The running back
One year ago, Andrew Harris was fighting for a starting job in the B.C. Lions backfield.
One week ago, Harris – now one of the CFL’s top offensive threats – had what he considers a so-so game.
He gained 112 yards from scrimmage, rushing and receiving. And, in one episode of little-noticed work, on first and goal on the 7-yard line, down by six points, with 8 minutes 38 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, Harris threw a block on Montreal Alouettes middle linebacker Shea Emry that gave quarterback Travis Lulay the sliver of time to find Arland Bruce III in the back of the end zone.
The final, of course, was 30-25 for the Als, to put the CFL’s best two teams at 6-3, with half a season to go until November and the 100th Grey Cup game.
What Harris remembers, besides losing the game, is three missed blocks. No sacks resulted, but his miscues led to two hurried, and incomplete, passes. Which, in Harris’s tally of his own work, is basically a sack.
“You know what? After the game, I was pretty choked about it,” Harris said on a warm, sunny afternoon after practice in the Vancouver suburbs. “There was about three, where I got beat clean. I’ve never been a guy to miss blocks like that.”
He watched the game on PVR later. He heard what the television commentators said, about how he – they said – struggles with blocking.
“It just bothers me to have that other there,” Harris said. “I’m ready to be myself this week.”
The defensive tackle
He is a self-taught pianist, and, recently, almost ripped a man’s arm off, which garnered the harshest suspension (two games) in Mark Cohon’s tenure as CFL commissioner.
Khalif Mitchell also likes words, particularly the nuances of words. He majored in communications at East Carolina University.
So when Mitchell used the hashtag #revenge on Twitter after losing to the Montreal Alouettes last week, he didn’t mean bad by it, even if teammate Keron Williams didn’t like the severity of the word.
In his tweet, Mitchell also said: “Good game by the OL,” the Montreal big men who lined up against him, and used one more hashtag, #respect.
“I used ‘revenge’ because I just can’t wait to get back to go out there and play,” he said. “We have an opportunity.”
Mitchell, who had six sacks last year, has zero this year. Williams leads all defensive players with seven.
The Lions lead the league with 22 sacks and, on offence, have given up the fewest, 12. Montreal has also protected quarterback Anthony Cavillo well, yielding just 14 sacks.
Mitchell said Montreal’s offensive blocking schemes, the use of their backs, combined with creative passing routes, stretched B.C., the league’s best defence.
“This game’s real important, man,” Mitchell said. “We’ve just got a chance to come out here and actually authenticate ourselves. Last time, they revealed a lot of weaknesses that we never had or never understood and now we have the opportunity to come back and reveal ourselves and come back and play harder.”
The rookie head coach
Mike Benevides has six wins in his nine-game career as a head coach in the CFL. His boss, as it’s been for a decade-plus, is Wally Buono.
Benevides has 249 wins to go to eclipse his boss. He doesn’t think about things like that.
Benevides does, however, remember 2006, winning the Grey Cup over Montreal, 25-16. He remembers losing on opening day last year, in Montreal, 30-26. He remembers beating the Als, in Vancouver, in the last game of the 2011 season, 43-1.
Benevides most of all remembers losing last week.
“Any time you play those guys,” he said, “it’s a tremendous challenge.”