Gallagher: B.C. Lions’ defence chasing perfection
B.C.’s defensive unit dominated Montreal from the start, but are still focused on getting better
When the B.C. Lions started their season 0-2 on some spotty play from their offence, they were not overly panicked for a number of reasons, foremost among them the superb pieces they have on their defence.
When you have linebackers like Adam Bighill and Solomon Elimimian roaming around behind a push from the likes of Khreem Smith and the now-injured Khalif Mitchell, and as much experience as they enjoy in their secondary, you knew it wouldn’t be long before the defence would win a game all by itself if needed.
Saturday night at B.C. Place, it wasn’t remotely necessary by the time the offence had moved the ball as well as it did behind a solid night from Kevin Glenn, a surprise solid showing from offensive tackle Hunter Hardrick and the dual running machine of Andrew Harris and Stefan Logan. But they certainly hinted at just how dominant they might become in yet another CFL game dominated by the officials, who left more linen on the field than shows up at your neighbourhood dry cleaner.
While the Lions’ D wasn’t exactly up against the greatest QB in league history in second-year man Troy Smith, they made it look as though he either got his Heisman Trophy out of a Cracker Jack box or planted a couple of figure skating judges on the panel. They had the receivers boxed in like they were controlling where they could run and Ryan Phillips early on was in such good position he looked as though he might have been in the Als’ huddle.
They brought pressure at will, even to the point where Khreem Smith blocked a punt late in the second quarter and Eric Taylor ran it 19 yards further after recovering the ball, setting up a touchdown to put Montreal in a 20-3 hole at halftime.
So frustrated was Troy Smith that with 1:20 left in the second quarter and starting from the 35-yard line after the Leos touchdown that gave them the 17-point lead, they ran the ball from scrimmage because it was the only thing that had been remotely successful to that point.
“I think this D could be great,” Phillips said of the exceptional night.
“And it all starts with our defensive co-ordinator (Mark Washington) who is in his first year but was the DB coach and played on this team. He’s putting us in position to make plays, and tonight we made a lot of them.”
At halftime the Als adjusted. They changed it up to having their quarterback chased around his own backfield, and instead of having Phillips knock balls down, he picked one off and ran it deep into Montreal territory to set up another Harris touchdown. Mercifully the Als threw in Tanner Marsh to close out what turned out to be a dreadfully boring, one-sided pimp-slapping the league has seen to many of over the years.
“We went out there and just wanted to have fun, but have fun in a serious way,” said defensive end Alex Bazzie, who had a pair of sacks and was in the Als backfield whenever he cared to be.
“We were real hard on ourselves after the way we played in Montreal and better last week, but tonight we were all on the same page and everything worked out perfectly because we all stuck to the game plan right from the start.”
Needless to say the defences have dominated throughout much of the league so far, making for some less-than-thrilling games. One theory which makes as much sense as anything else is that expansion has caused anywhere from six to nine new offensive linemen to be worked into starting lineups, and when that many changes are coupled with changes for normal reasons, it’s bound to cause a certain amount of early disarray.
When all was said and done, the Als managed just seven first downs, 153 total yards on a scandalously low eight completions in just 26 attempts by the beleaguered quarterbacking duo which trailed all night.
“I still think we got a long way to go because that’s why you keep playing, we’re chasing perfection,” said Dante Marsh. “Nobody’s perfect, so yes, we can get better. There were some times tonight where maybe we could have manufactured some plays, but this was fine because we get paid to win, not payed to play. My 12-year-old son could get out there and play. Right now, this game is over, we’re looking ahead to Winnipeg.”
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