Game Preview | Lions at Roughriders

One of the early themes of this remarkable 2022 Lions season has been the club’s ability to come down hard on momentum. Look no further than last week’s comeback win at Calgary where Bryan Burnham had two big catches on third down – one that was for a 54-yard touchdown – and Lucky Whitehead made a clutch play for prepare them for the later winning placement.

Momentum is a funny thing. As the 7-1 Lions look to build on their early season momentum with a second trip to Saskatchewan in less than a month, seizing the momentum will be a big key to success.

Rookie defensive lineman Nathan Cherry played a big part in that momentum, forcing a third-quarter fumble that was recovered by Ben Hladik. He may have ended up getting lost in the comeback madness, but the takeaway would lead to three points and also prove that depth on the defensive side of the ball has been an underrated part of this year’s history.

“He feels good. Being here and working every day, you hope to make games like that,” Cherry said.

“That’s why you train every day and finally have time to be able to put it on the pitch, it’s great.”

This Lions defense certainly deserves its share of credit. From timely turnovers to the recent habit of shutting down opponents in the second half, these are the attributes of Championship teams. To be able to say that their 2022 1st round draft pick contributes to this is also an incredible luxury.

Now comes the test of facing a Saskatchewan team that seems to be getting back to healthy bodies, namely defensive linemen Pete Robertson, who is tied with teammate Anthony Lanier for the CFL lead in sacks, AC Leonard and Garrett Marino. Quarterback Cody Fajardo appears to have recovered from the knee issues he’s been playing with for the past few weeks.

“It’s definitely a challenge. He wants to get out of the pocket, extend plays and throw him down the field,” Cherry added.

It’s about getting there with good passing lanes to stay inside the pocket and throw from inside the pocket.

“They’ve got a lot of good players and they’re getting good players. We’ll see how their roster ends up, but whoever they put in there, they’ll have to beat them,” added head coach Rick Campbell.

Cherry, defensive linemate Riley Pickett and offensive lineman Noah Zerr represent a trio of Saskatchewan Huskies that are somehow making their way home. Cherry and Pickett starred in the win in Saskatchewan three weeks ago as Zerr dresses for his first pro contest. Cherry is happy to have a successful first trip home and to be able to focus more on the soccer side of things in this all-important division game.

“It’s going to be a little less sentimental,” the former Canada West star laughed.

“Pure business. I’ve seen everyone, seen the stadium now as a pro. It’s just business and I’m excited to go out there and get another win.

The game

BC Lions (7-1-0) vs. Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-4-0)

friday august 19

7:00 p.m., Mosaic Stadium

Television: TSN, ESPN2

Radio: AM730, Lions Audio Network, Sirius XM 167 Canada Talks

Season Series: The teams meet next week at BC Place for the third and final meeting of the 2022 regular season. Nathan Rourke passed for 336 yards and two touchdowns as the Lions won 32-17 at Regina on July 29.

3 lions to watch

#46 LB- Ben Hladik- since Bo Lokombo went down to injury, the UBC product has performed admirably at linebacker. Hladik’s recovered fumble led to three key second-half points in the big comeback in Calgary last week.

#6 DB – TJ Lee – didn’t slow down a bit after surpassing the 100-game mark for his stellar career. Lee and the defensive backs will get a good test against Duke Williams and the Saskatchewan offense.

#19 WR- Dominique Rhymes- the club’s receiving leader has been Burnham-esque with his playmaking abilities. What’s in store for us this week?

Additional footage

Rourke’s 2,908 passing yards are the most in eight games since Matt Dunigan in 1994 (3,032 yards). Rourke is coming off previous eight-game totals set by Michael Reilly in 2016 (2,843 yards) and Ricky Ray in 2005 (2,802 yards). Rourke is also 735 yards off the single-season record for a Canadian held by Russ Jackson at 3,641 yards in 1969.

Rhymes, Lucky Whitehead and Keon Hatcher are all on track to top 1,300 receiving yards this season. No team in CFL history has three times passed for 1,300 yards in a year.

More impressive figures for this defense of the Lions: they allowed the fewest 1st downs (141), the least net attacking opponent (average of 280.1) and the fewest yards per game (5.7). Their 175 points allowed (21.9 per game) rank them second in the CFL behind Winnipeg (18.2 points per game).

American Shane Wynn is making his CFL debut and will aim to spark a return game that needs to find more consistency. The Indiana product was added to the practice squad in July and has made a few stops in the NFL, including a stint on the active roster in Jacksonville in 2018. James Butler is back at fullback after missing a game with an ankle problem and Delvin Breaux Sr. returning to high school. WR/KR Shai Ross, RB Bruce Anderson, DB Jalon Edwards-Cooper and DL Sione Teuhema (shoulder) drop off the roster this week.

Friday marks the 200th regular season meeting between these two clubs with the Roughriders holding an all-time advantage of 103-92-4.

Matt Baker: mbaker@bclions.com

Charles P. Patton