VANCOUVER — The B.C. Lions know they’re facing an uphill slog in the second half of the season after dropping yet another close game.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders (5-4) squeezed out a 24-21 win Saturday night, handing the Leos (3-6) their first home loss of the season.
Riders quarterback Zach Collaros threw for 215 yards, while B.C.’s Travis Lulay put up 231.
But offensive missteps continue to plague the Lions. Head coach Wally Buono said he was disappointed with the number of balls his team dropped.
“You’ve got to catch balls to continue drives, you’ve got to catch balls to create plays, you’ve got to got catch balls to score touchdowns. You can’t just kick field goals,” he said.
B.C. kicker Ty Long opened the scoring with a 20-yard field goal less than three minutes in.
It was the first of five he made throughout the game, including a 48-yard kick in the final minute of the first half.
Buono noted that if one of those field goals had been a touchdown, the Lions could have walked away with a much-needed win.
“It is what it is. We’ve created this situation the way that it is. We had high hopes for our offence, but at the end of it, it’s not scored enough points, it’s not taken advantage of enough opportunities and it’s created too many miscues,” he said.
The coach hinted that some roster adjustments may be in the works, saying he’ll sit down with Lions general manager Ed Hervey in the coming days to talk about players.
“When you can’t make plays, you must not have the right guys,” Buono said.
Riders coach Chris Jones said his team also has room to improve, despite Saturday’s win.
“Nothing was perfect, certainly. We gave up a couple of big plays defensively that resulted in points. We gave up a kick-off return that gave up points. And offensively we stubbed our toe there in the middle of the game,” he said.
The victory marks Saskatchewan’s second win in a row. Last week they handed Calgary its first loss of the season.
A pair of wins boost the team’s confidence, but there’s still work to be done heading into next week’s match up with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Jones said.
“We’ve put ourselves in a position where it’s much more favourable now,” he said. “But Winnipeg’s a dangerous football team. They’re very explosive, have a lot of trick plays. … So we’ve got our hands full in a week here.”
The Lions have a bye next week and won’t play again until Sept. 7 when they host the Redblacks.
Lulay said his team needs to use the break to “take a deep breath during the bye week and figure out how to win games in the fourth quarter.”
Last week the Lions dropped a 24-23 decision in Toronto, despite being up by 10 in the third quarter.
The losses are tough, but the team should take confidence from the close games and not dwell going into the final nine games of the season, Lulay said.
“The back half of the season, we’ve got to scratch and claw and fight like heck to give ourselves an opportunity,” he said.
“We’re 3-6. It’s not where we hoped to be or expected to be at the halfway point. But the second half of the season is what you make it.”
B.C.’s kicker, Long, is hoping his team can get on a run after the bye week.
“We just need to sharpen up a few things in all areas,” he said.
“We’re close. That’s the thing that’s a little frustrating for all of us. We’re close to figuring it out and we’re close to winning all of these games. We just need to put it together.”
But is there still time to atone for the Lions sloppy start to the season?
“It’s the CFL, anything’s possible,” he said.
NOTES: Lions slotback Manny Arceneaux went down with an apparent knee injury in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game … Attendance at B.C. Place was 22,873, including a healthy dose of vocal Roughriders fans … The Lions and Riders have now played 21 games since 2011, with B.C. winning 14.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press