The BC Lions were in the position this weekend to upset the Saskatchewan Roughriders and prove my prediction wrong. However, they didn’t and it’s hard to understand how it all unfolded. The offence was under the control of starter Travis Lulay, the defense was tenacious and limiting, the special teams was solid and the offensive line held up their end of the bargain as the Lions rushed for 213 yards and the team had zero turnovers. So how did a team leading 25-16 heading into the 4th quarter end up losing 29-25?
Well that’s the problem with this Lions season; there is no clear cut answer
This season has seen the team breakdown in one aspect of the game or another every game. Overall, the team went 11-7 on the season, respectable as a total but when facing winning teams they were a mediocre 5-6. The running game was MIA a lot this season, a questionable offensive line was frustratingly good one week and horrible the next, the defense had their let downs during games the team was scoring at a high level and the team played the second half of the season without their starting QB and leader and until late in the season they were still winning. As far as character building hurdles go, this team had many story lines that could have been rallying points and it appeared that in the Western Conference Semi-final the Lions were going to exorcise those demons, until a new one showed up, the desire of the Roughriders.
Saskatchewan deserves a lot of credit; they came back in the final frame after being shutout in the 3rd quarter. The momentum was with the Lions and the pregame questions surrounding the Riders ability to win big games under the guidance of their starting quarterback, Darien Durant, were already being mentioned. Then it happened, the monster that is known as Rider Nation seemed to lift their team to victory, for any American readers think Cheese heads mixed with Raider Nation. This passionate group of fans has a never die attitude and when the Roughriders play at home, so does the team. It is easily the most hostile environment in the CFL and for good reason.
That emotion started to show on the field as the play caller for Saskatchewan started to take over. Durant started to scramble out of the pocket and was taking chunks of yards each time he ran. Durant claimed important first down after first down and the inevitable happened, the Lions defense became tired and the Roughriders offense became so multi-dimensional that anticipating a play seemed nearly impossible.
The Roughriders dominated the 4th quarter at home, as good teams do, and put a licking on the Lions that not many outside of Saskatchewan would have seen coming. The inconsistency of the Lions season came to its apex in their final game of this season and it will make for a challenging off season. To many the team has the right players in the key positions, the traditionally solid offensive line faced injuries early and often but could use some upgrades and with a group of coaches that have been bringing success to the club for a long time, it needs to be asked, is it the right time to change some of the staff? I anticipate that there will be movement this offseason, there always is, but I would not want to be in GM Wally Buono’s shoes for this one, as the moves are not that obvious.