Over the course of the last 3 weeks, we have been presented with a slightly different CFL game. The basics are all the same of course; 3 downs, 6-point TD’s, etc. Without going into the exact rule changes that occurred this season (a topic which has been covered at length), it’s safe to say that the game is now producing more highlights, bigger plays, more sustained offense, and seemingly, more opportunities for turnovers. Parity also seems to have increased this season, as last year’s dominant western division has made way for a league wherein every team is but a single win away contention. Let’s break down week 3’s games, and in doing so, reveal the RIVALUS Featured Player who owned their performance this week.
In this week’s first game, it was the story of redemption as Matt Nichols, who actually won the starting position against Mike Reilly in Edmonton in 2013, made his return to the first-team. Nichols finished the game with 12 completions for 212 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Adarius Bowman made some stellar plays on his way to adding 120 receiving yards and a touchdown to his 2015 totals. On defence, Edmonton troubled Ottawa from the get-go. John Ojo (see above) started the game off with a bang as he returned an early interception for a touchdown. Ojo would also contribute 4 tackles in the effort. The REDBLACKS struggled to sustain much pressure in Edmonton, but a ray of light did shine as Zack Evans, the 295-pound, 6’4” interior defensive lineman, pressured Nichols into making an errant pitch right into his bread-basket. The mistake cost Edmonton a turnover-turned-touchdown (for 65 yards no less!). In the end Edmonton won the game handily 46-17.
On Friday, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosted the Montreal Alouettes in the first game of a Friday Night Football double-header. Despite a solid effort by the Al’s, it was Winnipeg’s night to shine thanks to some very special efforts. Lirim Hajrullahu had a great game, making all 4 of his field goal attempts to add 12 vital points on the board. Lin-J shell showed the league his anticipation skills as he contributed a punt block that eventually turned into a Teague Sherman touchdown, adding another 6 points without Drew Willy touching the pigskin. Johnny Adams continued that trend by picking off Rakeem Cato and returning it to the house. Considering that Montreal’s offence was actually rolling for a good stretch of this game, Winnipeg used all 3 phases of their game to beat the Al’s 25-23. Although it’s a sore consolation for a W, both SJ Green and Tyrell Sutton had outstanding performances as they tallied; 180 yards in the air, and 74 yards on the ground, respectively.
Last night, of course, saw week 3’s last game between the Toronto Argonauts and their hosts; the Calgary Stampeders. Once again, parity seemed to be the name of the game with lead exchanges happening throughout it’s duration. Toronto provided a valiant effort at silencing Jon Cornish by the way of linebackers: Greg Jones, and Cory Greenwood. Despite their best efforts though, the man older than his years in Bo Levi Mitchell executed a masterfully-designed offence to perfection. With Cornish unable to provide the huge yardage he is cable of, the burden fell to receivers like Eric Rogers who would catch 6 balls for 114 yards and a touchdown. The most impressive aspect of Calgary’s eventual win though, was the coverage provided by their veteran defensive backs. As we have seen, Trevor Harris is quite capable of making very good passes. Even the first half of last night’s game showed Toronto’s receivers making immensely difficult catches. By game’s end though, it was plays by men like: Jamar Wall, Keon Raymond, Buddy Jackson, and Brandon Smith that turned guaranteed first downs, into opportunities for their return-man Tim Brown, to earn them some positive yards. Calgary held on to this game to beat the Argos 25-20.
If you were an attentive CFL fan this week, then you definitely know where we are going with the RIVALUS Featured Player this round. In Friday night’s second of two games, the BC Lions hosted the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Early on, Saskatchewan provided all of the fireworks with Kevin Glenn completing 79% of his passes and finding Weston Dressler for 2 TD’s. On the defensive side of the game, several Roughriders stood out as well. Jeff Knox Jr., a first-year linebacker led the league in week 3 tackles with 13! If you watched this game though, you know where we are heading. With 2 minutes left on the clock, it was Travis Lulay’s turn to ignite his home crowd. In a matter of minutes, the 29-18 lead that had Riders fans quite content was attacked via a combinatorial effort from all 3 phases of the BC Lions. First; Lulay spotted Austin Collie for a 46-yard touchdown, only to hit him again for a 2-point convert bringing the Leos within 3 points of the Riders. On Saskatchewan’s ensuing drive, the Lions’ defence held the Roughriders to a 3rd & 1 attempt that ultimately went in favour of BC. With 15 seconds left on the clock, it was rookie-kicker Richie Leone who needed to make a 56-yard field goal to extend the game past regulation. With the mile-long kick made, the Lions were tasked with driving down once more to beat a McCallum kick edging the Riders up by 3. Following an impeccable catch by Shawn Gore, it was a Lulay-Arceneaux connection that put one last touchdown on the board to silence Saskatchewan for good. BC would win 35-32 in OT.
It would seem that last week’s Featured Player: Kevin Glenn, has passed this week’s honour on to the man that he replaced last season; Travis Lulay.
Coming off several disappointing years, Lulay has had more than his share of adversity to contend with. With back-to-back shoulder injuries to deal with, most quarterbacks would not have enough perseverance to make it back to the roster, let alone the top-spot. Travis Lulay appears to have done exactly that. Against Saskatchewan, Lulay looked calm, mobile, poised, and most notably; looked to have his arm at (or near) 100%. By game’s end, Lulay threw a mind-boggling 44 balls, 34 of which were caught, to the tune of 404 yards, 3 touchdowns, and ZERO interceptions. This was a team win, but along with that came a moral victory for 2011’s Most Outstanding Player in the CFL. It looks like Travis has officially re-emerged as an elite quarterback in the CFL.
Congratulations Travis! You owned your performance, and showed that hard work always pays off in the end!