blemish … The Stamps are 5-5 in one-score games this year … Bryan Burnham has two 100-yard games this season — both coming against Calgary. His 100-yard performance last week was the first time the Lions had a triple-digit receiver since Rourke’s injury … Calgary has seen better results away from McMahon than at home this year, going 3-3 in front of home fans, and 5-2 on the road … Rourke’s injury indirectly cost defensive lineman Tim Bonner his spot on the team. With the Lions starting American Adams Jr. at quarterback, it changed the Canadian starter ratio, and B.C. waived the likable and incomprehensible (to most Canadians) lineman earlier this week.

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OUR TAKE

It was either a sucker-punch or a loudmouth getting what he was due. It was a parking lot riot, or mere heated words being exchanged in a parking lot, with police watching. Kevin Thomson’s blitz injury: unnecessary late-game statistic padding or legit defensive call in a lopsided game? Two teams, two different perspectives.

But there is one clear winner: the fans. And maybe anyone betting on a Whitehead 100-plus-yards prop bet.

LIONS 28, STAMPEDERS 27

STATS PACK

CALGARY.               B.C.

31.4 (2nd) Points for 31.7 (1st)

25.5 (5th) Points allowed 22.3 (2nd)

259.8 (7th) Yards passing 336.5 (1st)

109.7 (1st) Yards rushing 93.9 (5th)

361.3 (2nd) Net yards offence 416 (1st)

361.9 (9th) Net yards allowed 304.1 (1st)

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reference: theprovince.com

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