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The “Oh, Reilly?” factor: B.C. backup starting in place of Travis Lulay Friday night

Andrew Bucholtz
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B.C. backup Mike Reilly, seen in the preseason this year, gets his first start Friday.

Friday night's game between the B.C. Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos (10 p.m. Eastern, TSN/NBC Sports Network) just got much more intriguing, thanks to the almost game-time revelation from Lowell Ullrich of The Province that B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay won't be playing. Lulay has been battling a shoulder injury, and although it apparently isn't all that serious in the long run, the team's elected to rest him tonight. So, who's playing quarterback for the Lions, then? Lulay's backup, a guy who's been associated with the team for three years but only has 10 career pass attempts and is mostly known for his short-yardage work, a man many casual CFL fans may not even have heard of: former Central Washington star Mike Reilly (no, not the similarly-named former CFL coach).

At first, that would seem like a huge break for the Eskimos, who could probably use one. B.C.'s only got a CFL-best 11-4 record, and they're only 6-1 at home, while Edmonton's 2-5 on the road, so this initially set up as a bit of a mismatch. The Eskimos have won their last two games, though, and Kerry Joseph in particular seems to have discovered some of his old form; moreover, as TSN's Dave Randorf pointed out on the pre-game show, Edmonton's the only road team that's won in B.C. this year. They also have plenty to play for; if they can pick up a win Friday and Hamilton loses Saturday, the Eskimos will clinch a playoff berth. Going up against a less-than-experienced quarterback who's never made a CFL start would seem to make things a lot easier for them.

Yet, the Lions shouldn't be written off even without Lulay. Yes, Lulay's the CFL's reigning Most Outstanding Player, and yes, he's having another tremendous year, throwing for 4,143 yards with a 66.6 per cent completion rate and 27 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. In fact, he's largely on pace with the numbers he put up last year (4,815 yards and 32 touchdowns to 11 interceptions), and his completion percentage has risen by almost 10 points from the 58.7 per cent he notched in 2011. B.C. still has plenty of stars, though, particularly on defence where they've conceded a league-low 288 points; the next-closest team is Saskatchewan, with 327 allowed.

The Lions' offence may still click without Lulay, too. Reilly showed tremendous promise in college, and he shone in the preseason this year, tossing six touchdowns over two games without an interception. He'll have plenty of weapons, too: one of the best offensive lines in the league, an incredible crop of receivers that's shone even after injuries to Geroy Simon and Arland Bruce and  league yards-from-scrimmage leader Andrew Harris, a capable rusher and receiver out of the backfield. It's not an easy situation for Reilly, certainly, but it's a great opportunity to see what he can do. The Eskimos are likely happier to be facing him than Lulay, but they haven't won the game just yet.

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