Lions still undefeated after beating Red and Black 34-31
OTTAWA — Nathan Rourke showed why everyone is talking about him with an impressive outing in the BC Lions’ 34-31 win over the Ottawa Redblacks on Thursday night.
The young Canadian quarterback is compared to some of the league’s all-time greats, and while it may be early to hand the crown to him, he definitely made an impression as he led the Lions to a third victory consecutive in the CFL.
Rourke finished the game at TD Place Stadium completing 23 of 31 passes for 359 yards, two passing touchdowns, a rushing TD and two interceptions, the first of his career.
« I’ve never met anyone with so much confidence, » Lions running back James Butler said. « He’s a great leader and an even better person and there’s no other quarterback I want to play for. »
Much has been made of the short week for the Lions, who played last Saturday against Toronto and made the trip across the country while the Rouge et Noir were coming off a week off.
« It’s a huge win for us to fly across the country, » Lions head coach Rick Campbell said. « Ottawa is a good team, so to beat these guys on the road, I’m really proud of our guys…we made enough plays to win the game. »
The same cannot be said for the Rougenoirs who lost their third game in a row.
« You know, we probably made too many mistakes against a good football team, » Redblacks coach Paul LaPolice said. « You can’t give up the advantage, you can’t give up the cover. You have to be a little more consistent offensively, we had too many two-and-outs.
There were some bright spots as Ottawa managed to score three touchdowns after going nine quarters without going into the red zone, but the moral wins are starting to ring hollow.
After throwing for over 700 yards in his first two games, Ottawa quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was 13 for 26 for 159 yards with a rushing touchdown that night.
Masoli knows he has to be better if his team hopes to enter the win column.
« I was fine, » admitted Masoli. « I missed a few pitches at the start…for the most part we had a lot of stuff there, we just weren’t executing. »
The Rougenoirs trailed 14-6 at halftime, but thanks to some Money Hunter interceptions, they were able to take a 20-14 lead.
Hunter took off Rourke and returned the ball to the Lions 16-yard line. Three plays later, William Powell, playing his first game of the season, scored a five-yard touchdown and two penalties and three two-point attempts later, it was 14-14.
On BC’s next possession, Hunter had another interception, pushing the ball 56 yards to the Lions seven-yard line. Ottawa completed the practice as Masoli hit a one-yard touchdown. Lewis Ward missed the convert on a rare occasion and Ottawa took a 20-14 lead.
Ward has missed just six of 46 career conversion attempts.
With three interceptions this season, Hunter set a career high but admitted the only mindset heading into Saskatchewan next week might be to get a win.
« Come play and come win, » Hunter said of next week’s game in Regina. « That’s the only message you can give to everyone right now. Everyone needs a (win) just to hold their heads up high.
While some young quarterbacks might have been shaken after being picked, Rourke got right back in touch with Keon Hatcher for a 71-yard TD pass and with the convert reclaimed a 21-20 lead.
Rourke credited his teammates for his ability to rebound.
« I’m human and I make mistakes, but I have a phenomenal team around me, » Rourke said. « I’ve been telling you guys for the last three weeks, it’s not just me and you haven’t believed me. I think we showed tonight that they’re a really good team and I just happen to play on it.
BC never looked back as Butler added another touchdown to make it 28-20, and Sean Whyte had field goals for 32 and 15 yards to complete the Lions score.
Ward added a 38-yard field goal midway through the fourth and in the final minute of play, the Redblacks managed to walk downfield and reach the 1-yard line, thanks to a pass interference call, and Caleb Evans hit a TD. A two-point convert made it 34-31 with 29 seconds left.
After not having a single brace last week, the Redblacks gave Rourke his first on the opening drive, but then he showed why people are so excited about his game.
On BC’s next possession, on a third and short bet, Rourke ran for a 50-yard touchdown and the Lions took an early 7-0 lead.
Rourke joined Hatcher in the second quarter and brought the Lions to the Ottawa three-yard line. Butler then ran in an eight-yard TD to make it 14-3.
Ottawa’s first-half goal came from 35 and 28 yards from Ward.
FOOT NOTES: The Lions’ next game is against the defending Gray Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 9 at BC Place. The winless Edmonton Elks and Hamilton Tiger-Cats face off Friday in Hamilton. The Montreal Alouettes (1-2) will be in Regina on Saturday to face the Saskatchewan Roughriders (2-1), and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (3-0) will face the Argonauts (1-1) in Toronto on Monday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 30, 2022
Lisa Wallace, The Canadian Press