It was a draining day for fans of the orange and black, as they had to sweat out a close 23-21 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Hamilton and then watch nervously as the Edmonton Eskimos battled the Saskatchewan Roughriders to determine their playoff fate. In the end it all worked out, but boy did the teams involved make it tough.
The Lions started slowly against their feline counterparts. Hamilton QB Kevin Glenn came out firing on all cylinders and his performance led his team to a 21-14 halftime lead. Coach Wally Buono said his team regained composure at halftime.
“We weren’t good in the first half,” said head coach Wally Buono. “We were a little bit lethargic on defence. We were not as into the game as maybe we would have thought. They regrouped at half time. They made some plays. We kind of won ugly again. But we won, right?”
It was ugly at times, but regroup they did. The Lions held Hamilton pointless in the second half; while Lulay went on to have easily his best game in the CFL. Despite one interception the improving Lions QB was 30 of 41 for 424 yards and one interception on the day, and made several big plays with Emmanuel Arceneaux being his favorite target. The Lions receiver had a huge game with two touchdowns and 164 yards on 8 catches, despite battling the flu.
To the surprise of many, the Tabbies left Kevin Glenn in the game in the 2nd half but he went cold thanks in large part to several dropped passes by his receivers and backs. On his one deep drive in the third quarter and threatening in the red zone, the Lions defence stepped up with a huge interception by rookie Anthony Reddick that snuffed the drive and kept critical points off the board.
The Lions themselves could only manage three field goals in the 2nd half, despite moving the ball, but it would be all they needed. They got critical points on one drive where former Lions Otis Floyd lost it for a series and took two unnecessary roughing penalties on Lulay that put the Lions in position to win the game in the 4th quarter.
“We just didn’t make enough plays,” said Glenn. “We had opportunities to make plays and put the game out of reach, or get some momentum and we didn’t.”
Despite the win, the Lions had to keep celebrations muted and nervously watch the Eskimos and Roughriders to learn their fate. After a less than impressive first half performance in the first half to make the Lions and their fans sweat, the Riders finally got on track in the 2nd half and gave the Lions playoff life.
Ironically, the Lions will now try and spoil the party in Regina next weekend, and with the team continuing to improve and having been in playoff mode the whole 2nd half of the season, it makes for an interesting matchup, particularly with the Riders struggling of late.
Any given Sunday right?
- The Lions were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 14 years.
- Yonus Davis was kept in check by the Ticats 19 yards on two kick returns and just 13 yards on 6 punt returns.
- Stanley Franks had a tough time dealing with Maurice Mann, but led the team with 6 tackles.
- Emmanuel Arceneaux went over 1000 yards for the first time in his career.