Pipkin the pick-six machine: interceptions doom Alouettes against Lions

Unlucky Travis Lulay watched most of the game from B.C.’s bench, his left shoulder wrapped in ice.

Johnny Manziel watched all of the game from the Alouettes’ bench, and was surely stinging as starting quarterback Antonio Pipkin struggled all night.

T.J. Lee and Anthony Orange had fourth-quarter interceptions for touchdowns to lift the B.C. Lions to their first road victory of the season, a 32-14 win over the Montreal Alouettes.

But the storyline was about the quarterbacks: both the ones who were on the field, and the ones who weren’t.

Lulay was knocked out of the game for the second straight week, injured on the Lions’ first drive of the night thanks to a hit from John Bowman.

“Right now the good thing is it’s his left shoulder,” said Lions coach Wally Buono. “If it’s something we can get resolved then we’ll get it resolved. The left shoulder is easier to deal with than the right.”

Lulay’s replacement Jonathon Jennings completed 19-of-30 pass attempts for 180 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I guess I had a dress rehearsal last week because it was kind of the same thing,” Jennings said. “It’s always kind of crazy when it happens, but just got to settle yourself down, realize that you’ve got a job to do and go in there and execute.”

Pipkin, a 23-year-old rookie making his third start, was 11 for 22 for 95 yards, with four interceptions. He was sacked six times, prompting a pocket of fans behind the Alouettes’ bench to chant “We want Johnny!”

A day earlier, a healthy Manziel had wondered aloud whether the Als had lost faith in him. The Heisman-Trophy winning QB vented to reporters, saying he thought he’d be “the guy” after recovering from his concussion three games ago.

Als coach Mike Sherman stuck with Pipkin on Friday, saying afterwards it was just a bad night.

“There isn’t a quarterback out there in the NFL that hasn’t had a game like this at some point or another, believe me,” Sherman said. “It was bound to happen. Was hoping it wasn’t going to happen tonight, but this is going to happen at some point. It happened tonight.”

The game was still either team’s for the taking when Lee picked off Pipkin with three minutes left and ran 37 yards for a touchdown.

“Honestly, I visualized it two plays before it happened, it was weird,” Lee said. “And when it happened I just jumped it and it felt easy, it felt like practice because we practised hard, and took one to the end zone and I’m happy about that.”

Orange sent the Molson Percival Stadium crowd of 15,346 streaming toward the exits when he picked off the struggling Als quarterback for a 54-yard touchdown return a minute later.

“Any time the defence can do that, we’re giving ourselves a chance,” Jennings said on the two big plays. “You see Saskatchewan, they’ve been playing like that, similar ball to that. When you do that and your defence can score, a lot of times you have a big chance to win, and I thought they did a tremendous job. It was fun watching.”

Bryan Burnham scored B.C.’s other touchdown, while Trevaughn Campbell’s thrilling 87-yard run after a blocked field goal attempt was Montreal’s only major on the night.

Burnham had five receptions for 104 yards for B.C. (5-6). Eugene Lewis had one reception of 36 yards for the Als (3-9).

Jennings stepped up in Lulay’s absence. The back-up’s first play from scrimmage was a 16-yard pass that found Burnham in the end zone for a 7-0 lead at 3:33 of the first quarter. Ty Long made it 10-0 B.C. early in the second with a 25-year-field goal.

Montreal finally got on the board at 7:16 of the second quarter, with a 46-yard field goal from Boris Bede. His 29-yard-field goal five minutes later cut the Lions’ lead to 10-6 heading into the halftime break.

After the Als scored a point on Bede’s 59-yard punt into the end zone, Long connected from 30 yards to make it 13-7 for B.C.

Campbell injected some life into what had been a dreary game when he pounced on a field-goal attempt that was blocked by Chip Cox and ran 87 yards with nothing but open field in front of him late in the third. Campbell leaned chest-first at the end zone like a sprinter, then struck Usain Bolt’s signature “To the World” pose.

The play put Montreal up 14-13 with one quarter left.

“I got to give the veterans a lot of credit,” Buono said. “They kept the guys on the bench up, they didn’t make a big deal about it, the offence got the ball the next series, went down and kicked a field goal which gives us back the momentum, and gave us back the lead.”

Long made sure the Als’ lead was short-lived, connecting on a 45-yard field goal to put the Lions back up by two. A B.C. safety made it a four-point game with six minutes left.

The night marked the final game at Molson Stadium for the retiring Buono, who grew up in Montreal and both played and coached here.

Buono was asked if there were any heightened emotions around the night, to which he answered “Nah.”

“When we won the 2001 Grey Cup (with Calgary) at the Big O, that was special.”

Buono, who was honoured prior to kick-off, holds CFL records both for regular-season wins (274) and Grey Cups (five).

– CP

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