Tiger-Cat QB Henry Burris leaves Lions reeling with four-touchdown, 37-29 win
Fourth-quarter comeback too little, too late
Hamilton Tiger-Cats defensive back Stephen Courtney flies over teammate defensive back Evan McCollough and B.C. Lions slotback Shawn Gore during first half CFL action in Guelph, Ont., on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Photograph by: Dave Chidley, THE CANADIAN PRESS
GUELPH, Ont. — The Tiger-Cats were playing the part of the Hamilton Flying Wildcats Saturday, adorned in red and white retro uniforms of the 1943 Grey Cup champions whose wartime team comprised players from the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Who were the B.C. Lions masquerading as? For three quarters, they might have been the Guelph Gryphons, the university team whose football stadium is the Ticats/Wildcats’ home for the 2013 Canadian Football League season.
Simply put, the Lions were schooled early and crammed too late to get a passing grade in a 37-29 loss to the Tiger-Cats/Wildcats before 13,101 fans at Alumni Stadium.
Henry Burris threw for four touchdown passes as the Ticats built a 34-8 lead, then Hamilton survived a furious comeback in the fourth quarter by the Lions, who scored three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes, two of them on passes by quarterback Travis Lulay.
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Lulay’s right thumb on his throwing hand was gashed as he spoke to reporters in the locker-room later, the only visible scar from a concerted physical assault on the Lions’ quarterback by the Tiger-Cats.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” said linebacker Jamall Johnson, who had one of Hamilton’s three official takedowns of Lulay. “But he was up to the challenge. We got some hits on him early, and he just bounced right back up, to show he’s an elite quarterback. We respect him as a player. We did our best to get after him and execute our game plan. Eliminating the run game was a big part of it, too.”
Indeed, they did.
Lions tailback Andrew Harris had just five carries for 10 yards (he also had three catches for 33 yards) in offensive schemes that asked him to block and protect Lulay. The Lions were able to pick up just 32 net yards rushing in total.
Lulay completed 26 of 43 passes for 334 yards, the second time he has surpassed the 300-yard passing mark this season. Both efforts have come against the Ticats.
With the Lions down 34-8 after three quarters, he led the team back with touchdown throws of five yards to Nick Moore and a 15-yarder to Courtney Taylor after Shawn Gore’s one-yard run, almost 46 minutes into the game, accounted for the Lions’ first touchdown.
Twice, in the first half, the Lions advanced within five yards of the Tiger-Cat end zone but were stopped both times and forced to settle for a pair of Paul McCallum field goals.
Every one of Lulay’s successes was exacted at a physical cost. Brandon Isaac twice took roughing the passer penalties against him. And defensive ends Eric Norwood and Sam Scott had repeated clean shots at Lulay after he released the football.
At one point, with Lulay’s head slumped in pain and frustration on the bench, cornerback Dante Marsh leaned over and whispered encouragement into his ear.
“I told him, ‘Keep playing, we believe in you,’” Marsh explained. “We go where he goes. We got to. The pounding he took was bad. We’ve got to play better, all around. We can’t keep being so sporadic, so inconsistent. We need to make plays right out of the gate and kick the other team when they’re down.”
After taking a 17-8 lead at the half, the Tiger-Cats sent the Lions reeling with 17 unanswered points in the third quarter, on Burris’ third and fourth touchdown throws of the game and a 39-yard field goal from Luca Congi.
After a touchdown throw to Moore, Lulay’s end-zone strike to Taylor brought the Lions within eight points, 37-29, with 1:57 left. But the fourth-quarter comeback attempt fell short, the Lions lateralling the football like a hot potato on the final play of the game before Manny Arceneaux was swamped by tacklers to end it.
The loss dropped the Lions to 6-4, with their hopes for first place in the CFL’s ultracompetitive West Division fading fast like the summer. B.C. plays the 8-1 Saskatchewan Roughriders and 8-2 Calgary Stampeders five times in their final eight games.
There may not be much at stake for the Lions over the final two months of the season, except to determine if the West semifinal will be played in Vancouver or on the road. Lulay’s not thinking that way, however.
“You can’t look ahead farther than one week at a time,” he said. “You can’t think like, ‘If we win X, X and X, that gives us a chance to do this.’ We want to be 1-0 against Montreal next week (next Sunday at BC Place). Still, we have to be critical after we come out of a loss like that. We need to find ways to be better. To me, that’s how the big picture takes care of itself.”
For the 5-5 Tiger-Cats, the victory was their first over a team with a winning record this season. Hamilton’s earlier wins came against Edmonton and Winnipeg, two teams with a combined record of 2-17.
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