Playing his first game with his new team, Chris Williams missed out on the B.C. Lions’ customary post-win group photo in the locker-room.
If the Lions continuing playing like they did Saturday, there should be plenty more opportunities.
Travis Lulay threw for 338 yards and a touchdown to compliment a smothering defensive performance as B.C. downed the Saskatchewan Roughriders 30-15.
Williams signed with the Lions in the off-season, but the speedster spent the first six weeks of the schedule on the injured list while recovering from knee surgery.
He finished with three receptions for 75 yards, including a 14-yard grab on the first play from scrimmage to dust off the cobwebs
“Nice to go out there and compete again,” said Williams. “It was just an amazing feeling.”
Williams also had a 49-yard catch, but said that the play that made him feel like he was truly back came in the second quarter on a short completion.
“A guy hit me right in my knee – right in my right knee – and I stayed up, jumped and got the first (down),” said Williams. “That’s when I was like, ‘I’m here. My stuff is good.”’
Bryan Burnham had five catches for a game-high 131 yards and a TD, Shaquille Murray-Lawrence ran in another score, and Ty Long kicked four field goals for the Lions (5-2).
Adding a player of Williams’ pedigree to an already dynamic attack was expected to open even more gaps, and that’s exactly what happened against the Riders as the Lions wracked up 535 yards on offence.
“Speed kills,” said Burnham. “He stretches the field and brings a whole new element.”
Kevin Glenn was 19-of-27 for 186 yards with two interceptions for the Riders (2-4). Brandon Bridge threw late touchdowns in relief to Duron Carter and Naaman Roosevelt to break the shutout, finishing 6-of-6 for 114 yards.
“That’s three weeks in a row where we drop behind early and have to come back,” said Saskatchewan head coach and general manager Chris Jones. “You can’t continually do that.”
The Lions led 30-0 with three minutes left in the fourth quarter before Bridge led consecutive scoring drives.
The game nearly ended as the first shutout in the CFL since the Riders fell 26-0 to the Edmonton Eskimos on Sept. 26, 2014. The Lions last blanked an opponent nearly 40 years in a 30-0 victory over the Toronto Argonauts on Aug. 23, 1977.
B.C. suffered a 37-26 defeat last week in Edmonton _ the Lions’ second loss to the Eskimos in 2017 _ while Saskatchewan was coming off an encouraging 38-27 home victory over the Toronto Argonauts.
“It’s always really important to respond,” said Lulay, who finished 19-of-28 passing. “We did what we needed to do.”
The Riders and Lions meet again next Sunday in Regina.
With a thick haze of smoke from the wildfires raging in the province’s Interior region hanging over B.C. Place Stadium’s open roof, the Lions led 6-0 after the first quarter when Lulay found Burnham in the back of the end zone from 13 yards out.
Lulay, who made a third straight start in place of the injured Jonathon Jennings, then ran in a two-point conversion for a 14-0 lead.
The Riders looked to be driving for their first points on the next possession, but Anthony Thompson intercepted Glenn deep in Lions’ territory for his first career pick.
Long added a punt single before B.C. had a scare when Lulay was crunched between two defenders as he fell to the turf. The veteran QB stayed down, but eventually popped up and walked off under his own power.
“I’m sore, but I’ll be all right,” said Lulay. “Took a minute to get my wind back.”
Long hit his third field goal on the next play to make it 18-0, and Lulay was back in the huddle for B.C.’s next possession to close out the half that saw the Lions wrack up 294 yards of offence to Saskatchewan’s paltry 123.
“When guys execute you see the results,” said Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian.
Glenn needed just 109 yards through the air to leapfrog legendary Riders pivot Ron Lancaster’s career total of 50,535 and move into sixth on the CFL’s all-time passing list.
The 38-year-old got the accomplishment out of the way on the first play of the second half, but the Riders would eventually be forced to punt for the fifth time in six possessions.
Long missed a 42-yard field goal for a single to put the hosts up 19-0 before rebounding with a 24-yarder on the final play of the third on a drive that was highlighted by Burnham’s 50-yard catch.
The teams traded fumbles on consecutive plays early in the fourth to set the Riders up in Lions’ territory, but Glenn followed that up on the next snap with another turnover when Chandler Fenner intercepted a deflected pass.
Murray-Lawrence ran in a TD from two yards out to make it 29-0 and Long added another single before Bridge found Carter and Roosevelt in garbage time.
“We just had the right mindset,” said Lulay. “We want to finish the football game a little bit cleaner that, but it was just the all-around team win that we needed.”