VANCOUVER — Jonathon Jennings came off the bench to throw for 295 yards and two touchdowns after starting quarterback Travis Lulay suffered a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on the second play from scrimmage as the B.C. Lions snapped a three-game losing streak with a much-needed 41-18 victory over the Montreal Alouettes on Friday night.
Jennings connected with Emmanuel Arceneaux and Chris Rainey on TD tosses for the Lions (6-5), who were coming off a bye week and moved, at least temporarily, ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders into fourth in the CFL’s powerhouse West Division.
Rainey also blocked a field goal that led to Anthony Gaitor’s 73-yard touchdown return on the final play of the first half, while Jeremiah Johnson ran in two more scores.
Arceneaux and Bryan Burnham each had over 100 yards receiving for the Lions.
Darian Durant threw a TD to Ernest Jackson and scored another on the ground, while Boris Bede kicked a field goal for the Alouettes (3-8), who have now dropped four in a row and sit third in the East.
Jennings was benched in favour of Lulay after three ineffective performances — all losses — in his return from an injury to his throwing shoulder, but was pressed into service when the veteran pivot was tackled by Montreal’s Branden Dozier on a six-yard run as he looked for a first down.
Lulay, who nearly led an improbable comeback after replacing Jennings at halftime of B.C.’s 31-24 loss to the Redblacks in Ottawa on Aug. 26, was seen wiping tears from his eyes after being helped to the sidelines where he was examined by trainers and had his leg placed in an air cast.
He stayed on the bench until there were two minutes left in the half and was loaded onto a cart taken to the locker-room, but returned to the sidelines on crutches later in the game.
Set to turn 34 later this month, Lulay has dealt with a number of serious injuries in his career, but was back healthy and had a 3-1 record in Jennings’ absence earlier in the schedule. He came into Friday with the CFL’s top passer rating and completion percentage.
Following the Lulay injury, Jennings capped B.C.’s first drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Arceneaux and two-point conversion to Burnham for an 8-0 lead.
Bede responded with a 48-yard field goal early in the second quarter after hitting the upright from 50 on Montreal’s first drive.
The Alouettes then stuffed the Lions at their goal line on three straight plays midway through the second, but B.C. defensive lineman David Menard sacked Durant in the end zone on the next snap for a safety that made it 10-3.
Bede gave up another safety on Montreal’s next possession with just over two minutes to go in the half, and Rainey provided the Lions a nice return before snagging an eight-yard TD from Jennings with 34 seconds left.
A 53-yard run back by Stefan Logan and a 30-yard completion by Durant to B.J. Cunningham set the Alouettes up for 30-yard field goal attempt with one second on the clock. But Rainey fired off the edge to block the kick, and Gaitor returned it all the way before heaving the ball into the stands at B.C. Place Stadium in celebration as the Lions led 26-3 at the break.
Bede grabbed a punt single early in the third quarter before an Arceneaux fumble near midfield led to the Alouettes’ first TD drive that was capped by a six-yard pass and two-point conversion to Jackson that made it 26-12.
Montreal had failed to score an offensive touchdown in two of its last three games coming into Friday, including last week’s 32-4 home loss to Ottawa.
Jennings threw a 49-yard toss to set the Lions up at the Alouettes’ one on their next possession, and Johnson went over the top for his CFL-leading 10th touchdown two plays later to make it 33-12.
After B.C. added a punt single late in the third quarter, Johnson added his second TD of the night to give him 11 (eight rushing, three receiving), but Ty Long, who shanked an early field-goal try, missed the extra point.
Durant ran in Montreal’s second touchdown from six yards out with under five minutes to go, but the two-point conversion failed before Long rounded out the scoring with another punt single.