The B.C. Lions take on the Seskatchewan Roughriders Saturday. Here are two players and three themes to watch out for.
• PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Drew Willy, QB
With the decision to sit starting quarterback Darian Durant and rest his battered body for the playoffs, ‘Rider Nation will get another look at his backup, Drew Willy, a University of Buffalo product who played with Lions’ receiver Ernest Jackson in college. Third-stringer J.T. O’Sullivan, who has played for 11 NFL teams but has yet to throw a pass in the CFL, will also get snaps against the Lions, said Saskatchewan head coach Corey Chamblin. “Some people see this as a pre-season deal. I see it as a post-season thing, to see if Drew is truly No. 2. Or is J.T. ready to be No. 2? We have to make sure we have a good group of guys behind Darian, in case we have to use them in the playoffs.”
Travis Lulay, QB
A Lions release suggested that the sore-shouldered quarterback will get more than a token look in what is essentially a tune-up game to gauge Lulay’s recovery from an Oct. 12 injury. “Look for the CFL’s reigning most outstanding player to take the majority of the snaps at least during the first half of Saturday’s game,” it stated. Lions coach Mike Benevides, however, said he has no preconceived notions about the number of snaps Lulay will take. He even suggested it might be a game-time decision, whether he plays or not. “It would be kind of a ‘feel’ thing,” Benevides said. “I’m not going to go in there with a piece of paper and count plays. One thing about Travis, I trust him. I think he knows what’s at stake here.”
• THREE THEMES TO THE GAME:
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
The early portion of last Friday’s 41-21 loss to the Stampeders had head coach Mike Benevides rubbing his eyes in disbelief and wondering if this was the same team he had coaxed the previous 16 games to a 12-4 record. The Lions were down 0-24 after one quarter (a team record), and 0-34 at one point. GM Wally Buono understood his pain. In Buono’s rookie season as a head coach in Calgary (1990), the Stampeders took a night off and lost 70-18 to the Argonauts, when their attention was more focused on an upcoming bye week than the task at hand. It was the second-most points allowed by a team in CFL history. “Over 18 games, you probably get two games when your team just doesn’t respond,” said Buono. As a postscript, those 1990 Stampeders still finished in first place in the West Division with an 11-6-1 record.
Nothing is really new in football; coaches are, by nature, copycats. If something seems fresh and innovative, it’s probably not the case, because somebody, somewhere, at another time, has tried it before. The decision by the Lions to curtail media access to practice for the rest of the season is an old-time strategy, just dusted off and reused. But it’s grabbed the attention of Roughriders coach Corey Chamblin, who suggested he may use a similar tactic with his operation. Tough to tell if it’s just Chamblin’s dry sense of humour at work here, but he said: “It’s an awesome idea. I thank Benny (Lions coach Mike Benevides) for that. There are some new things you want to put in for the playoffs. I don’t want those to get out. It’s a very different time. You want to make sure everything you do is the first time the other guys see it.”
THE GREEN MOVEMENT
Vancouver resident Cheryl Nagle has purchased 30 tickets for family and friends for tonight’s game, perhaps a little untypical but nonetheless representative of those not-so-closeted members of ‘Rider Nation who live in the Lower Mainland. Telling them tonight’s game is meaningless — the 8-9 Roughriders are in the playoffs, they just don’t know whether they’ll head East or West — is a fruitless exercise because of the din they’ll create cheering their lungs out for Drew Willy. The Lions are expecting their largest crowd of the season, seemingly half of them wearing plastic water melons or some variation of allegiance to green. “It’s kind of uplifting as a (‘Rider) player, knowing that any venue you go into you’re going to have more fans than any other team that would come to that venue,” said slotback Chris Getzlaf. “We have a great following. Everybody in the CFL knows we have the best fans out there.”
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