Travis Lulay sets CFL record in dismantling Ticats

Travis Lulay’s evening did not go exactly as planned.

Lulay came off the bench to lead the B.C. Lions to a 41-26 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Saturday.

The back-up quarterback was loose on the sidelines at the start of the game, when suddenly starter Jonathon Jennings was out with a suspected arm injury after the team’s first play from scrimmage.

“It’s funny, we were talking right before the game. Jon was like, ‘Do you still get butterflies?’ I was like, ‘You know, it’s different.’ Only because I know I’m not playing on the first snap. But what are the odds you’re playing on the second, right? You just never know. That’s what you prepare for all the time, right?

“Tonight was the time the team needed me to step up and play. I’m happy to be a part of this win.”

The veteran pivot, who is a former CFL most outstanding player but lost his starting role last year due to ongoing injuries, threw three TD passes and rushed for another as the Lions (3-1) extended their win streak to three games.

Hamilton fell to 0-3 in front of a home-opening sell-out crowd of 24,135 at Tim Hortons Field.

Jennings reportedly injured his throwing arm on the Lions’ first play from scrimmage – in which he threw an interception while under pressure – and was replaced for the rest of the game by Lulay, who completed 29-of-36 pass attempts for a career-best 436 yards. He also set the CFL record for most yards thrown by a quarterback in relief, surpassing Mike Kerrigan’s 408 yards in 1987.

B.C. started out slow for most of the first half, but sprung to life scoring 15 points in 59 seconds near the end of the second quarter to take a 21-16 lead into halftime after being down 13-6.

“It’s a rhythm thing, really being in the heat of the moment,” Lulay said about taking some time to get going. “I took a couple hits. The first two plays I got hit pretty good. That kind of jarred my senses into the game.”

Lions head coach Wally Buono said they didn’t need to make any adjustments on offence when Lulay went in.

“I think Travis has been around a long time and when you have a veteran quarterback he doesn’t have to run every play at practice during the week,” Buono said, adding the two quarterbacks usually split reps at practice 60-40.

Lulay also made a points-saving tackle on Hamilton defensive back Richard Leonard, who had just intercepted him on a two-point convert attempt and was streaking down field.

“I’m kind of looking around, do I have any help? And it really felt like I had no help back there. I just have to take a good enough angle that hopefully I can put my mitts on this guy, and he cut back on me and I was able to grab hold of him and take him down.”

Shaq Johnson, Nick Moore, Brian Burnham, and Jeremiah Johnson also scored touchdowns for B.C. Burnham’s was a highlight-reel play as he reached around his defender to catch the ball with one hand while falling to the ground.

Jeremiah Masoli, Ross Scheuerman, and Jalen Saunders had TDs for Hamilton. Zach Collaros completed 30-of-48 pass attempts for 361 yards, one TD and one interception.

Lions kicker Ty Long was good on both field-goal attempts, from 14 and 50 yards, while Ticat kicker Sergio Castillo hit a 48-yard field-goal attempt.

Hamilton’s Leonard had two interceptions and a fumble recovery.

The Ticats pulled to 34-24 with 11 minutes left in the game on a 25-yard TD strike from Collaros to Saunders and a successful two-point conversion. But Lulay and the Lions struck back immediately with a 66-yard drive leading to a four-yard TD run by Jeremiah Johnson and the 41-24 lead.

Hamilton head coach Kent Austin, who dismissed the rumour that him and Collaros have some tension between them by calling it “completely made up”, said he wants his team to stay focused this short week. The Tiger-Cats play Edmonton at home on Thursday.

“I told the guys it’s going to get ugly around them with all the negativity and the chatter right now,” Austin said. “What’s under their control is taking care of their bodies first and foremost. I emphasized that right away, because they need to get their rest and keep fluids in them and be ready to prepare physically to play on a short week against another physical football team.”

The Ticats have lost the last nine of 10 games, including last year’s East semifinal.

– CP