VANCOUVER – The B.C. Lions cooled off the CFL’s hottest team on Thursday night.
Travis Lulay threw a 31-yard touchdown to Andrew Harris with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter as the Lions battled back from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat the Edmonton Eskimos 26-23.
“Just a great job of persevering by our team,” said Lulay. “We’ve got a lot of better football in us. I don’t think we played our best football tonight, but the fact we didn’t quit, we kept fighting and found a way to make the plays we needed to at the end, that’s huge.”
Down 23-18 late, Lulay lobbed a pass up to Harris on a screen and go before connecting with Shawn Gore for a two-point conversion to give B.C. (3-3) a three-point edge over Edmonton (4-2), which saw its four-game winning streak come to an end.
The Eskimos had one more chance with the ball, but instead of trying a 48-yard field goal on third down, Ronnie Yell picked off Matt Nichols’ pass with 41 seconds left to seal it and snap the Lions’ two-game slide.
“My hat’s off to this team,” said Lions head coach Jeff Tedfor. “They found a way to win. They stuck together.”
Lulay finished 16-of-31 passing for 195 yards to go along with two TDs and two interceptions against the league’s No. 1 defence, while Harris added 118 yards rushing on 20 carries.
“Particularly with where we’ve been, the difference between 3-3 and 2-4, especially early in the season, at home, it’s huge,” said Lulay. “It’s huge for us to find a way to get that done.”
Manny Arceneaux had the other touchdown for the Lions, who gave up 23 points in the first half before the defence shut the door to give the offence a chance despite repeated two-and-out drives.
“Phenomenal effort. You can’t say enough about it,” said Lulay. “We finally found a way over the hump because the defence kept giving us opportunities.”
Nichols finished 26 of 42 for 262 yards with touchdowns to Chad Simpson and Kenny Stafford and two interceptions for Edmonton, while Grant Shaw booted three field goals.
“They were down two scores in the second half, they came back and won the football game on their home turf,” said Eskimos head coach Chris Jones. “You’ve got to give kudos to their staff and their players.”
Edmonton’s defence came in averaging 12.6 points against per game, and looked to have sealed the win when Aaron Grimes intercepted Lulay with 2:28 to go. But the Lions’ defence, which came in ranked last in yards against, got a stop to give their offence one more chance.
“I think guys realized how good we can be when we hunker down,” said B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian. “We look at the second half, that’s how it should be.”
B.C. trailed 23-10 at halftime, but drove the ball down the field on the first drive of the third quarter, culminating with Harris’ one-yard plunge.
“We just have faith,” said Harris, who also had four catches for 57 yards. “After the first half a lot of teams would have folded tents. The morale was down, but we just stuck together.”
Richie Leone, who had a field goal in the second quarter for the Lions, added a punt single with about five minute to go in the fourth, the only other scoring in the half until Lulay hooked up with Harris late.
“That’s the hottest team in the league right now and for the most part I thought we handled them pretty well,” said Harris. “We just stuck with it. I’m so proud of the guys.”