July 18, 2018

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Lulay could be QB on game day

Bombers have to be ready for veteran B.C. pivot

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>The Winnipeg Blue Bombers work on plays during Thursday’s practice at Investors Group Field in preparation for Saturday’s game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers work on plays during Thursday’s practice at Investors Group Field in preparation for Saturday’s game against the B.C. Lions in Vancouver.

The B.C. Lions are left with a crucial choice.

Do they go with Jonathon Jennings, the younger and sometimes erratic fourth-year quarterback who has started 41 games since 2015, or do they pick old pro Travis Lulay, once the CFL’s top gun before age and injury relegated him to rehab and a reserve role?

Judging by Jennings’ poor performance during a 41-19 shellacking administered by the Blue Bombers last week, Lulay appears to be B.C.’s likely choice to get the start in the rematch against Winnipeg Saturday night at BC Place.

The 34-year-old hasn’t played since tearing the ACL in his right knee on Sept. 12 and was reluctant to return before his injury rehab was complete.

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The B.C. Lions are left with a crucial choice.

Do they go with Jonathon Jennings, the younger and sometimes erratic fourth-year quarterback who has started 41 games since 2015, or do they pick old pro Travis Lulay, once the CFL’s top gun before age and injury relegated him to rehab and a reserve role?

Judging by Jennings’ poor performance during a 41-19 shellacking administered by the Blue Bombers last week, Lulay appears to be B.C.’s likely choice to get the start in the rematch against Winnipeg Saturday night at BC Place.

The 34-year-old hasn’t played since tearing the ACL in his right knee on Sept. 12 and was reluctant to return before his injury rehab was complete.

"From a defensive lineman’s perspective, Jon’s got a little bit more mobility," said Blue Bombers defensive lineman Craig Roh, who played three seasons for B.C. before signing with Winnipeg in the off-season. "Trav’s had his fair share of injuries, so he’s not as mobile as he once was. He was a very mobile quarterback back in the day, but he’s probably looking to make more plays with his brain than his legs.

"When you have an ACL injury and you have big guys like me chasing you, it does do a lot. Travis is a mentally strong person, but even to the most mentally strong, it’s a hurdle to overcome."

If Lulay is cleared to play, the Lions must rely on his veteran presence to jump-start a team that is 1-2 to open the season. The 25-year-old Jennings was dreadful against the Blue Bombers, completing only 15 of 24 passes for 105 yards while also coughing up two interceptions.

"Our coverage did a great job taking away his first look," said Roh of Jennings. "I think he panicked a little bit, and we were able to get to him enough to where he now was feeling the rush. When you can get a quarterback to feel the rush, that’s a good point. Whenever you can take his eyes off his receivers to you or his offensive linemen, you’re winning."

Middle linebacker Adam Bighill, another former Lion, sounds like he expects to see Lulay on Saturday.

"It’s that different veteran savvy that an elite player has because of their time in the league and the amount of reps they’ve seen and the amount of balls they’ve thrown," Bighill said. "Maybe a little bit more comfortable, maybe a little more confident in seeing things... veterans usually have that little advantage."

Cornerback Chris Randle has been preparing for both quarterbacks.

"We know who Lulay is and what he does," Randle said. "I’ve kind of critiqued and gone over the plays where it’s probably like 30 plays out of the 50 where it’s like, ‘Oh, they could have got us.’ Try to perfect those is what I try to do, what I watch film on. But we are talking about it because you’ve got to be prepared, and we understand the difference in the two quarterbacks. That’s the main thing we do, we try and be aware in case it happens and still fix those (mistakes) we had in the (Week 4) game."

Playing the same team on consecutive weeks also presents a game-planning challenge. How do you avoid rehashing a plan that worked once but might not fool anyone the second time around?

"You plan for two games, really, so you have some stuff left over from the plan," Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said. "And the players understand that they made enough mistakes that they can correct and play better than we did."

In the same way the Blue Bombers offence reverted to a more conservative play-calling after building a 28-10 halftime lead, Winnipeg’s D may also have some surprises in store for Saturday.

"It’s a smart way to have it for a co-ordinator, to have a long-term approach," Bighill said. "Understanding that well, we play them two times in a row, let’s not throw everything we have at them right away. And sometimes that’s the plan and it doesn’t work out like that."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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