If you can't beat them through the air, do it on the ground. That appeared to be B.C. Lions' quarterback Travis Lulay's motto Friday night in Regina, as he threw for just 127 yards in a 27-24 road win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders, but rushed six times for a CFL career-high 105 yards, giving him a stunning average of 17.5 yards per rush. Add in running back Andrew Harris' 94 yards on 16 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and backup QB Jonathon Jennings' one yard on a sneak, and B.C. finished with 200 rushing yards on the night. That was a big part of why they were able to improve to 2-1, and why the Roughriders fell to 0-4. Beyond that, though, the Lions look like a club on the upswing, while things in Saskatchewan are much more negative.
That doesn't mean absolute panic for the Riders yet, of course. As in Saskatchewan's other three losses this season (which were by a total of nine points, with two of those coming in overtime to boot), there were plenty of good signs for them in this one, especially on offence. Kevin Glenn threw for 360 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and while his 60 per cent completion mark wasn't fantastic, it wasn't terrible. Anthony Allen collected 80 rushing yards and a touchdown on just seven carries (11.4 yards per carry), while Jerome Messam chipped in 62 further yards on nine carries (6.7 yards per carry). Even the passing defence was pretty good despite an early injury to DB Tristan Jackson; Lulay did throw two touchdowns against them (both to rookie tight end A.C. Leonard), but they held him to 127 passing yards and a 57.1 per cent completion rate. The Riders couldn't stop the run, though, and that doomed them in the end.
For B.C., there's a lot to be happy with here. The Lions barely edged Saskatchewan last week at home, needing an improbable comeback to even force overtime, so pulling off a win in one of the CFL's toughest places to play is impressive for them. They also survived last week's injury to receiver Cam Morrah, and seem to have found a capable replacement in Leonard. Their defence bent but didn't break, and they were able to keep the Riders from scoring too many points. Perhaps most importantly, though, they found a way to produce offensively when the passing game wasn't clicking, and Lulay deserves a lot of the credit there for his smart scrambles (including a 40-yard one that came off a busted play). His improvisation was vital to B.C.'s success, and if he can do that going forward, that will give opposing defences a lot more to worry about than just his arm.
For Saskatchewan, the concern has to be rising. Yes, they've only been outscored by 12 points this year, and their passing offence in particular has been much better than they had any right to expect in the wake of a Week One injury to starting quarterback Darian Durant. Glenn has played at a level far above what he contributed as a backup in B.C. last season, and he's not particularly the problem. The defence is much more concerning; they've allowed 33.5 points per game to date, worst in the league. While some of that has been to opposing defences and special teams, the majority of it is on the defence. There are some offensive improvements needed, particularly late in games and in the red zone, but the offence has generally been good enough to keep them in games. That hasn't been enough, though, and the defence is a main reason why. Yes, it's not time to panic; there's a lot of the season left, their losses have been close, and there are some bright spots. What this team has been doing so far hasn't been good enough to win, though, and that should cause plenty of soul-searching in Rider Nation.