(With files from Stampeders.com/BCLions.com)
CALGARY -- The Stamps and Lions meet at McMahon Stadium on Saturday night with something to prove, as both teams look to get an important two points to stay in the race for top spot in the West.
Last week’s 41-38 thrilling overtime win may have had the most big, game-deciding plays out of any game so far this CFL season, and by putting themselves on the right end of most of those plays, the Stampeders were able to come away with the win to improve to 2-2.
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Kevin Glenn played a major role in that happening, protecting the football all night and making big plays happen for his team. For the first-year Stamps quarterback, it was nice to be on the other end of a wild finish last weekend.
“That game was kind of a similar situation where we were back and forth and then, in overtime, we pulled it out,” Glenn told Stampeders.com. “This last one does rank high though. It ranks very high, just given the situation the team has been going through the last two or three weeks.”
Glenn leads the CFL with an efficiency of 71 per cent, to go along with a very solid quarterback rating of 104.7 this season. Last week, he completed passes to seven different receivers including seven each to Lewis, Marquay McDaniel and Chris Bauman.
The latter two, Glenn already knew quite well coming into the season, having thrown passes to them while he was a member of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“It’s good to have guys that you’ve played with,” he continued. “Even being on a new team with those guys, you still have a comfort level with them knowing what they’re going to do, knowing how you can place the ball and knowing their strengths. It’s great to have those guys.”
The biggest thing for any quarterback, after protecting the football, is how he bounces back after a mistake. Last week, we didn’t see any of those mistakes, as Glenn threw for 385 yards and four touchdown passes without turning the ball over once.
The Lions have an aggressive defence that has been known for its ability to make big plays, and should that happen on Saturday night, it’ll be important for Glenn to be able to keep calm and respond with poise.
He showed last weekend, in his 190th CFL game, that he doesn’t often get fazed by his mistakes. That’s something that comes with 12 years of CFL experience.
“With quarterbacks having the ball in their hands so much, sometimes that’s going to happen – you’re going to throw a pick late and lose the game and everybody’s going to be on you and you’re going to have to bounce back to, not necessarily prove yourself, but to show your worth,” said Glenn.
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“For me, I don’t get into that kind of stuff. I just try to learn from the mistake and move forward,” he added.
For the Lions, Saturday’s road game means trying to get back on track after recent losses to division rivals Edmonton and Saskatchewan. The Lions have shown consistency in all three phases of the game, but in the last two weeks couldn’t pull it all together in the fourth quarter.
Two weeks ago, it was a Tristan Jackson missed field goal return that allowed the Riders to advance to 3-0 at Mosaic Stadium, while last weekend, it was an outstanding 106-yard interception return for a touchdown by rising star Joe Burnett that gave Edmonton a two-score lead and the eventual win.
If you take away those two major game-shifting plays, odds are the defending Grey Cup champs would be sitting pretty at the top of the West Division right now with a 4-0 record. But the Lions have been here before, except it was a lot worse.
It was an 0-5 start that plagued the Lions a year ago, with many similar close losses as the two they’ve been dealt this season. The reason they’re the Grey Cup champions is, like any good team, they know how to react when things aren’t going so well.
“We’re 2-2, and we are disappointed we lost the last couple of games, but we’re competitive, that’s the nature of business,” said quarterback Travis Lulay after a team practice during the week. “Those teams are good and they earned wins against us.”
But he isn’t about to buy into the argument that they’ve been unlucky, and sit just a couple of big plays away from being 4-0. Instead, there’s a focus on trying to get better to the point where those kinds of plays don’t happen.
“We understand that we got outplayed the last two weeks and that’s why we didn’t win, so what does that mean – we have to play better than the team we’re playing on game day to find a way to win,” he added. “But I do sense that there’s a lot of confidence in these guys, and that’s what gives us a good reason to look forward and prep for this week.”
It’s certainly not as though the offence flopped against what’s considered to be the league’s top defence.
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Travis Lulay passed for 252 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Arland Bruce had 92 yards and a scoring catch as the Lions just held on to edge the Stampeders at BC Place.
Lulay was able to move the ball all night, piling up first downs and throwing for 360 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 13 more. But in the end, it was the two interceptions to Joe Burnett towards the end of each half that wound up dealing the Lions their first loss since moving into BC Place last fall.
One performance that was overshadowed by the loss was that of running back Andrew Harris, who had 9 carries for 65 yards and a touchdown, but more impressively, was the team’s leading receiver as well with 11 catches for 120 yards.
There’s also little to worry about for the Lions on the other side of the ball, after holding Steven Jyles to just 150 yards on 10 completions, forcing him out of the game with a head injury. The Lions held the Esks to just six points in the first half off Grant Shaw field goals, while in the second half, Edmonton’s biggest play didn’t come against the Lions’ defence, but instead while their offence was on the field.
But it’s not enough to just take the positives and be happy with the result, especially when it’s happened for a second straight week. The Lions are, after all, a .500 team, and that’s something that should make players motivated.
“The general consensus is no, we’re not happy with where we are right now,” offensive lineman Angus Reid told BCLions.com. “But we know we have the talent to get out of this hole and do a whole lot better than what we’ve done so far.”
Geroy Simon, who has quietly made a significant impact in the Lions’ offence since breaking the league’s all-time receiving yards record in Week 1, echoes that statement. But despite having 16 catches for 252 yards so far, Simon is still looking for his first touchdown reception heading into Week 5.
“There’s tons of work to be done,” Simon stated earlier in the week. “We’re not perfect, we haven’t won every game, we haven’t scored a touchdown on every drive, so there’s a lot of work to be done and it’s going to be a process, but we’re trying to speed up that process.”
In the end, success against Calgary will come down to whether the big plays are going against the Lions – as they have in the last two weeks – or whether the big plays will be in their favour. That’s something that will be in their control.
“It’s the game-changing plays that we’re not getting,” said Reid. “Everything else was fine. We’re moving the ball up and down, we’re having good plays here and there, but the big ones are happening against us, and those are things we have to change.”
It’ll be especially important against the Stamps, a team that’s either lived or died on big plays in all of their games this season. Especially in the last two weeks, when a late turnover against the Als cost them a win in Montreal while a late interception on Darian Durant last weekend helped the Stamps erase a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to stun the Riders in overtime.
Kickoff is at 9 P.M. ET and can be seen on TSN, or followed live via Game Tracker on CFL.ca.