Quarterback Travis Lulay had a sore throat and a swollen tongue Friday night.
His B.C. Lions (4-6) held on through a gritty match to take a 26-14 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks (6-5), but lost a pair of key players in the process.
Lulay, B.C.’s veteran pivot, threw for 108 yards and one touchdown before he was sandwiched between Ottawa’s Rico Murray and J.R. Taval near the end of the first half.
The hit caught him in the chin and throat area, and he bit his tongue hard.
“I couldn’t swallow or breath at first,” Lulay said after the game.
The 34-year-old said he also had a bit of pressure in his head, so the trainers put him through the concussion protocol.
Lulay, who’s in his 10th season with the Lions, said he felt like he passed all the tests and could have returned in the fourth quarter, if needed.
But Jonathan Jennings had things under control. B.C.’s backup quarterback threw for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Ottawa’s starting quarterback Trevor Harris put up 216 yards. Redblacks backup Dominque Davis tossed for 12 yards during a short stint in the second half.
Jennings became the Lions starting quarterback late last year when Lulay suffered a knee injury. He held on to the post to start the season, but was replaced in mid-July after throwing for 487 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in B.C.’s first three games.
The 26-year-old said he felt calm and ready to seize the opportunity Friday night.
“(Coach Wally Buono) said we’re going to need two quarterbacks this year. And I’m here to be used when I’m called upon,” Jennings said. “So I’m going to do everything I can to be prepared and I know (Lulay) is going to do the same thing. We’re going to need two quarterbacks for the rest of the year.”
The win was great for Jennings’ confidence, and for the team’s morale as a whole, Buono said.
There are no plans to swap starters, though, the coach added.
“(Lulay) still gives us, I believe, the best opportunity to win,” he said.
“But it was good to see Jonathan step up and get some confidence. Confidence does a tremendous amount of good things. He’s worked hard, he hasn’t said anything, he’s been very supportive of (Lulay).”
The Lions also lost offensive lineman Cody Husband Friday night when the New Westminster, B.C.-native went down with a leg injury on the first play. He lay on the field for several minutes, being looked at by staff before he was eventually taken away on a cart.
Buono said after the game that Husband wasn’t “doing well” and had been sent for X-rays. The team is expected to provide an update on his status in the next few days.
Losing an offensive force could be critical for the Lions, who are attempting to dig themselves out of fifth place in the league’s West Division.
But Buono said his squad has been tough and resilient through a difficult year.
“I never felt that this team has quit or that was ever an issue,” he said.
The defence and special teams performed well in the face of Ottawa’s aggressive offence on Friday, the coach added.
“The thing I appreciated is that they kept their composure,” he said.
B.C. tallied defensive tackles in the game, plus another 12 on special teams. The Lions also had six sacks, six pass knockdowns and three interceptions.
The Redblacks had 48 total tackles, two sacks, two pass knockdowns and a forced fumble.
Ottawa coach Rick Campbell said he had to give his opponents credit for the way they played Friday.
“They’re a good football team and they did what they needed to do to win the game,” he said.
“We can’t make the mistakes we’re making. I think we’re missing doing some of the basic stuff well. And I think when we take care of that stuff, we’re a pretty tough team to beat. But we’ve got work to do.”
The Redblacks currently sit at the top of the East, with seven games to go in their season.
The Lions have eight left to play and each match will be crucial, Buono said.
“We’re still the fifth place team in the West. All the games are going to be tough,” he said. “When you put yourself up against a wall, all the games are must-wins.”
Friday’s “good, team win” could go a long way to providing much-needed momentum, Lulay said.
“It’s exactly what we needed,” he said. “Winning cures a lot of the confidence issues and how you feel about yourselves. So we feel good about it now and go find a way to win the next one.”