The B.C. Lions finished their season with a 17-6 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders Saturday night, improving their league-best record to 13-5, but it really didn't matter a lot for either side. There wasn't any playoff positioning at stake, as these teams were already locked into first and third in the West Division respectively. However, even meaningless games can still be rather notable at times, and while this one wasn't overly entertaining or reflective of these teams' capabilities, it did provide some interesting notes. Here are five observations from Saturday's game, focusing on where the Lions and Riders go from here.
1. Travis Lulay didn't look 100 per cent healthy: Lulay, the Lions' starting quarterback, has missed the last few weeks with a shoulder injury, and while he didn't look too bad in this one, he didn't seem to have his typical velocity back just yet. That could be him going easy in a meaningless game or it could be misdirection, but the simplest explanation is that Lulay isn't completely healed. Of course, he was still effective, completing nine of 14 passes (64.3 per cent) for 88 yards before leaving the game, and he has two weeks to heal before the Lions host the West Final, so no one in B.C. should panic yet. Still, Lulay's health is going to be a topic of conversation heading into that one.
2. Mike Reilly may be in line for more snaps—somewhere: Reilly, the Lions' primary backup, shone in Lulay's absence over the last few games, and he had another strong outing Saturday, completing nine of 13 passes (69.2 per cent) for 101 yards and rushing four times for 43 yards without a turnover. That's reassuring for B.C. at the moment; if Lulay can't go in two weeks or isn't effective, they have an interesting option off the bench. However, considering that this season was reportedly Reilly's option year, his strong play may make it more difficult for the Lions to retain him. A team like Winnipeg looking for a starting quarterback might make him a free-agent offer, and he might want to get out of Lulay's shadow. Thus, Reilly's strong play is a mixed blessing for the Lions; it's reassuring in the short term, but may lower the chances he sticks around for the long term.
3. Don't forget about Brandon West: West entered training camp as the most likely primary running back for the Roughriders, but was outshone by Kory Sheets and slid into a backup role for most of the year. He saw more snaps here, though, and while his rushing totals weren't great (36 yards on nine carries, four yards per carry), he collected 73 yards on seven catches. Sheets has been decent in the receiving game too, accumulating 517 yards on 49 catches (10.6 yards per reception) this season, but West may prove an intriguing change of pace for Saskatchewan at some point.
4. Darian Durant's the quarterback heading into the playoffs: Durant's been the Riders' starter for most of the year, of course, but he's missed some games thanks to injury, and Drew Willy has played reasonably well in those, creating the (still relatively unlikely) potential for a quarterback controversy if he'd shone Saturday. However, against a B.C. defence that didn't have much on the line, Willy underwhelmed, completing eight of 12 passes for 67 yards with an interception. That doesn't negate what else he's done this year, of course, and he could still be an option off the bench or if Durant gets hurt. This less-than-stellar showing from Willy further reinforces that it will be Durant under centre to start next week's playoff game, though.
5. Shawn Gore has quietly grown into a top Canadian receiver: Quick, who led the Lions in receiving yards this year? Was it all-time league receiving leader Geroy Simon, star wideout Arland Bruce or league yards-from-scrimmage leader Andrew Harris? None of the above, actually; Canadian receiver Shawn Gore put up 74 yards on six catches Friday, giving him 720 yards on the year, two ahead of Harris for the team lead. Of course, Gore's accomplishment comes with disclaimers: both Simon and Bruce have battled injuries, and Harris likely would have led here if he'd caught more than one pass Saturday. Still, the third-year Bishop's product (who B.C. selected 10th overall in 2010) has quietly flourished with the Lions; in fact, this season's totals are even a slight step down from the 836 yards he recorded on a similar number of catches (60 versus this year's 61) last season. He doesn't get the press of a Simon, a Bruce or a Harris, but Gore is a receiving weapon in his own right, and a crucial part of an exceptionally deep array of offensive weapons playoff opponents will have to worry about.