The B.C. Lions made a big statement in the CFL playoff race Saturday.
Travis Lulay threw for 303 yards and two touchdowns as the Lions routed the Saskatchewan Roughriders 42-5 to a big step in securing a post-season spot.
The Lions limited Roughriders' quarterback Darian Durant to 188 yards passing and forced two interceptions, one of which Ryan Phillips returned 81 yards for a touchdown.
“You can't understate that this was a huge win for us,” said Lulay, who connected on a 100-yard catch-and-run TD with Arland Bruce. “Saskatchewan's been playing really good football of late and any time you know coming into this place, hostile environment, a game with a lot on the line as far as the West is concerned. It was a huge win for us.”
B.C. (6-6) got on the scoreboard first with a 16-yard field goal by kicker Paul McCallum and never let up. The Lions dominated possession in the first quarter, holding onto the ball for 13 minutes.
Saskatchewan ended the first quarter with a bad snap that sailed over Durant's head, leading to the Riders' first turnover. B.C. recovered the ball on Saskatchewan's 22-yard line and started the second quarter with a touchdown.
“We made plays early on,” Lulay said. “That was important for us too, to take the crowd out of it a little bit and put the momentum on our side.”
As good as B.C. was, Saskatchewan (4-8) didn't help its cause with costly penalties. The Riders were penalized 16 times for 145 yards, something head coach Ken Miller called “outrageous.”
“It's a big surprise to me because I think it's inconsistent with our character,” Miller said. “It's inconsistent with how the team has played over the last three weeks. It's inconsistent with how the team has played over the past few years.
“I think we played poorly and I don't know exactly what the answer is for why that occurred but I'm going to work on it.”
The Lions opened the second quarter with the long touchdown from Lulay to Bruce, who said the win was important in B.C.’s playoff push.
“That means it's trouble for the other teams because we're .500 right now and it's great feeling. It's zero-zero right now, so it's like ‘Let's go, let's play ball,“’ said Bruce.
“And whoever's next we'll be ready for them.”
The Riders went into Saturday's game looking for their first win over a West Division rival in 2011.
Instead, they were their own worst enemy, with Nick Graham getting tossed from the game for rough play. The ejection and ensuing penalties cost the Riders 40 yards and led to a McCallum field goal.
B.C. followed that up with an interception by Phillips that was returned for another TD as the Lions led 30-0.
Saskatchewan finally got on the board with a field goal in the dying minutes of the second quarter.
The Lions kept roaring in the second half, starting with a touchdown by Geroy Simon in the third quarter.
Saskatchewan continued to rack up penalties, including a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call on Dario Romero. A long punt return by Tristan Jackson was wiped off the board when the ball was called back because of an illegal block by Saskatchewan.
B.C. intercepted another pass from Durant, prompting Miller to bring in backup quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie in the fourth quarter. Dinwiddie led a drive that brought Saskatchewan to the one-yard, but a pass intended for Efrem Hill was incomplete and the ball was turned over to B.C.
McCallum then conceded a safety.
Durant said the Riders didn't play smart football, became one-dimensional when they got behind and couldn't get their running game going.
“In a game of this magnitude, with so much at stake, you just have to almost be perfect and we were far from that,” Durant said.
The last time these two teams met on Aug. 5 they had a combined record of 1-9 — B.C. had yet to win and Saskatchewan was 1-4. The Lions won that game 24-11.
The Lions' win Saturday means they have won the season series with the Roughriders.
Lulay acknowledged that he has his eyes on the Grey Cup, which will be played at BC Place this November.
“Well, yeah, you know it's not out of reach and there's still a lot of football left to be played. We know we've got a lot of work left to be who we want to be as a football club,” said Lulay.
“We're confident that we can beat anybody when we play good football, but we know we have to play good football to do it.”
NOTES: An ankle injury has sidelined Canadian slotback Andy Fantuz. ... Tailback Hugh Charles and kicker Jamie Boreham were among Saskatchewan's scratches. ... Lulay made his 18th consecutive game at quarterback for the Lions ... McCallum stretched his field goal made streak to 26. He trails David Ridgway's 1993 streak of 28.