What you need to know about Friday’s big win.
FEAR THE BEARD
Rick Campbell wasn’t sure if he liked the beard. Whenever the B.C. Lions coach was asked about the uncharacteristic silver growth on his face this week, he made sure to point out it was his wife’s idea, and she liked it.
“I just want to point out this beard is undefeated,” he proclaimed to hoots and hollers from his player in the locker-room Friday night, as the team basked in its 37-29 win over the Edmonton Elks at Commonwealth Stadium.
It might not be a playoff beard, but it’s a beard that got the Lions into the playoffs. The lunch-bucket win over Edmonton clinched a playoff spot for B.C., moving them to 10-4 on the season, tied with the West Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The Bombers were on a bye week, and play twice before heading into their final bye, followed by their final two games of the regular season. The Lions play four straight before finishing with a Week 21 bye.
But all eyes will be on the Oct. 6 meeting between the two at B.C. Place, which could determine which team gets the home field advantage that comes with the West crown.
“(Making the) playoffs is amazing,” said quarterback Vernon Adams Jr.
ALL ABOUT THE W
It’s not about how you win. It’s just that you win.
Friday’s game was no tour de force. For a team that states it’s all about playing the best possible football, there were a lot of holes in their performance.
Adams is always the first to put his hand up with the mea culpa, blaming himself for the first-quarter pick six — a 56-yard return by Edmonton’s Kai Gray — and a drive-killing interception by Darius Bratton in the second quarter, where Adams threw behind intended receiver Justin McInnis. He also misread two shots at the end zone at the end of the first half, not seeing two receivers come open, and forcing B.C. to settle for a field goal.
“I gotta be better for my team moving forward. We started off hot and was just kind of up and down … more down,” he said.
But Adams made plays when he needed to. He knifed a first-down pass to Alex Hollins through smothering coverage in the fourth quarter when Edmonton had all the momentum. At the end of the game, he took off on an 18-yard scramble that moved the sticks and flipped field position, setting the Lions up for a game-clinching field goal on their next drive.
He finished with 265 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-26 passing.
“There were some tough moments,” said Campbell. “(Edmonton) were finding their way back into the game and that third quarter, we were getting their best shot.”
CITY OF CHAMPIONS
They should just give Taquan Mizzell the key to the city in Edmonton, since he seems to have unlocked their football team.
The B.C. Lions running back has two 100-yard games this year — and both have come at Commonwealth Stadium. He had 16 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns Friday.
“Smoke is that dude!” a teammate yelled as ‘Smoke’ was doing his post-game media.
In the second half, after the Lions had run into a brick wall with two straight two-and-outs, putting up a combined -14 yards, Mizzell righted the ship with a 48-yard dash through the left side of the line of scrimmage. It helped make up for a first-half fumble that the Elks turned into a Dillon Mitchell touchdown — the first offensive points Edmonton had scored on B.C. this season.
The Lions are currently averaging the fewest yards and attempts, though Friday’s 175-yard total night will boost their 78.2 yards per game average all the way up to 85 ypg.
Slow starts had led to losses against Hamilton and Saskatchewan early on, and nearly cost them against Ottawa before an insane comeback in the final 2:30 of last week’s game saved them.
There was no slow start Friday. The Lions had three first-quarter touchdowns, including a seven-play, 69-yard opening drive capped off by a Justin McInnis touchdown catch. Adams hit on 12 of his first 15 attempts, though two of them were interceptions.
But he bounced back after the first pick-six to find Jevon Cottoy on the sidelines, and the massive 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver out-ran the defence, flashing a peace sign as he loped into the end zone.
“We have guys that are hard on themselves — coaches and players,” said Campbell. “I like having that guy (Adams) on our team because he always bounces back and finds ways to make plays.”
Tre Ford had become a revelation for the Elks, coming in with a lofty average of 10 yards per rush, and leading Edmonton to back-to-back home wins.
But the Lions were ready for Teflon Tre. They rushed hard, and fast, opting for wide pressure to hem him in, force him to take his eyes off downfield targets and scramble. And when he did run, they were there in numbers to bring him down — eventually. He was sacked seven times — twice by league leader Mathieu Betts.
Ford had 43 yards rushing, but 30 of those came on two plays on the Elks’ final drive, down two scores. He completed 20-of-27 passes 27 for 182 yards
“They did a good job game-planning, they were prepared for me,” Ford told Postmedia after the game.
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