Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - The first of back-to-back meetings between the British Columbia Lions and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats finds the clubs clashing at BC Place on Friday night.
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After starting out the 2013 campaign with just one win in five chances, the Tiger-Cats appear to have turned the corner thanks to three straight victories, the latest coming against Winnipeg last weekend at home, 37-14. The triumph was the second in as many weeks for the 'Cats versus Winnipeg, and the third overall for the squad in the series just this season.
Hamilton, now second in the East Division standings, trailing only Toronto, with an even 4-4 mark, jumped out to a 24-0 advantage midway through the second quarter and never looked back While the Tiger-Cats were generating a healthy 464 yards of offense, the defense was clamping down on the Blue Bombers and limiting the visitors to a mere 235 yards on 70 snaps.
Part of the scoring burst in the first half for the Ticats involved Onrea Jones and quarterback Dan LeFevour hooking up for a trick play that resulted in a 29-yard TD reception. Starter Henry Burris converted 23-of-35 passes for 318 yards and a major as well, although he was intercepted twice and sacked two times along the way.
C.J. Gable caught a touchdown pass and also ran the ball into the end zone from four yards out for Hamilton, while another unexpected major came courtesy of Dee Webb who returned an interception 34 yards for a score in the second frame.
Kicker Luca Congi knocked through three of his four field goal chances and also reached 1,000 points for his career during the onslaught.
As for the Lions, they figured to have the inside track on another win when they matched up against a bruised and battered Montreal club on the road on Aug. 22, but they hadn't planned on facing a backup quarterback who had nothing to lose.
Without Anthony Calvillo at quarterback due to injury, the Alouettes appeared to be easy targets for a BC squad that was coming off back-to-back wins against Winnipeg and Calgary, but the Lions could not have imagined losing to a complete unknown in a 39-38 final that had Hollywood ending written all over it.
British Columbia scored 12 unanswered points in the first quarter and was up 15-0 early in the second before Montreal's Tanner Marsh, the backup to Josh Neiswander, began to make his move. Obviously, without much scouting available on Marsh, the Lions were at a disadvantage, yet still managed to intercept the youngster four times.
However, Marsh was still allowed to throw for a whopping 329 yards on just 14 completions, shaking off three sacks as he tossed one TD and also heaved a late pass down deep into BC territory which set up the game-winning field goal at the gun.
Travis Lulay, who figured to be the centerpiece of the meeting, tried to keep pace as he converted 15-of-28 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also sacked five times by an aggressive Montreal defense. Kicker Paul McCallum, who helped keep one drive alive with a fake punt, made good on all five of his field goal attempts, while Tim Brown returned a missed field goal 123 yards for a score to help buoy the Lions.
Defensively, two of the five total interceptions registered by BC went to Korey Banks, his first two of the season, giving him 37 for his career. Heading into the contest, the Lions had just four interceptions the entire campaign.
Now third in the West Division standings, trailing both Saskatchewan and Calgary, the Lions are now tied for the most interceptions in the league and have the most return yards on those picks with 121.
Unfortunately, Lulay has given many of those turnovers right back to the opposition with his eight thrown interceptions, tied for the most in the league with Edmonton's Mike Reilly. Lulay is in the middle of the pack when it comes to efficiency rating (92.8), and he is 103 yards shy of 2,000 passing on the campaign.
Further up the list for passing yards is Burris who is first among all CFL quarterbacks with his 2,454 yards on 65.2 percent completions. The signal- caller is tied for fourth in passing scores with 12, three each going to Greg Ellingson and Gable. Almost out of nowhere, Gable is second in the league in total touchdowns with seven.
As well as Burris has played this season, this meeting will be a true test of his abilities as BC owns the toughest pass defense in the league after nine games, allowing just 1,710 total yards through the air. The squad has permitted opponents to complete a league-low 61.3 percent of pass attempts as well.
In terms of the all-time series between the clubs, BC owns a 48-32-3 edge in games played during the regular season, stretching back to 1961. The Lions have taken two straight and three of the last five, including a 37-17 rout in the most recent contest played last October.
The Lions won both meetings between the teams last season, posting a 39-36 triumph in Week 2 at home, and then making an even more pronounced statement towards the end of the campaign with a 37-17 victory on the road.