Head coach Wally Buono stuck with Travis Lulay and it paid off with three wins down the stretch and an improbable playoff berth. Lulay stepped out of Casey Printers' shadow and now has the huddle believing in him. To be honest, his numbers aren't great (he has more interceptions than touchdowns) but he seems to get the job done. Running Game:
Jamal Robertson has been a key to the Lions' resurgence but not so much for his running but his ability to catch balls out of the backfield and turn them into big gains. In a pinch, Yonus Davis can step up but he has had problems taking care of the ball with seven fumbles. Receiving Game:
What else is new? Geroy Simon led the team in receiving again with 78 catches for 1,190 yards and six touchdowns. The surprise came in the fact that Emmanual Arceneaux joined the 1,000-yard club and surpassed Paris Jackson as the second leading receiver on the team. After two straight 1,000-yard campaigns, Jackson took a step backwards and finished with 758 yards. Offensive Line:
Much was made of the rebuilt offensive line with Jovan Olafioye and Jon Hameister-Ries starting on the left side alongside incumbents Angus Reid and Sherko Haji-Rasouli and many feel this was a big reason for the Lions' horrendous start. And it appears they are still a work in progress because the Lions gave up 60 quarterback sacks, 12 more than any other team in the league. Jesse Newman will start at guard on Sunday in place of Hameister-Ries. Special Teams:
Yonus Davis finished among the league leaders in punt and kick-off return yard averages, which helped the struggling Lions' offence start with good field position on several occasions. Former Rider Paul McCallum had an outstanding season, finishing second in scoring with 166 points and connecting on over 88% of his field goals. However, when your team leads the league in field goals, it's usually a sign of weakness in the red zone. Roughriders' Defence:
Much like B.C., the Riders can stop the pass but not the run. Saskatchewan finished just ahead of the last-ranked Lions in rushing defence but boast the best pass defence among teams still playing. Without John Chick and Stevie Baggs, the Riders haven't put as much pressure on the quarterback this year and, in turn, did not come up with as many interceptions (15). However, defensive back James Patrick led the league in picks with 9. On the injury front, veteran linebacker Barrin Simpson, who led the league in tackles with 104, is out with a sprained ankle.
Jock Climie says the Lions win if...
Travis Lulay can continue his recent streak of pushing the ball deep to Emmanuel Arceneaux and Geroy Simon until the defence gets so soft that Jamal Robertson opens up underneath. Robertson has had 30 catches in the last four games alone. This is virtually unheard of receiving production for a running back. When you look at Robertson's rushing totals over the same period (35 carries), you see that the Lions no longer feel they need to run the ball to win. If and when the Riders figure out that stopping the dump-down to Robertson is critical to hampering Lulay's effectiveness, the Lions pivot must be able to work the second and third levels if BC is to win.
Defensively, it has to be about getting turnovers. The Riders are prone to fumbles (16 on the year) and interceptions (23). Get Saskatchewan to cough it up and it will suck the energy out of the stadium and greatly enhance BC's chances of winning.
Schultz Against The World
Easy to make an argument for both teams.
With B.C., they are pretty much playing their best football right now. Travis Lulay continues to improve and last week they won in Winnipeg with no productive yardage from Yonus Davis.
For Saskatchewan, they are a better team at home, and this being a playoff game, the energy from Mosaic Stadium does make a difference.
My emotion says B.C., but I have to stick with logic in this one and say...
LIONS 24 ROUGHRIDERS 27... Take the challenge!