Record only solace in season-ending Lions beatdown

Solomon Elimimian leaned on some fatherly advice to attain the emotional component needed to attain one of his goals Saturday. Jon Jennings and a wretched B.C. Lions offence took care of the rest.

Remaining in the final game until the final two minutes, Elimimian posted his 11th tackle of an otherwise dreary night and broke his own single season record with 144 defensive takedowns.

The only reason the middle linebacker got close to the record in a humiliating 40-13 beatdown by the Toronto Argonauts before friends and family at B.C. Place Stadium of course is the fact the Lions starting quarterback did nothing with the game plan of offensive coordinator Khari Jones for 55 minutes.

Backup Alex Ross got in for one series of garbage time and stumbled so badly it could be argued he had a hand in the severe knee injury suffered by Lions centre Cody Husband.

With nothing else to play for the last three weeks, Elimimian wanted desperately to take down the tackle record he set in 2014 when he became the first defensive player in CFL history to be also named most outstanding.

Elimimian talks regularly with his father, Isaac, seeking counsel on a variety of topics, and got some motivation from dad when many of his teammates appeared to be getting advice on flight schedules for a season-ending trip home.

“I spoke to my dad every single day. He pretty much told me I better get (the record) in typical Nigerian fashion. It’s all about reaching goals and exceeding expectations,” Elimimian said.

“He kind of relates. He’s been through so much in his life,. Trying to get his PhD as an immigrant. A lot of people told him he couldn’t do certain things.”

Elimimian didn’t have to talk coach/GM Wally Buono into remaining on the field. Buono knew better to let his linebacker take a run at the record and told him he’d stay in the lineup, which is saying something as it might be argued that if the Lions are deep anywhere it’s at linebacker and rookies like Jordan Herdman could use the playing time.

The other break is that the Argos stayed with their top tailback, James Wilder, well past the point where the outcome was in doubt. Elimimian was riveted to the movement of the Toronto ball-carrier, to the point where the two posed for pictures after the debacle had concluded.

Elimimian’s counterpart with the Calgary Stampeders, Alex Singleton, had only two tackles in his final game of the regular season Friday, which should be enough to give the Lions linebacker serious consideration for top divisional defensive player honours.

In a game where they couldn’t generate more than 190 yards of net offence and gave up 157 yards rushing on the ground, that’s about the only good to come out of a night where so much went wrong for the Lions otherwise. Some thoughts and idle observations.

Fitting end: there were way too many things that happened Saturday that seemed to perfectly represent the misery that was put to rest by the Lions, but perhaps none more fitting than what happened to Husband.

Within three minutes of getting through the season without major injury and potentially within sight of taking advantage of pending free agency, no small feat for a player his size, the Lions centre went down with a suspected MCL tear.

He’ll need a good stretch of the winter just to recover from the injury if the diagnosis is accurate. Forget free agency, not that moving away from the Lower Mainland is ever top of mind.

“It’s a tough way to end it,” said Husband, who quickly began to reflect on the season that had just ended. This team had a lot of talent. We underperformed. Now we have a long off-season ahead.”

Husband will be joined by a long list of players who must first wait to learn who will determine their future once it is determined who will both own and operate the club. The list of pending free agents:

Offence: Travis Lulay, Manny Arceneaux, Kirby Fabien, Shaquille Johnson, Cody Husband, Kelvin Palmer, David Menard, Antonio Johnson, Nick Moore, Hunter Steward, Jas Dhillon.

Defence: Craig Roh, Andrew Hudson, Alex Bazzie, Chandler Fenner, TJ Lee, Loucheiz Purifoy, Maxx Forde, Ronnie Yell, Dyshawn Davis, Bryant Turner

Special teams: Mike Benson, Louie Richardson, Adrain Clarke, Alex Ogbongbegima.

Starts at the top: Buono looked like he wanted to be a lot of places after it was over Saturday but not at a podium behind a microphone, trying to explain to the few mainstream media types who still cover the Lions why his team should little or no emotion in their final game, which bore no resemblance to the effort evident in the Lions road win in Winnipeg a week earlier.

Even worse, of course, is the prospect he could walk away from the organization he has run for 15 seasons. Though there clearly is talent, much of what else had been built off the field with Buono in charge lies in relative ruin.

Attendance was reported at 19,233 at the dome (the club has long given up on actually announcing a number), but it has been shown through some enterprise reporting obtained through provincial government freedom of information requests that those figures are inflated.

Word had circulated around the club at practice that owner David Braley would make an appearance for the final game of the season, but the Hamilton businessman was not seen. Buono said he would discuss next steps with Braley by phone, and reiterated some clarity needs to be communicated.

“Who is going to be directing the football from the top down? That’s something that has to be resolved. Only David can do that. The leadership of the club doesn’t start with football or business ops. It starts with ownership. I believe in talking with David that he wants to be clear on what this year is going to look like,” Buono said.

Total attendance this year from reported figures was 178,722, the sixth straight season of declining figures.

Lowell Ullrich has covered the Lions since 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2014. He is also a contributor to TSN1040.