ULLRICH: One big QB move all it took to jumpstart Lions

Change one player and look what happens to the B.C. Lions. Yep, that move to insert Winston Rose for Marcell Young worked wonders in their 20-17 comeback win over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers all right. OK, there was one other move that might have helped contribute to this edition of random post-game thoughts.

Seeing orange: They alternate using Whitecaps blue with the translucent lighting at B.C. Place Stadium depending on the tenant but they might want to consider keeping the tint Lions orange for a few nights in honour of the red-headed quarterback who officially returned home Saturday.

Travis Lulay has always been more than a cerebral signal-caller for the Lions even though his injury chart has made them seek out younger talent to groom over the years.

But if his first game in nearly a year can result in 326 passing yards and operate an offence designed by Jarious Jackson that was being questioned when Jon Jennings was behind centre, try thinking what might happen when he shakes off all of the rust apparent during a few stages of their 20-point rally Saturday.

Don’t think the stadium by False Creek isn’t Lulay’s house? Check out his career record as a B.C. starter at home: 26-9.

“That’s (a win) you remember for years,” Lulay understated on TSN 1040 afterwards, a nod towards the rehab that comes after ACL surgery and the natural doubts cast about his future.

“There were a couple of throws I was off that had maybe some juice. You know you have to take some hits but I didn’t think about it. man, I tell you what, it’s better to correct mistakes after a win.”

It’s hard to fathom where the organization would be if the Lions hadn’t finally shown some defensive resolve in the second half. But with Lulay escaping the night unharmed, it could be fair to start wondering what the Lions might do to alter their quarterbacking stable now that he showed Jackson’s offence indeed can produce results.

As 3Down Nation reported last week  there’s no need to make a hasty move, as the Lions are easily able to maintain both quarterbacks within the salary cap .

General manager Ed Hervey also said on 1040 last week he wasn’t giving up on Jennings. However TSN sources have already indicated the Lions might be open to moving on from the 25-year-old for the right offer.

It’s hard, mind you, to think what teams like Montreal and Saskatchewan, to name two clubs that don’t seem to have settled on quarterbacking, would have that would interest the Lions (OK, they might be able to find room for Duron Carter or Naaman Roosevelt).

Remember too, the Lions dealt their first-round pick in the 2019 Canadian college draft to move up this year. But that’s for another day. On Saturday, Lulay gave them their dignity back.

Words become deeds: This one won’t likely gain much traction until it can be verified, but TSN’s Farhan Lalji reported a little exchange between Hervey and Odell Willis can’t go unnoticed as to what it might have done to turn a 17-point halftime deficit into a fairly thrilling comeback win.

Word is when Hervey came down to the Lions sideline in the fourth quarter, he suggested to the Lions defensive end that he wasn’t brought in from Edmonton just to take up space. At that point, the Lions defensive line was closing in on its third straight game without a sack.

But that was roughly around the time when Willis just so happened to crank up his game. He matched Solomon Elimimian’s turnover on downs in the third quarter with a sack of his own on Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler. Willis then helped create a two-and-out on Winnipeg’s next possession with some serious heat and was a factor on the Bombers final offensive series, in which Davon Coleman was unlucky not to be credited with a strip sack a play before Anthony Orange intercepted Matt Nichols that enabled the Lions to complete their comeback.

If the Lions’ season starts to gain some traction, they might remember the fourth quarter as the time it began to turn around.

They’re human too: Then again it will go in an opposite direction for the Lions if they can’t find some way to stop the run, as the defence watched an opponent rush for 100 yards for the third straight game.

And it is guaranteed to never get better if they manage the clock as poorly as they did to end the first half of a game in which two members of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame had unfathomable miscues.

Bombers coach Mike O’Shea won’t be unhappy to see the back of B.C. Place. The coach who tried a 62-yard field goal which ended the 2016 division semifinal unhappily also went for the jugular Saturday. Leading 17-10, O’Shea passed on the percentage chip shot field goal for Justin Medlock and instead watched Streveler get sacked by Willis.

Wally Buono created an even greater uphill climb for his team at the end of the first half when he failed to take a timeout with 17 seconds left, and the Lions left without points, marking the first time in nearly eight seasons they were blanked in the opening two quarters at home.

“I’m going to take the blame. I was going to time out. I didn’t. I thought we had time to get the play. Next time I’ll call a timeout,” said Buono, who if nothing else proved the winningest coach in three-down history has shortcomings.

IN SHORT: Despite the win, the Bombers left with the season-series tiebreaker on the basis of a better points for/against ratio in the two games with the Lions… Buono said Jeremiah Johnson, who finished the game on crutches, had turned an ankle and as such the Lions will more than likely turn to Brandon Rutley when they play on the road against the Ottawa Redblacks Friday. Chris Rainey had 246 all-purpose yards and was a mainstay in the backfield offensively for the Lions when Johnson went down but was hobbling at the end of the game, as was OL Joel Figueroa.

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.
Lowell Ullrich
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Lowell Ullrich
About Lowell Ullrich (154 Articles)
Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.

25 Comments on ULLRICH: One big QB move all it took to jumpstart Lions

  1. AYC2112 // July 15, 2018 at 5:11 am //

    Lulay’s always been a solid QB. Seems like a no brainer in hindsight.

  2. Speaking of QB’s, Nickols looked like Jennings.

  3. Evil Empire // July 15, 2018 at 5:45 am //

    My only concern was if he had not been at 100%. I’m completely neutral about the guy. And I certainly didn’t want to see him reinjured, due to returning too early.

    Zero points in the 1st half was completely justifiable for me. His last game was when ??? October or some such crap. I expected rust, and saw it. But, he looked better as the game wore on.

    They played inside a dome. 20-17 is a really low score in perfect conditions. And Wpg shat the bed in epic fashion. The game should not have been close.

    Let’s see if Lulay can put up two wins in a row. BC is in Ott next week. That’s a very winnable game.

  4. The saying is “defense wins championships”; however the saying right now in the west is “ better QB play earns you the wins.”
    My West Ranks – week 5 Qb and Team
    1. Bo Levi – continues to consistent and the Stamps are first.
    2. Mike Riley – does eveything for the Esks
    3. Zach, Bridge, Watford, whoever – inconsistent but ranked third. I blame the coach for being fickle and not letting Bridge or Watford feel out the game.
    4. Lulay – saves the lions again.
    5. Nicolas – last year was a breakout year but since he’s been back from injury is playing like pennies.

    , I’m a rider fan and objective .

  5. Jennings = flash in the pan; Lulay = consummate professional who gets the job done regardless of hard luck injuries or bad management. Nuff said

  6. Gainer1 // July 15, 2018 at 9:43 am //

    And if BC gets blown out next game with Lulay in control….what tune will you be singing then.

  7. Evil Empire // July 15, 2018 at 10:17 am //

    LOL. I actually just noticed the headline.

    Was that really all it took ? You said it, so you must believe it. All the Lions needed was a QB change ?That’s why they won ?

    Jeebus:

    Only a person that didn’t actually watch the game. But, had only read the stats would ever venture to make such a ridiculous statement.

    You realize BC scored a grand total of 20 points, right ? And you must have noticed that they scored 19 on the road, against this very same Wpg team just last week ? I’m not seeing a spike in the offensive output from the last game to this one. How about the defence ? If Wpg didn’t completely soil their sheets. They would have had at least 14 more points. That’s only taking into account the two 3rd down debacles Wpg served up on BC’s front porch.

    So exactly which part of the BC team actually played any better than last week ?

    I was a neutral observer, watching two West teams playing. And if truth be told. From an Eskimo POV, BC winning was more desirous. I honestly didn’t care, though. So, I was able to watch this game with no emotion to cloud my perception.

    Don’t get me wrong. The Lions won fair, and square. There was zero controversy. There is no disputing who earned the win.

    But come on buddy…

    Wpg had one of the biggest meltdowns you’re likely to see. Twice inside BC’s 5 yard line, and zero points to show for it. How many turnovers did Wpg have in total ? How many preventable penalties at the worst possible time did Wpg rack up ?

    That was as brutal a performance by the Wpg coaches, and players in the 2nd half, as you’re ever likely to see. LaPo deserved a SlaPo for calling the horse crap he did. And BC was just as brutal in the first half. I did not see how Lulay jump started jack. I thought we might see a fired up BC team come out hard at the start. But, I wasn’t sure they had actually left the locker room, at all. 17 – ZERO does not equate to anything positive. That Lulay factor you speak of did not exist. Not anywhere, or at any time.

    The orange glasses are one thing. That titular statement, though. I couldn’t disagree more. I think I figured it out. Tell me if I’m right…

    Both times Wpg was on the doorstep. You were outside blowing a spliff of that good West Coast weed, right ? And, you were taking a piss, and grabbing a few more beers, and didn’t see the horrible freebies Nichols was lobbing up, yeah ?

    There was almost nothing from BC that changed from the last game to this one. BC scored one more point. And should have had many more scored against them. Wpg blew it, in craptacular fashion. And that’s all she wrote.

    Changing the QB was “ all it took “.

    Uhhhh, if you say so.

    • Troll free thread? Ok, I’ll post.

      Good points, but you have to admit that Lulay was a key factor as well. It’s hard to generalize about this game because there were terrible calls by both O’Shea and Buono, poor play by Nichols, a great game by Harris, and huge clutch plays by both the BC defence and Lulay. I think Lulay was a key factor – and how do you measure how much his play inspired the rest of the team? – but some huge plays by the BC defence and weak games from O`Shea and Nichols were probably the biggest quantifiable factors.

    • richinbanff (Rich Wilson) // July 15, 2018 at 11:08 am //

      I agree totally. Sometimes, the decision is the result of a team making the plays to win. Last night was like Super Bowl 51: the one team makes boneheaded playcalls and allows the other team to squeak it out. BC didn’t really win, Wpg lost.

    • Evil, the Bombers and Nichols played the 2nd half like the Lions have played all of their games this season with Jennings at QB. The roles were reversed in the second half of the game. Lets face it, the Bombers lost the game for TWO reasons: 1) taking dumb penalties. I counted at least three roughing the passer penalties. One of those penalties took the Lions out of 2nd and long and gave them a first down. Lulay led the offense to a TD on that drive. One other roughing the passer penalty also kept the final TD drive alive; just dumb penalties by the Bombers defense at the most inopportune times of the game. 2) Twice within the Lions 5 yard line with a lead and gambling on third down and getting zero points. Two additional field goals and it doesn’t matter what the Lions do on the last drive of the game to score a winning field goal, the Bombers would still win even with Lulay at QB; so YES I agree with you it took MORE then a change at QB for the Lions to win; it took some dumb penalties and bad play calling by MOS for the Lions to win.

      BTW, it was nice to see a QB other then Jennings throw two (or more) interceptions in a game. Usually its Jennings that throws three picks in a game (one game last season, I think it was against the Riders Jennings threw four picks in a game). Nichols should never have thrown that last ball up which resulted in his thirds pick. Third down, the BOmbers kick and pin the Lions deep instead of putting them two first downs away from field goal range.

    • Agree. They could have put Paul Brothers in there…Bombers still would have lost. Ominous right when Medlock choked away yet another easy FG. Quite frankly, even with his 50 yarder to atone for the gaffe later, the man should just submit a sick pass to his principal each time he sees an upcoming road trip to BC Place. Knew 17 points wouldn’t do it at half time…and that the Bombers would find a way to lose.

  8. Mark in Steveston // July 15, 2018 at 12:10 pm //

    As with any game, simple analyses never explain the whole game. As this was Lulay’s first game in almost 10 months, I was expecting a fair bit of rust, and it showed in some of his long throws. Even the big one to Burnham at the end to set up the winning FG was a jump ball.

    What I wasn’t expecting was how badly the Lions were out coached in the first half. Against O’Shea, who has a well-earned reputation for special teams trickery, to get caught flat-footed on an on-side kick is unacceptable. Reinbold should be embarrassed by that. And for the winningest coach in CFL history to not call a time out to give yourself a chance to at least try for 3 at the end of the half is also inexcusable.
    While people are rightly putting blame on O’Shea’s riverboat gambling on 3rd and goal calls, credit must also be given to the Lions’ defence for stepping up when the moment demanded it.

    • Great post Mark; I would like to add that Willis who was a “no show” in the first game against the Bombers rose up and made some great plays in the 4th quarter when it mattered. I think he tacked Nichols at or behind the line of scrimmage on one play, and pressured him to throw the ball incomplete on a second play late in the fourth quarter.

      • Mark in Steveston // July 15, 2018 at 3:48 pm //

        And it was reported that this was after Harvey came down to the sideline and had a brief discussion with Willis. Something to the effect of “I didn’t bring you in here to take up a space on the roster”. Seemed to light a fire under him.

        • Mark in Steveston // July 15, 2018 at 3:49 pm //

          Sorry, “Hervey”, obviously (darned autocorrect).

        • I did not know that. Very interesting indeed; since Willis was clearly invisible prior to the Hervey comment. Thanks for the update. It will be interesting to see how Willis responds in future games.

  9. White Horse // July 15, 2018 at 1:03 pm //

    Both coaches with poor play judgement go hand in hand. Trestman in Edm, O’Shea, Buono last night. Dickenson in two Grey Cups. It aint easy being a HC. You can gamble and win and lose.

  10. The Lulay started not too bad given his time off. Missed a few passes, which he acknowledged at half time, but his receivers let him down a few times as well. The one that sticks out was the Burnham drop going into halftime.

    To BC’s credit they adapted and came out to play in the second half. One other observation! I see the folks doing video review are as useless as always. No doubt whatsoever that Nichols fumbled the ball in the 4th – clear as day. Video did not overturn. Credit to BC, they picked the very next play and ended up with the win.

  11. Gutsy second half by Lions and Lulay in particular. Nice to Burnham get involved and come up big. He is a talent. D still looks iffy, especially against the run. Seems they might need to upgrade interior of D line and I thought Knapton would be more stout vs run- Willis not so much but he had a better second half. Elimimian looks off. I think he might be the best LB in the league but I noticed he seemed to be favoring his right shoulder or arm on some plays in terms of taking on blocks or getting involved with a shot on ball carrier. He definitely didn’t look like himself at times.

  12. Evil Empire- BC’s QB play was much better last night. Travis made some good reads coming off his primary targets and even scrambled to extend play where his eyes were still downfield to connect with receivers. Arceneaux and Burnham became relevant again- this is on the QB. Especially after losing their stud RB in the first quarter. So yes, QB play was much better. They probably threw for 150 more yards than any other game this season.

  13. Many Handles & ARSE 51 MUST be BANNED // July 15, 2018 at 2:46 pm //

    Mark in Steveston:
    Thank you for your intelligent comments.

  14. Walter Melnyk // July 15, 2018 at 7:46 pm //

    It was the worst of games, it was the best of games.
    Watching at the stadium I felt a strange calm with Lulay at the helm. It was simply the feeling that once the Lions could untrack and get a score things would move forward from there.
    That feeling was tested with the fiasco that ended the first half – but, yes, Solly’s timely goal line stop kept you thinking – maybe.
    And suddenly the Bombers were taking penalties to stretch Lions’s drives and Bomber coaching and quarterback decisions weren’t smart.
    Meanwhile, once engaged the Lion offense was something to behold under the Orange-haired general.
    Great drama in the finest tradition of the CFL.

  15. This is a very interesting article. Thanks for sharing!

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