Rourke and Lions survive scare to claim victory over Tiger-Cats
VANCOUVER — The BC Lions were tested Thursday but hung on for a 17-12 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Quarterback Nathan Rourke rushed for 250 yards with two touchdowns for the Lions (4-1). He connected on 22 of 30 attempts, had two interceptions and was sacked once.
Sean Whyte has remained perfect this season, scoring a 37-yard field goal, his only attempt of the night.
Hamilton’s Dane Evans was sacked early but recovered and connected on 26 of 37 attempts for 297 passing yards. He connected with Steven Dunbar Jr. for a touchdown and went without an interception for a second straight game.
Kicker Seth Small made two of three field goal attempts, including a 23-yard kick in the second quarter.
The result puts the Lions tied with the inactive Calgary Stampeders for second place in the CFL’s competitive West Division.
The game began as a defensive battle, with both teams struggling to generate attack.
James Butler fired up the Lions midway through the first quarter, taking a relay from Rourke deep into BC territory and weaving 37 yards through traffic and attempted tackles. The run gave the home team a first down on their own 54-yard line.
Rourke followed the play with a 33-yard ball to Dominique Rhymes and Whyte capped the scoring with a 37-yard field goal.
The kicker has made all seven field goal attempts this season.
The Ticats started second in scoring position but had to settle for a field goal after a pass knocked down by Lions defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy. Small’s 14-yard kick temporarily tied the game at 3-3.
A nine-game, 76-yard drive once again got BC going. Rourke sent a searing 14-yard throw to Jevon Cottoy in the end zone for the QB’s league-leading 13th touchdown pass of the season.
Hamilton steadily moved up the field only to be thwarted a second time by a reverse pass, this time by linebacker Ben Hladik.
Small made sure the Ticats’ hard work didn’t go unrewarded, sending a 23-yard kick into the uprights and cutting BC’s lead to 10-6.
The visitors got another scoring chance late in the half after the Lions defensive lineman was called for a base hit on Evans. The 15-yard penalty gave Hamilton a first down at the BC 33-yard line with seconds left on the clock. Small attempted a 41-yard field goal attempt, but the ball sailed wide to the left.
The Lions built their advantage midway through the third period on a marked practice that included a fixed play.
Needing three yards on a third down, BC called Whyte on the field, apparently for a long field goal attempt. Instead, the Rourke muscled the ball through a scrum for a first down that kept the player alive.
The QB capped the series with a 33-yard arcing touchdown pass to Lucky Whitehead in the end zone.
Hamilton got his first major of the night before the end of the quarter, when Evans hit Steven Dunbar Jr. with a 32-yard throw as he sprinted for his fourth touchdown of the season.
The Ticats went for the two-point conversion, but Evans failed to connect with Tim White in the end zone.
British Columbia took a 17-12 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Lions delivered a stab with less than three minutes on the clock.
With Hamilton on third down, Evans delivered a pass to White deep in the end zone, only to see him knocked down by Marcus Sayles. The Ticats turned the ball around in tryouts.
An interception with just 93 seconds left on the clock breathed new life into the visiting team.
Rourke sent a ball flying at Whitehead along the sideline, but Hamilton’s Tunde Adeleke stepped in, gobbled it up and sent it back three yards.
The Lions defense got back to work and once again forced the Ticats to turn the ball over in tryouts.
The Tiger-Cats will be back in action on July 28 when they host the Montreal Alouettes. The Lions will face the Roughriders in Regina on July 29.
REMARKS: Lions star Bryan Burnham helped the coach from the sidelines. The receiver remains on the injured list after breaking his ribs in BC’s second game of the season on June 25. ? The clash marked the 99th meeting between the Lions and the Ticats. Match 100 will have to wait until next season as both teams will only play once in 2022.