NOTE: Part I of II on the CFL west division semi final (Sask vs BC)
BY: Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
The CFL’s West division semi final is going to come down to the BC Lions and the Saskatchewan Roughriders and there are plenty of questions over who will start at QB for the visiting Lions.
I guess if there is a time to ask those questions, it would be now, rather than Saturday night.
Judging by the looks of the numbers in the standings, whoever is throwing or handing off the football on Sunday, it could make a huge difference. The Riders and Lions are both in second place at 11-7. Saskatchewan has scored 15 points more than the Leos who have allowed 63 points more against, than Sasky.
The only real difference in the standings is their records (Sask at home and BC away). Sask is clearly more comfortable in Riderville (duh!) at 6-3, while the Leos have those numbers reversed when they play away from home, winning three, losing six.
There isn’t much reason to believe that could all change in one weekend, is there?
Sask knows who they will be playing at quarterback (Durant).
BC doesn’t know. If they do, they aren’t saying anything.
Chris Getzlaf may or may not play, if he does not that is a huge loss before the game even starts. Geroy Simon is no slouch however.
Between the newly-acquired Buck Pierce who was taken for quite the ride while playing for Winnipeg, and the incumbent Travis Lulay, one of them has to start, and one of them has to play well enough to win. You could also make a debate for rookie Thomas DeMarco who played well in his first two starts. You have to think though if it comes to BC playing a third-stringer on the road, when they already have two guys with playoff experience, that couldn’t possibly be good.
This has been an astonishing season that saw 18 different QBs make starts for their respective teams, 19 if you count Pierce twice (one for both Wpg and BC), there is still plenty of uncertainty.
The Lions embark on what they hope is a three-game road trip with a quarterbacking situation that has been patch worked together as best it could be since Travis Lulay went down with a partially dislocated right shoulder on September 15. Yes, that’s his throwing shoulder!
I think that if the Riders play to their capabilities, then this game should be over as fast as it starts.
Even with Saskatchewan seemingly ready to scratch Chris Getzlaf for Sunday’s game, I see too much firepower in the Rider offense than I do in the Lions. Unless Sasky comes and doesn’t actually show up to play, which has been their trend more often than not, the Riders should make their way into the West final.
According to bclions.com, BC Head Coach Mike Benevides says he is in no hurry to name a starter for the West semi final game on Sunday. Unless he does know, and the team knows, and nobody wants to say who it is, that is more detrimental to the team than knowing deep down you ain’t gonna win.
If you are a Lions supporter, that cannot be what you were hoping to hear.
The story reads that there is no disputing that Travis Lulay is the BC #1 QB.
Whether or not he gets the start on Sunday however remains to be seen. Lulay returned to the lineup last week and played in three series in the regular-season finale vs the Stampeders which saw the Lions come out on top, 26-7.
After missing the previous six weeks with an ailing right shoulder, Lulay finished 3-4 passing for 54 yards and scored one rushing TD.
The situation became complicated with Buck Pierce’s strong play the past two weeks and it gives Benevides plenty to think about going into this weekend.
“There’s no doubt it’s his team and Buck will tell you the same thing, but right now it’s about all of us. It’s not about a single person. As I told the guys, ‘It’s not about you, it’s not about me. It’s about us.’ So whatever it’s going to take to win the next game, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Benevides added that he likely won’t know the starter until after Friday’s practice.
“I’m preparing like I am going to be the starter,” said Lulay, the MVP of the Lions’ 2011 Grey Cup victory. “I’m hopeful that I can demonstrate that I can make all the throws I need to make and then coach (Benevides) will have a decision to make.”
Second-year man Thomas DeMarco won his first two starts in place of the injured Lulay, but lost the next three before being yanked in favour of Pierce after a miserable first quarter against the Edmonton Eskimos two weeks ago.
That did a pretty good job muddying the situation even more because now they can believe that technically they have 3 QBs that can handle the load.
TSN’s Matt Dunigan is among those who believe that Pierce is the man Benevides should stick with.
Since coming to the Lions in a mid-season September trade, Pierce has been biding his time and digesting the Lions playbook. Taking the reins in relief of DeMarco versus Edmonton two weeks ago, Buck quickly reminded all CFL fans what makes him so special: his unabated approach to doing whatever it takes to win football games. A spectacular block, 50 yards down field, springing his running back Stefan Logan into the end zone and three TD strikes later, Pierce astonished us all with his brilliant and courageous play!
His play that day and the last week of the regular season against the Stampeders vaulted him into the No. 1 slot moving into post season play. I say this in spite of Lulay’s triumphant return last week where we saw the Lions’ franchise player complete 3 of 4 passes for 54 yards and rush for a touchdown on a perfectly executed read-option play.
I had a chance to speak to all three of these quarterbacks at length while covering that ball game and it’s extremely enlightening just how different each one of these capable quarterbacks’ stories really are heading into the playoffs.
” Plain and simple, Buck is grateful for this excellent opportunity. From where he started this year in Winnipeg, down about 15 pounds (so he could move quicker) to where he is now, back up to fighting weight (approximately 210) and with the green light from head coach Mike Benevides to cut it loose and go play, it’s remarkable.
“I believe they should ride Pierce as deep into the playoffs as he can go. He has the arm strength, foot speed and that special “it” factor that is infectious when he is rolling. As coach John Jenkins used to say to me all the time, “I got a pocket full of quarters Hoss, put another one in ride and let’s roll.” The Lions should ride Pierce until that pocket is empty.”
He gives this team a veteran presence and certainly has the skill set, by land or by air to inflict serious damage on Saskatchewan’s defence. With the added run game emphasis and change in philosophy four weeks ago to revamp that dormant run game, Pierce’s speed and ability to run presents far more problems for Saskatchewan. Andrew Harris, Logan and Pierce form a potentially deadly trio to account for.
Dunigan added that he believes that Lulay is not ready to go.