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Leos' field general getting wins

Lulay sets sights on Cup champs

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B.C. Lions' quarterback Travis Lulay insists he's not focused on his own numbers.

DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

B.C. Lions' quarterback Travis Lulay insists he's not focused on his own numbers.

When it comes to the B.C. Lions' success this season, Travis Lulay's passing statistics don't tell the whole story.

The B.C. quarterback is quietly enjoying a solid season, even if his numbers don't always back up the fact.

Heading into Tuesday's game against the Argonauts in Toronto, Lulay ranks fifth in the CFL with 71 completions on 112 attempts, a 63.4 per cent success rate. He has yet to throw for more than 300 yards this season and was held under 200 on one occasion.

Is he concerned about his difficulties getting above 300?

"Honestly, I'm not," he said on the weekend before the Lions headed east Sunday. "If you're thinking about your passing yardage, you're worried about the wrong thing."

Of course, wins matter most to Lulay, and when it comes to leading his team to them, the 29-year-old is overachieving.

'This is (the most) comfortable and confident as I've felt since I've been here'

-- Lions QB Travis Lulay

The Lions (3-1) can extend their victory streak to four games as they battle the Argos (2-2). Another win will move the Lions into a tie for second place in the West Division with the Calgary Stampeders.

The Lions play Winnipeg in the Blue Bombers' next game on Aug. 5.

Lulay is expecting the defending Grey Cup champion Argos to produce a better effort than they did in a July 4 loss to the Lions in Vancouver.

B.C. is coming off a victory over the Edmonton Eskimos on July 20. The win, in which B.C. broke open a close game by bettering Edmonton in the second half, gave the Lions a sweep of home-and-home games with the Eskimos.

Lulay wants his club to end its trend of slow starts. "That's something that we'll continue to look at -- how to operate at a high level from the get-go."

He is looking for the Lions to duplicate the offensive effort in their home opener against Toronto, when the hosts built a 14-3 lead at halftime and Toronto was forced to make an unsuccessful comeback effort before the Lions prevailed 24-16.

Despite the offence's occasional sputtering, Lulay has given Lions coach Mike Benevides and general manager Wally Buono little to worry about this season after being rewarded with a new two-year contract in the off-season.

While struggling to get his club into the end zone at times, Lulay has been able to move the offence consistently, and the Lions have produced 11 touchdowns, 86 first downs and an average time of possession of 31 minutes 27 seconds. Those stats ranked B.C. among league leaders in those categories heading into the weekend.

In other words, Lulay has guided a steady, albeit at times unproductive offence, and he has still dazzled occasionally, as on a 77-yard touchdown strike to Emmanuel Arceneaux against Edmonton.

The QB has provided stability to a position that in 2009 and 2010 caused the Lions problems due to multiple injuries to former starter Buck Pierce, now battling injury woes with Winnipeg, and the vagaries of Casey Printers, released in October 2010 after he threw a tantrum, tossed his helmet and berated a teammate after a game-ending interception in a double-overtime loss to Winnipeg.

Lulay was anointed the starter after Printers' release, and he has kept the job. This season, he has been able to stay healthy while other clubs have had to start backups.

The Argos will play their No. 2 quarterback Zach Collaros as he makes his first CFL start due to a knee injury to starter Ricky Ray, and Calgary and Saskatchewan won with their backups on the weekend.

Accordingly, Lulay, a former NFL journeyman who was chosen the CFL's most outstanding player in 2011 after leading the Lions to the Grey Cup, is revelling in his personal stability, which includes a new year-round home in Blaine, Wash., not far from the Lions' practice facility. He coveted a chance to be a team leader almost from the day he arrived in 2009 and now has clearly established himself as one.

"This is (the most) comfortable and confident I've felt since I've been here," said Lulay, in his fifth season with the Lions.

But the Lions will have less room for comfort on offence as wide receiver Arceneaux sits out with a sprained ankle. Arceneaux, who returned to the Lions this season after a two-year NFL stint, has averaged 26 yards a catch on just 13 receptions while also recording three touchdowns. He will be replaced by Ernest Jackson, a second-year Lion, who draws into the lineup for the first time this season.

Linebacker Adam Bighill is slated to return after missing the past two games with a high-ankle sprain and some torn ligaments suffered in the previous meeting with the Argos.

With the emotion obvious in his voice, Bigill said it was very hard to watch while he was sidelined. Lulay has also been getting restless, considering the Lions will have had a full week off, and then some, before Tuesday's contest.

"We're excited to be getting back on the field," said Lulay. "This week has felt like a mini bye week."

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 29, 2013 C6

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