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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

BEST, TRACY DISCIPLINED

TORONTO (July 7, 2015) - The Canadian Football League announced today:

Saskatchewan Roughrider Chris Best has been fined for a low block from behind on Toronto Argonaut Cleyon Laing.

Hamilton Tiger-Cat Adrian Tracy has been fined for lowering his head and leading with the crown of his helmet, making it the main point of contact as he hit an opponent.

As per league policy, the amount of the player fines was not disclosed.

CFL Commissioner Jeffrey L. Orridge issued the following statement on the Tracy fine: "There has been significant interest in this play as it resulted in an injury to Winnipeg Blue Bomber quarterback Drew Willy, which forced him out of the game. As Adrian Tracy was closing in to hit Willy, the quarterback was already in the process of being tackled by another Tiger-Cat, which changed Willy's body position and put his head in Tracy's path. However, Tracy had a responsibility to avoid lowering his head and hitting his opponent with it. Leading with your head,and using it as the main point of contact, is illegal. It is a dangerous and unnecessary manoeuvre that puts both the tackler and his opponent at serious risk of injury. It is standard we must uphold as we strive to protect player health and safety."

Glen Johnson, Vice-President of Officiating, added: "Player safety is an important priority and there should have been a penalty on the play for unnecessary roughness."

THE (TUESDAY) MORNING GOALIE


7 ODDS 'N ENDS

1 - THE LAST WORD:  Did I mention I dislike Sunday Roughrider games?  They can make it difficult to get the MMG out on time with all the other coverage we do for each and every Rider contest (TV, radio, print and online).  So now with just over 24 hours to digest Sunday's 42-40 overtime loss to the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium, here are a few final thoughts before we turn our attention to Friday's date with the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.

"We should be talking about a win right now," Riders head coach Corey Chamblin huffed in his postgame interview on CKRM on Sunday.  "Everybody sees that.  P.I., interception, the drop.  We're real close to protecting all those things. I told the guys I'm proud of them.  We're real close."

On all those things, Chamblin's right.  But it wasn't a win, and the Saskatchewan Roughriders are 0-2 for the first time in the Chamblin era.  In fact the club has never lost a season-opener since Chamblin took over the Saskatchewan Roughriders prior to the 2012 campaign.  So we're in uncharted territory.

Having watched the final quarter of Sunday's game over again, it's easy to see how the Riders saw their 10-point lead dwindle into a loss.  Major fouls on the offensive line on the Riders' second-last drive, ineffective clock management on their final series which ended with the Brett Smith one yard touchdown plunge, and the fact they applied no pressure on Toronto QB Trevor Harris, allowing him to move the ball 85 yards with a minute to go to tie the game, all added up to the roof caving in.

So the Riders are 0-2 and have lost those games by a combined six points.  Chamblin's correct that a few plays here and there in both games swung the outcome in the opposition's favour.  The good news is that there appears to be more than enough adequate talent on this team - despite its rash of injuries - and there's plenty of weeks left to right the ship.

They just need to be used effectively and to be put in position to have success.

2 - K.G. SHINES:  The statistic sticks out as clear as the nose on your face:  the Roughriders are a combined 2-9 without Darian Durant.  If nothing else, Darian's value to this team has been underscored in spades and it extends well beyond what he provides in the huddle.  The Rider braintrust noticed this before anyone else and made him one of the highest-paid arms in the league in the spring of 2014.

That said, back-up Kevin Glenn has been out-of-this-world in relief.  The 36-year old pivot enters Week 3 just 38 yards off the league lead in passing yards.  Was his pick six at 5:34 of the fourth quarter on Sunday a killer?  Absolutely.  But it wasn't the reason for the loss.  It didn't tie the game, but rather brought the Argos to within three points.  There was plenty of time left to win the game.

Individually, Kevin has surpassed Matt Dunigan to become the CFL's 7th all-time leading passer and now he's 6,602 yards behind the greatest Roughrider Of 'Em All, Ron Lancaster, for #6.  But there's one thing Kevin Glenn doesn't possess that the other nine in the Top 10 do: a Grey Cup ring.  We'll examine his quest for a CFL championship in the weeks ahead, in other online columns.

3 - ENOUGH ALREADY!:  I was one of the most vocal opponents of the CFL's nine rule changes when they were announced this spring - particularly the new Pass Interference restriction and its five yard bumper.  However the rules are here to stay so enough with the belly-aching of how they've changed the game and made it virtually impossible to play man-to-man defense (Corey Chamblin's coverage of choice).

I read articles from all across the CFL covering every team and don't hear as much griping from other teams, their media or fans, about the new rules.  Are those teams adapting quicker?  To coin the over-used football term, "it is what it is".  The Riders need to figure this out, and pronto.

And Andre Proulx's crew does not have it in for the Roughriders.  There was a time a few years ago when a case could be made that Glen Johnson had some sort of gripe with the Green & White, but that's water under the Wascana Bridge.

Officiating did not cost the Roughriders the game on Sunday.

4 - THE PLAN:  With the addition of Paul McCallum, the Saskatchewan Roughriders are now the CFL's oldest team.  Montreal is #2.  So obviously, at some point in time, you would think there has to be a plan to overhaul this roster in an off-season soon.  I asked Roughrider GM Brendan Taman if McCallum fits into those long-term plans.

"My long term plan is to win right now," Taman stated.  "Everybody keeps talking about the new stadium in two, three years from now and I've gotta keep that in the back of my mind.  There's no doubt about that.  But if we can't go make a field goal next week you ain't going to be talking to me to get to the new stadium.  Somebody else will be be here so my goal is to win right now.

"If Paul goes and kicks 90% for the next two years, there's probably a good chance he will be kicking in the new stadium.  There's no doubt about it.  But this is a 'win now' business and if me and Corey are planning two years out from now, we're gonna be in trouble."

5 - THE LATEST ON DURANT:  While I had Taman's ear, I asked him for an update on the injured Rider quarterback and the surgery to repair his torn left achilles tendon.

"The latest I can tell you is that he had his operation Friday at noon," Taman reported.  "Jeremy O'Day traded texts with him Friday night and I think he got out of the hospital around 6:00 or 7:00.  He's pretty sore from what I can gather so he'll be laid up for a few days but I think you'll probably see some comments from him early this week."

6 - WEEK 2 CFL NOTES:  Hail the RedBlacks.  Ottawa's CFL entry is one of two unbeaten teams in the CFL at 2-0.  Who would have thought the balance of power is in the East?  But remember, it's only July.  But the RedBlacks overcame a rough start against B.C. on Saturday to post a 27-16 win and looked like a real football team.  At one time I thought 'Are they this good or is B.C. this bad?' but they were able to choke the Lions off in the fourth quarter to win their home-opener.  The game plan of rookie offensive coordinator Jason Maas was superb.  And former Roughrider Zack Evans ended the threat by stuffing the Lions on a 3rd down gamble in the final minute.  Ottawa is in position to go to 3-0 when they face the Mike Reilly-less Edmonton Eskimos Thursday night at Commonwealth ...

- Rookie quarterback Rakeem Cato will get the nod for the 1-1 Montreal Alouettes when they visit the 1-1 Winnipeg Blue Bombers Friday night.  Much has been made about the Riders dropping Cato from their negotiation list in May and the Alouettes quickly snapping him up, and I'll explain that situation in my Wednesday column on the Riders' official website.  However the Cato furor quickly went away once the Riders lost to Toronto ...

- The Riders can find quarterbacks.  See Drew Willy, an original find of Riders Dir. of Player Personnel Craig Smith.  Smith was also the first to lay eyes on Kory Sheets ...

- Bomber quarterback Drew Willy was back taking first team reps on Monday, just five days after having his notes scrambled by Hamilton's Adrian Tracy.  Sportsnet's Arash Madani admonished the Bombers for having Willy on the field on Monday.  I can't assume head coach Mike O'Shea would have Willy out there without medical approval.

- I've tabbed Friday's Roughriders-Lions showdown at B.C. Place as the Bad Blood Bowl as new Lions offensive coordinator George Cortez faces his former team for the first time while the Riders' Paul McCallum does the same.   We'll have Lions colour commentator Giulio Caravatta on the SportsCage on Tuesday to preview the match.  Giulio is the last Canadian quarterback to start a CFL game going back to 1996 ...

- There's a rare CFL Monday Night Football game in Week 3 as Toronto visits Calgary in a rematch of the 2012 Grey Cup.  The Stampeders will have to shake off their poor outing against Montreal and block better up the middle for Grey Cup MVP Bo-Levi Mitchell ...

- The 1-1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats have the week off and it comes at a good time with seven injured starters.  I still haven't received an adequate explanation for the Ticats going for a two point convert while up 29 points in the second half at Winnipeg Thursday night.

7 - HOCKEY NOTES:  The Edmonton Oilers held an intrasquad game on Monday.   They lost.  But they filled the arena to watch #1 pick Connor McDavid who signed his first NHL deal on Friday ... Arizona Coyotes forward Boyd Gordon of Regina was on the SportsCage on Thursday discussing his trade from Edmonton.  He admitted a pang of regret to be leaving Oil Country since they seem to be on the verge of something big but he admitted he got sick of losing ... The Kelowna Rockets lost their head coach, Dan Lambert, on Monday to the NHL's Buffalo Sabres where he'll be an assistant to Dan Bylsma.  Right now the rumour mill suggests Ryan McGill will be the next head coach of the Rockets ... Congratulations to former Regina Pats forward Pavel Padakin who signed his first pro deal, with the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms, on Monday.

* For sponsorship opportunities for the MMG, email ridervoice@yahoo.ca
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THAT'S ALL! THANKS FOR WAITING...
RP
@sportscage

DAWGS BITE RED SOX

The Okotoks Dawgs jumped out to an early 4-0 lead on the Regina Red Sox Monday night and went on to win 9-4.

One of the highlights of the night for Regina was Jager Toffan’s solo shot in the 2nd.  Toffan now leads the Red Sox with three home runs.

Strasbourg product Jordan Schulz put the Red Sox within a couple of runs with a clutch two out 2-run triple in the home half of the 5th inning. It just wasn’t enough as 477 fans watched Okotoks score three insurance runs in the ninth to hand Regina its 7th straight loss.

Parks Smithey got the nod from Red Sox skipper Scott Douglas. It was Smithey’s fifth start of the season and he faced 28 batters over 6 innings of work. He was also tagged with the loss, which dropped his record to 1-3.

The Regina bullpen was busy again as Kendal Daniels pitched the 7th, Mike Thill the 8th and Jeremy Sylvester and Brandon Radmacher closed it out for the Red Sox.  

Regina now sports a 12-17 record.

The Red Sox and Dawgs will put the finishing touches on their two game series Tuesday night at Currie Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm.

(Courtesy Outlaw Communications)

WILLY TO PLAY, SPEEDY "B" OFF AND RUNNING

FREE WILLY - There's no doubt in head coach Mike O'Shea's mind who his starting quarterback will be Friday night.

O'Shea told reporters Monday he expects incumbent Drew Willy under centre when the Bombers host the Montreal Alouettes. Willy took a helmet-to-helmet hit that forced him out of Winnipeg's 52-26 home-opening loss the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Thursday night.

Willy practised with the starting offence Monday and said afterwards he experienced no lingering effects from the injury.

"We don't usually set our roster until Day 3 anyway but I'd say he's playing,'' O'Shea said.

Willy, in his second season as Winnipeg's starter, can't see any reason why he won't play against Montreal.

"I don't think so,'' he said. "I feel good.

"I had a pretty clean day out there ... I processed everything fast out there. I look forward to looking at the practice film and keep working this week.''

Willy was hit late in the opening quarter by Hamilton defensive lineman Adrian Tracy. He remained down for several minutes but walked off on his own.

There was no penalty on the play, however the CFL is expected to review the incident.

While Willy was motionless initially, he said he remembers everything about the hit.

"I was just trying to make a play, he (Tracy) came and obviously made a hit on me,'' Willy said. "It doesn't look good or anything but that's football.

"I know what I signed up for.''

Willy watched the remainder of the first half from the tunnel before retreating to Winnipeg's locker-room in the second half. The former Buffalo star said he felt well enough to return and expressed that sentiment to the Bombers, who opted against allowing him back in.

Quarterbacks have been hard hit by injuries already this season. Toronto's Ricky Ray (shoulder) opened the season on the six-game injured list while Montreal's Jonathan Crompton (shoulder), Edmonton's Mike Reilly (knee) and Saskatchewan's Darian Durant (Achilles) were all hurt in their clubs' season openers.

Reilly is out 10-to-12 weeks while Durant's injury ended his season.

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STREAKING REDBLACKS - After just two weeks, the Ottawa Redblacks are poised to enter unchartered territory.

Ottawa has opened the 2015 campaign with consecutive victories, matching the number of wins they had last year in their inaugural season. The Redblacks visit the Edmonton Eskimos (0-1) on Thursday.

Quarterback Henry Burris was 23-of-29 passing for 296 yards and three TDs in leading Ottawa past the B.C. Lions 27-16 in its home opener Saturday. Running back Chevon Walker ran for 103 yards while former Stamp Brad Sinopoli added nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown.

The Redblacks opened their season with a 20-16 win over Montreal, their first-ever road victory.

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EAST DOMINANCE - East Division teams are getting the best of their Western counterparts early this season.

East clubs are 5-1 in head-to-head matches after going 4-0 last weekend. The Toronto Argonauts have recorded consecutive road wins over Edmonton and Saskatchewan to lead the way.

The West's lone win was Calgary's season-opening 24-23 home decision over Hamilton in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup game. The Stampeders needed Rene Paredes' 50-yard field goal with no time remaining to earn the victory.

Three more East-West matchups are on tap in Week 3 as Ottawa visits Edmonton on Thursday, Winnipeg hosts Montreal on Friday before Toronto heads to Calgary on Monday.

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SPEEDY START - Hamilton's Brandon Banks is off to an impressive start.

Banks has returned eight punts for 178 yards over Hamilton's opening two games for a gaudy 22.3-yard average. Banks has also registered return TDs in each game and leads the CFL with 326 all-purpose yards.

Banks showed last year how dangerous he can be. He had two punt return TDs - and another disallowed due to penalty - in Hamilton's 40-24 East Division final win over Montreal, then took another back 90 yards for a score that was nullified by a flag with 35 seconds remaining in the Ticats' 20-16 Grey Cup loss to Calgary.

Banks has certainly thrived following the CFL's off-season rule change on punts. Now, the five interior linemen must wait for the ball to be kicked before heading downfield, thus creating more room for speedy returners like Banks to operate.

Toronto's Chad Owens (12-yard average), Montreal's Stefan Logan (10.4-yard average) and Calgary's Tim Brown (10.1-yard average) are also double-digit returners but only Banks has punt return TD so far.

The good news for CFL opponents is they won't have to contend with Banks this week as Hamilton has the bye before heading to Montreal on July 16.

(Canadian Press/Craig Slater)

Monday, July 6, 2015

RIDERS RELEASE MILO


The Saskatchewan Roughriders have announced the release of national kicker Chris Milo.

MOSAIC PLACE RECAP: ARGOS 42 RIDERS 40 (2 OT)

REGINA - The legend of Trevor Harris continues to grow, while the Saskatchewan Roughriders' slide continues.

The Argonauts QB led his team on a last-minute touchdown drive to send the game into overtime and then threw two touchdown passes in extra time to lead Toronto to a 42-40 double-overtime victory over the host Saskatchewan Roughriders on Sunday. Harris, in his third game as starter for the injured Ricky Ray, led Toronto (2-0) to a 26-11 upset over the Edmonton Eskimos in Week 1.

"I just want to be the best possible back-up I can be,'' said Harris, who went 30 for 38 with 267 yards and four touchdowns and one interception in the game. "Ricky Ray is one of the best quarterbacks ever in the CFL. My job is to steer the ship in the right direction when he's not available.''

Playing in front of 31,907 fans at Mosaic Stadium, Saskatchewan led the game 28-21 with just over a minute left in the game. Scrimmaging from the Toronto 25, Harris led the Argonauts on a last-minute touchdown drive, capped off with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Chad Owens, to send the game into overtime.

In a crazy overtime session filled with penalties and a few reviewed plays, Saskatchewan opened up the scoring on its first possession when Rob Bagg took the ball one yard into the end zone on an end around. Running back Jerome Messam was tackled in the backfield on the ensuing two-point conversion. The Argos stormed back with a nine-yard receiving touchdown by running back Brandon Whitaker in their first overtime period. They, too, failed their two-point conversion attempt when Harris was sacked by Rider defensive back Macho Harris.

In the second overtime, Harris threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tori Gurley and then hooked up with running back Anthony Coombs on a three-yard strike for the two-point conversion to put Toronto up 42-34. Saskatchewan (0-2) had a chance to tie the game after QB Kevin Glenn connected with Chris Getzlaf for a 25-yard touchdown on the next drive, but Glenn just missed Getzlaf on the ensuing two-point convert.

"I was on the sideline and coach said these are the moments you live for,'' Harris said. "I remember thinking, 'I've done this in my backyard a few times. Now you've just got to go do it with 30,000 thousand people in the stands.' We took a punch in the mouth from a great football team and we were able to come back and keep fighting.''

Owens, who led Toronto receivers with eight catches for 88 yards and one touchdown, said the team has always believed in Harris' ability to lead.

"He's a guy who doesn't go out there to prove guys wrong; he just goes out there and does his job,'' Owens said. "This just shows that this a guy who can go into a hostile environment, go into a situation where there's still question marks surrounding him, and get the job done.''

The Riders put up over 500 yards of offence in the loss. Glenn went 33 for 40 for 477 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Riders, while the Riders' Ryan Smith led all receivers with eight catches for 174 yards and one touchdown. It was a similar story in Week 1, where the Riders put up nearly 500 yards in offence in a 30-26 home loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

"It's bittersweet since we didn't get the victory, but I'm still proud of the guys on the offence side of the ball because we went out and showed a lot of resiliency,'' Glenn said. "We don't want to be 0-2, but that's what professional sports is all about. We'll learn from our mistake in this game and move on.''

Veteran kicker Paul McCallum, who returned to Saskatchewan last week after being released by the B.C. Lions on June 3, hit all four of his field goal attempts in the game, including a 49-yarder.

(Canadian Press/Craig Slater)

POSTGAME COMMENTS

HEAD COACH COREY CHAMBLIN

- We should be talking about a win right now.  Everybody sees that.  Pass Interference, an interception, the drop.  We're real close to protecting all those things. I told the guys I'm proud of them.  We're real close.

- A lotta good signs in all three phases.  We gotta get points.  We have to have points if we have 500 yards offense.

- We gotta fix some things, go on the road and learn how to win a football game

- I told them I'm proud of the effort.  They did everything right this week getting ready for the game.  We were this close to a tie or a win.  Keep doing things right and we'll be in the victory column.

- There were some things.  We had a three man rush and we were too shallow (behind it).  We had nine men deep and they had an 18-yard pick up or something.  There was a penalty too.  We have to play it better when the ball's in the air.

- (Pass Interference on Weldon Brown) is a judgment call.  Judgment means whatever he sees at that time.  We have to play the ball better when it's in the air.

- I'm not going to say undisciplined.  My team is disciplined.  They had just as many penalties as we did.  Each year presents its own challenges.  This is about getting young players and veteran players to play together.

- They (the CFL) wanted to see the points up.  I have to have to find a way around it, being a defensive coach.  Two or three plays differently, and we're sitting around here talking about a win.  One play different and we're talking about a tie.  But they didn't go our way and we're talking about a loss.

- It's a positive that we're starting to see playmakers.  It's not just Getzlaf, Bagg and Dressler.  I believe in Ryan Smith.  I told him before the game he's going to ball today.

- Kevin Glenn wishes he had that ball back (on the pick six).  The team tried to fight back but the mindset was different after that.  Defensive points against are tough to get over.

- I thought we were stoning them early.  We had a good couple of quarters but after that interception, it doesn't matter about the yards.  It's about the points.  Things got away from us at the end.

- The good thing about it is, and I tell the guys this, if you lose games tight, you're close.  If you get blown out, you're not close.  As the guys continue to grow, we won't be losing by two and three points.  We'll be winning those.

- I won't say concerns.  We have a lot of yards.  Jacques wants to be in the endzone.  We'll continue to look at things but we need to have the points.  We need to find a way to score points in this new league.

- (Injuries).  It's too early to tell.  Ivan tells me who's out and then the doctors assess it when we meet after this news conference.

- I will let Brendan Taman speak on the medical.  I don't want to talk about Darian's injury or surgery.

- (On pressuring the quarterback) That's always a concern.  We'd like to get pressure without sending five or six guys.  We'd like more pressure but teams are smart and sometimes they'll put out double tight or an extra back to stop the pressure.

- I've very pleased with my football team and we're very close to getting it.  We're on the right course and we're close to getting it.

RECEIVER/RETURNER RYAN SMITH

- We fought really hard today.  We took that next towards winning a game.  It was just kinda crappy luck but we'll step back next week and we'll be alright.

- I'm good.  I got a little shocker but I'll be alright.

- Our heads are held high.  We came out there fighting and that's all we can ask for.  We came up a little short today but next week we'll be ready to go.

- I try to just go out there and do what I do.  If the ball's in the air, I try to make a play on it.  Just help out the quarterback and team as much as I possibly can.

- I've been told about the 24 hour rule.  You watch the previous game's film, learn from your mistakes, and then come back and focus on your next opponent.  That's what I'm gonna do.

LB JAKE DOUGHTY

- We had a lot of things going.  I loved our intensity and energy.  Sometimes the wins and losses don't fall your way but we'll regroup and be a good football team

- (The game) was incredible to say the least.  A roller coaster to say the least, that's for sure.  But we'll be back to fight next week.

- (Chamblin) just said he liked our intenstiy, he loved our effort and we're that close.  We're a couple inches away and we'll be a good football team


REGINA WINS LEAGUE TITLE

The Regina Riot brought home the WWCFL Championship with a convincing 53-6 win over the Edmonton Storm on Saturday, July 4 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, MB.

Starting with a fresh slate this season, Head Coach Shawn McCall was able to lead the team to victory in his first season with the program. We are excited about what was accomplished this season, building on all of the work that has been done since the Riot was established in 2011. We are also overwhelmed with the community support we have been receiving and want to thank our fans and partners for their support.

We are proud to bring home our first WWCFL Championship and we are looking forward to the continued growth and development of our program. The Riot will be holding camps in the fall to kick things off for the 2016 season.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

REDBLACKS 27 LIONS 16

OTTAWA - The Ottawa Redblacks are a different team with a different attitude in 2015.

For the first time in their short franchise history, the Redblacks have won two-straight games after a 27-16 victory against the B.C. Lions on Saturday night.

Last year, it took Ottawa (2-0) 13 games before it won two games and that's all they managed for the season.

"We don't even remember what happened last year,'' said Redblacks quarterback Henry Burris. "We've added some great pieces in the right places. We all believe in each other in this locker room and now we're making the plays that help stack on top of that and the potential and the belief in here is sky high and the confidence is sky high.''

Burris was a big part of the victory - throwing three touchdowns and finishing the game completing 23-of-29 pass attempts for 290 yards and one interception.

A strong second half was the difference for the Redblacks as they outscored the Lions (0-1) 17-9 in the final two quarters in front of 24,376 fans at TD Place.

An 11-yard TD pass to Ernest Jackson and a 30-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ellingson helped sparked the offence. Delbert Alvarado also connected on a 28-yard field goal.

"We talked at half time that belief was a big part of this thing and that you believe that we're going to find a way to get it done and that the guys are going to step up and make the plays,'' said Ottawa coach Rick Campbell. "Our guys have bought into that.''

B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay was playing his first regular season game since injuring his shoulder in Ottawa last September. He was 18-of-32 on his pass attempts for 246 yards, one touchdown and an interception.

"We did a lot of good things, especially early in this game, but we didn't finish those drives,'' said Lulay. "That's where we need to be better.''

The Lions took the lead when Lulay connected with Austin Collie for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to make it 16-13.

"We've got to finish a game,'' said B.C. coach Jeff Tedford, who was making his CFL head coaching debut. "We've got to give them credit, they deserved to win. They played better than we did. It's everybody's responsibility, the coaches, players, everyone.''

The Redblacks are back in action Thursday as they head to Edmonton, while B.C. hosts Saskatchewan on Friday.

(Canadian Press)