After being the go-to receiver for the past three seasons in Hamilton and Toronto, Arland Bruce had to adjust to diminished role when he was traded to the B.C. Lions in August.
On Sunday, he was front and centre once again.
Bruce caught a Travis Lulay pass across midfield on B.C.’s second offensive play of the fourth quarter, and ran the rest of the way for a 72-yard touchdown that gave B.C. the lead for good in a 29-18 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“There'd been places throughout the game where I know I wasn't really getting no looks, and it's just about being a professional,” said Bruce. “Just staying in the game and letting the game come to you ... no matter if you're down by three, or whatever, I just wanted to stay in the game.
“Lulay made a great throw, I made a catch for him, and I did my job.”
The win was the eighth straight for the Lions (9-5), who held onto a share of first place in the CFL's West Division by keeping pace with Edmonton.
Saskatchewan (4-11) suffered its fourth straight loss.
“Every win for us is big,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono, who has guided his team back from an 0-5 start to the year. “It's something that we've been preaching week in and week out about just playing for the week.
“Some games are going to be prettier than others, some are going to be easier than others, this was a tough game, and we expected a tough game coming into Saskatchewan.”
The Roughriders had hoped it would be a little tougher on the Lions.
Saskatchewan was down to its last gasp of playoff hope, needing to win all four of its remaining games as well as have Hamilton lose its final four in order to make the post-season.
Instead, the Riders will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2001 and, adding insult to injury, have now gone over 265 minutes of football without scoring a touchdown.
“It's bitterly disappointing,” said a dejected Ken Miller, who returned as Saskatchewan's head coach after Greg Marshall was fired following a 1-7 start to the year.
Miller previously coached the Riders from 2008-10, leading them to Grey Cup games in each of the last two seasons, and was then asked to compare Sunday's emotions with those of losing back-to-back Grey Cups.
“There's no comparison,” he said quietly. “When you're in the depth of the valley like we are in this situation, in comparison to being near the mountain top, there really isn't any comparison.”
Sunday's game featured almost 800 yards in total offence but a number of clutch defensive stands saw B.C. kicker Paul McCallum and Riders kicker Chris Milo combine for 10 field goals before Bruce scored the game's first touchdown.
B.C. running back Andrew Harris added the insurance score with a 42-yard touchdown reception on the Lions next possession.
McCallum kicked a 51-yard field goal to open the scoring on the Lions second possession of the game. Milo evened it up with a 37 yarder on Saskatchewan's next possession and gave the Riders their first lead of the game with a 49-yard field goal, his longest of the year.
The kickers traded field goals to end the half — McCallum was good from 23 and 10 yards, Milo from 21 and 45 — as Saskatchewan entered the break with a 12-9 lead.
Milo then hit from 30 and McCallum from 31 and the Riders carried a 15-12 lead into the final frame, where Milo booted a 32-yarder early in the frame.
McCallum capped the scoring with a 28-yard field goal.
Milo's only miss of the day came from 34 yards late in the third quarter.
Lulay finished 16-of-29 passing for 287 yards. Saskatchewan quarterback Darian Durant, playing with a broken foot, was 29-for-45 for 281 yards.
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