Harris' touchdown leads Lions over Blue Bombers

The Canadian Press

10/19/2009 12:55:17 AM

WINNIPEG - For a guy making his season debut in Week 16, B.C. Lions running back A.J. Harris looks anything but rusty.

Harris scored the game-winning touchdown in the Lions' 24-21 come-from-behind win Sunday over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

The key touchdown came on a 30-yard pass from quarterback Travis Lulay at 2:03 of the fourth quarter following a Bomber turnover in front of 24,048 fans at Canad Inns Stadium.

Harris, replacing injured starter Martel Mallet, was signed by the Lions on Aug. 3 after playing 12 games with the Edmonton Eskimos last season. They released him in April.

"I was absolutely blessed to get the chance to play again," said Harris, 25.

"On that play, I just got lucky enough to get right in (Lulay's) sights, he threw it to me and I had a straight shot."

Harris rushed 21 times for 89 yards and led his team in receiving with five catches for 92 yards.

Lulay replaced starter Buck Pierce with 8:24 left in the first quarter after Pierce injured his right shoulder while fumbling the ball.

Lions head coach and GM Wally Buono said he wasn't sure of the extent of Pierce's injury. No. 2 QB Jarius Jackson is out with a shoulder injury but may be ready to return to action soon. Casey Printers was the third-stringer heading into the game.

The game featured nine turnovers, five by B.C. But the Lions scored 17 points off Winnipeg mistakes, while the Bombers only managed seven points off B.C.'s turnovers.

The victory was B.C.'s third in a row and improved their record to 8-7. They're one point behind Calgary and Saskatchewan, who are tied for first in the CFL West Division with 8-6-1 records.

Buono said Harris' output didn't surprise him because he played well in Edmonton, where as a rookie he had 99 carries for 557 yards and six TDs in his dozen games. He also pulled in 37 catches for 422 yards.

"Did he fatigue a little bit at the end? He probably did," Buono said. "But for a guy (playing) his first game since last year, that was a tremendous, tremendous effort."

The loss halted Winnipeg's three-game winning streak and took their record to 6-9. They remain tied with Hamilton for second in the East.

Winnipeg led 14-0 after the first quarter. The game was tied 17-17 at halftime and the Bombers took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter.

Bombers head coach Mike Kelly said he's not going to kick himself over the missed opportunities.

"My dad told me never kick yourself in the ass because there's plenty of people lined up to do it," Kelly said.

"If I haven't learned that lesson this year, I don't know if I've learned anything, so we'll just keep moving along."

And the reality is, the loss doesn't knock them out of the playoff hunt, he said.

"We let an opportunity get away, but it doesn't kill us," Kelly said.

"I want these guys to swish around the bitterness and I want the coaching staff to swish it around and then maybe we'll all throw up and come back and be better next week.""

The Bombers have back-to-back games against Montreal, beginning at home Saturday. They end the season hosting Hamilton.

The Lions travel to Saskatchewan Saturday then host Calgary and Edmonton to close the regular season.

B.C.'s other points came from cornerback Dante Marsh, who scored a TD off an 18-yard interception return.

Lions Kicker Paul McCallum connected on his three field-goal tries from 13, 37 and 47 yards. He added a punt single.

Winnipeg got its lone TD from a 10-yard Brock Ralph catch.

Bombers kicker Alexis Serna was good on four of six field-goal attempts from 39, 30, 12 and 17 yards. He notched singles off missed tries from 38 and 47 yards.

Lulay completed 13 of 24 pass attempts for 177 yards, one TD and two interceptions. He also had the game's best rushing total with seven carries for 92 yards, including a 30-yard run.

"We're not necessarily designing stuff for me to run, but I'm just trying to keep a play alive and make a play downfield," Lulay said.

Bomber QB Michael Bishop was 13-of-32 for 226 yards with one TD and three interceptions.

"We let one get away, but we know we can play better," Bishop said. "We still control our own destiny."

Pierce was also picked off and the Lions had two fumbles. Winnipeg had one.

Buono said the victory was a team win.

"We ran the ball, we controlled that," Buono said. "Defence, they bent a little bit but didn't give up the big play. Special teams, they sucked it up.

"When you look at it, Travis stepped in, but I think everybody had confidence that Travis could manage a game."

As for his team committing five turnovers, Buono basically shrugged it off.

"They don't ask you for how many, they just ask you if you won, right?" he said.

Notes: Bomber CB Jovon Johnson intercepted passes by Pierce and Lulay . . . Lions DT Stephen Williams was ejected after punching Bomber centre Obby Khan under his ribs in the second quarter . . . Winnipeg LB Joe Lobendahn left in the third quarter after re-aggravating a hamstring injury.