The B.C. Lions lost their second-place showdown, giving up two touchdowns in a game for the first time since their season opener — against the same Roughriders team.

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Losses are never pleasant. But the close ones, the winnable ones, the ones where it’s just one single play that is the difference, they sting far worse.


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Was it the decision to kick a PAT for a six-point lead instead of going for two in the fourth quarter? Was it T.J. Lee’s positioning on Ricardo Lewis’s touchdown catch? Did Cody Fajardo make it in the end zone at the end of the game?

The questions swirl, the what-if’s pile up, but in the end, nothing can change it.

The record will show the B.C. Lions lost 31-24 to the Saskatchewan Roughriders Friday night at B.C. Place, allowing the Riders to take sole possession of second place in the CFL’s West Division.

“I liked our fight, I liked our spirit. But this is a tough one. This one hurts,” Lions coach Rick Campbell said after the game.

“I think we can play with anyone in this league. There’s a list of plays you can think of in your mind, that if any one of them go our way, we’re gonna win this thing.”


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Fajardo’s one-yard, third-down touchdown sneak with two seconds left on the clock tied the score at 24-24, before the PAT put them ahead. A fumble by Lucky Whitehead on the kickoff return was taken back to the house for a touchdown by Saskatchewan’s Damon Webb for the final points.

“I think we stopped them, but I mean that could be a little bit of biasness from my standpoint,” said Lee. “But regardless, I mean, we lost.

“I’m able to look into the mirror. I gave up a touchdown, I could have made that adjustment and got inside of my guy and made a play on that ball, so in my head, I’m the reason why we lost.

“I basically eliminated myself by getting wider than he actually was. … That’s a small adjustment I can make and I just wish things would have been different, so I could give my team a different result on that play. And the trickle down effect what ended up winning in my head. I mean, it comes with the game.”


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The Lions (4-3) had their three-game win streak snapped, while the Riders (5-2) moved into sole possession of second place.



Winnipeg Blue Bombers at B.C. Lions

7 p.m., B.C. Place, TV: TSN, Radio: AM 730

Michael Reilly was 23-of-34 for 259 yards and two touchdowns, but had his streak of 300+ yard games snapped at three.

Fajardo, who is 5-0 against his former team, was 24-of-31 for 279 yards, one passing touchdown and one interception.

Kicker Brett Lauther was 4-of-4 for the Roughriders, hitting from 38, 29, 48, and 30.

Here’s what we learned …

B.C. Lions quarterback Michael Reilly passes against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
B.C. Lions quarterback Michael Reilly passes against the Saskatchewan Roughriders during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS


A Shaq Cooper touchdown gave the Lions a five-point lead with just under 10 minutes left in the game. Campbell had no hesitation in kicking the PAT instead of going for two to make it seven.


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No one would think twice about it, except Jimmy Camacho’s first field goal miss in 11 attempts this season happened four minutes later, and the Riders were able to rally for the win.

“I’m always looking at everything I decide and see if I can do things better,” Campbell said of the PAT decisions.

“In the CFL, I just think there’s too many possessions going back and forth. I’m thinking if we make the field goal, we’re at nine and then it’s a two possession game. I think that highlights everything that there’s a series of several things that, if we do better, then we win.”


B.C. had 271 yards of net offence, but their rushing attack, while a small part of the pass-heavy offence, was virtually non-existent on Friday night.


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Shaq Cooper and James Butler combined for five yards on just five attempts.

Cooper did score a one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, his first of the season, but was helped by a well-designed play that saw Whitehead and Reilly appear to be option Nos. 1 and 2. But he finished the night with a negative rushing total; two rushes for minus-two yards.

“We have to be better in the run game; it’s pretty obvious,” said Reilly. “That’s one phase that that needs improvement, without a doubt. But that’s not to let the passing game off the hook. We weren’t good enough in the air, either. we’ve got to figure out how to be better, because it’s just going to continue to be an issue if we don’t deal with it.”

The meagre rushing totals are a byproduct of their aggressive first-down calls. If deep balls aren’t connected on, the Lions are faced with tough second-and-long downs. Dropped passes and untimely penalties also contributed to the inconsistent offence.


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“This is kind of football 101 … we had some self inflicted wounds — whether it’s a drop or a penalty — we get in second and extra long which makes it tough on any offence,” said Campbell.

Of the Lions first six drives, four of them ended in two-and-outs. Another stalled after five plays and 19 yards.

Their first scoring drive took just two plays — a 28-yard catch by Bryan Burnham followed by Whitehead’s scoring scamper.

The prioritizing of the big play downfield had Reilly going through his progressions and spending too long in the pocket, and forced into easily covered check-down throws. He also was uncharacteristically off on a few throws, putting the ball behind his receivers on three occasions. His receivers also dropped some balls, including Whitehead on the game’s first pass.


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He had four incomplete passes in both games against the Ottawa Redblacks; he equalled the total from both games in the first half on Friday (13/21) but still racked up 165 yards passing.

It wasn’t until their final play of the first half that Reilly and Co. managed to put an actual drive together, going 71 yards in nine plays, capped off by a three-yard receiving major by Whitehead.


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The Lions defence set the tone with on Saskatchewan’s opening drive, making the Riders use nine plays to go 31 yards — forcing them to go for it on third-and-short twice — before holding them to a field goal.

B.C. gave up one big play in the first half — a huge 38-yard catch by Brayden Lenius that was well-contested by Lions DB Jalon Edwards-Cooper — that set up the Riders on the Lions’ 24, but the defence tightened up again. They stuffed a William Powell run, then knocked down a Fajardo pass to limit the damage to a 28-yard field goal that put Saskatchewan up 9-7 midway through the second quarter.

That pattern repeated itself in the second half, as a long completion to set the Riders up in B.C. territory ended with Edwards-Cooper knocking down a pass in the end zone while covering Mitchell Picton 1-on-1. Saskatchewan settled for another field goal, this one from 30 yards, from Lauther.


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Since giving up three straight touchdown drives to the Roughriders in the season opener, the Lions conceded just two on the ensuing 85 drives they faced. After a roughing-the-passer penalty extended a Saskatchewan drive, Fajardo hit Ricardo Lewis on a 23-yard score for the first touchdown given up by B.C. in four games.

Edwards-Cooper picked Fajardo off in the fourth quarter after the Riders had picked up three straight first downs on passes over 10 yards. It was his second of the year, and the streak of games with an interception continued for B.C.

They are the only team to have one in every game this season, and lead the league with 11 picks.

B.C. Lions’ Lucky Whitehead (7) pushes Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Nick Marshall away as he runs with the ball after making a reception during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.
B.C. Lions’ Lucky Whitehead (7) pushes Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Nick Marshall away as he runs with the ball after making a reception during the first half of a CFL football game in Vancouver, on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. Photo by DARRYL DYCK /THE CANADIAN PRESS


The Lions’ opening score came courtesy of their big-play specialist, Whitehead. Catching a lateral that had a quarter-inch of forward progress, Whitehead waited on his fellow receivers to set their blocks, then exploded through the mass of players and down the sidelines for a 47-yard score.


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Whitehead came into the night leading the league in receiving yards (554), average catch (18.5) and yards after the catch (YAC).

His 91 YAC on Friday night pushed his total to 665 — an eye-popping 52 per cent of his season total — and he finished the night with 111 yards receiving on six catches.


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The Lions host Winnipeg and Calgary in the next two weeks, before heading on the road for three straight games, including a return match with the Blue Bombers on Oct. 23 in Winnipeg.

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