2022-06-30 14:48:53

OTTAWA — For the first time this season the BC Lions will go out on the road when they travel to the nation’s capital for a game with the Ottawa REDBLACKS on Thursday night.

To say the Lions are playing well would be an understatement. They’ve outscored their opponents 103-18 in a pair of wins to open the season, including a 44-3 victory over Toronto in Week 3.

The REDBLACKS are currently 0-2 and coming off a bye week. But their record isn’t indicative of the way they’ve played to start the year. They dropped a pair of games to the defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers by a total of nine points.

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Lions quarterback, Nathan Rourke once again stole the spotlight in their win over the Argos. The Canadian pivot completed 39 of 45 passes for 436 yards through the air.

The 436 passing yards from Rourke established a new CFL passing record for most yards thrown in a single game by a Canadian quarterback.

Rourke will have no shortage of options on Thursday night as the receiving corps of Dominique Rhymes, Lucky Whitehead, Jevon Cottoy and Keon Hatcher are emerging as one of the most dangerous in the league.

Rhymes caught eight passes for 143 yards to lead the charge against the Argos in Week 3. Whitehead, Cottoy and Hatcher combined for 23 catches, 226 yards and a touchdown.

But they’ll see their toughest test yet as the REDBLACKS have allowed an average of 233.5 yards through the air in their two games, a mark that ranks second best in the CFL.

The Lions will also be without receiver Bryan Burnham, he has been listed as out on the teams injury report with a rib injury that he sustained against the Boatmen in Week 3.

If Rourke can’t find one of his star receivers, he can have confidence in putting the ball on the ground. Fullback David Mackie carried the ball 16 times for 90 yards in their second win of the season. Running back James Butler chipped in six carries for 39 yards.

The REDBLACKS defence will provide a tough test for the BC ground game. Ottawa allowed an average of 82.5 rushing yards per game in their two contests against the Bombers and surrendered an averaged of just 3.7 yards per carry.

Leos head coach Rick Campbell says there’s no give in his teams offensive mindset and they’re ready to bring their best each and every week.

“The thing I appreciate the most about our players is that they’re just so steady,” Campbell told bclions.com. “They keep going all the way to the end. There’s none of these huge peaks and valleys, they’re really steady in their approach. That’s how they practice and it’s a reflection of our quarterback.”

While the offence has received a lot of attention, the REDBLACKS will need to capitalize against a Leos defence that has been tough on opposing offences. They lead the league in passing yards allowed per game with 233, and have surrendered the second fewest rushing yards per game with an average of 46-yards allowed.

Against the Argos, they recorded four sacks, forced two fumbles and intercepted a pair of passes.

Defensive lineman David Menard had two of those sacks and will look to put pressure on REDBLACKS quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

When Masoli gets the ball off, he’ll need to know where defensive back Garry Peters and safety Quincy Mauger are. Both had an interception on Saturday.

Defensive back T.J. Lee also has a pair of interceptions for himself on the season.

Peters feels this year’s Lions defence is different from the past and will be hard for offences to game plan for each week.

“Last year we had a lot of young guys from the defensive line all the way back to the secondary,” Peters told bclions.com. “You can tell it’s a veteran presence and we expect to win every time we step on the field.”

 

If anyone is up to the test the Lions defence presents it may be Masoli.

Masoli has thrown for 711 yards through two games. That number is just 173 yards behind league leader Dane Evans of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in one less game, and just seven back from his counterpart on Thursday night in Rourke.

His top target, by far, has been receiver and former Hamilton teammate, Jaelon Acklin. Acklin has caught 13 of 16 passes for 220 yards and is averaging 16.9 yards per catch.

If Acklin isn’t open, Masoli will likely turn to veteran receiver, Nate Behar who hasn’t dropped a pass yet this season. He’s a perfect nine catches on nine targets with 141 yards.

Behar is no stranger to the Lions secondary. In two losses last season he caught a combined 10 passes for 127 total yards.

The sixth year CFL pro and former Carleton Raven is looking forward to playing at home ahead of the Canada Day weekend.

“It’s easy to feed off the crowd’s energy in a game like that,” Behar told OttawaREDBLACKS.com. “It’s part of one of the best celebrations in a beautiful capital city. It’s going to be a blast. To get to represent this country, and to play a game this country loves, and do it in front of the ones you love is amazing.”

Ottawa will get a boost in the running game as William Powell is set to make his debut for the REDBLACKS after missing the first two games with an achilles injury.

Powell returns to the field wearing an Ottawa uniform for the first time since entering the league in 2015. With the REDBLACKS the running back managed back-to-back 1,000 yards season, rushing for 1,026 in 2017 and 1,362 in 2018.

Powell was fourth in rushing yards in 2021 with 733 as a member of the Saskatchewan Roughriders. On Thursday he’ll look to penetrate a Lions defence that has been tough on the the opponents running game.

In Powell’s absence, rookie running back, Devonte Williams contributed 118 yards on 21 carries. However, he’s been listed as out for Thursday’s contest, so the No. 2 duties will fall on Brendan Gillanders. Gillanders will be making his season debut for Ottawa after missing the start of the season with a hip injury.

Linebacker Frankie Griffin, defensive back Patrick Levels, defensive lineman Tre Hornbuckle and defensive end Lorenzo Mauldin IV will be tasked with slowing the Lions offence that has been red hot through two games.

Griffin leads the team in defensive tackles, while Levels has the team’s only interception.

Hornbuckle and Mauldin IV have the REDBLACKS two sacks on the year.

An added bonus, Ottawa has activated defensive back Justin Howell after placing him on the six game injured list due to a hamstring injury sustained in Week 1.

The Lions are looking to start the season 3-0 as they travel across the country on Thursday night. The REDBLACKS are eager to get their first win but it won’t be easy as they host one of the league’s top teams so far.

Thursday night’s kickoff is set for 7:30p.m. ET. In the nation’s capital and the game can be seen on TSN, RDS, ESPN2 and can be followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.

– With files from BCLions.com and OttawaREDBLACKS.com

#Game #Tracker #Lions #Ottawa #Redblacks #CFLca

Source by [graycupnews.com]

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