SURREY, B.C. — Casey Printers is becoming a better quarterback because he’s using his athletic ability to scramble out of trouble, says B.C. Lions coach Wally Buono.
Printers made several Houdini-like escapes from the Hamilton pass rush Sunday while leading the Lions to a 34-27 overtime victory over the Tiger-Cats in the CFL’s East Division semifinal.
His feet also bought time to throw the ball away rather than force a pass into coverage or take a sack as the Lions advanced against the Montreal Alouettes in Sunday’s division final.
“That’s what we want Casey to be and I think that’s what he wants to be,” Buono said Monday of Printers’ scrambling ability that helped B.C. win for the first time in his four starts.
“He wants to be a quarterback that can dissect you and hurt you from the pocket but he also shows that when he gets outside the pocket he’s got to be dealt with.”
A 12-yard Printers scramble led to the game’s first touchdown. He completed 24 of 35 pass attempts for 360 yards and his final toss was the game’s last TD, eight yards to Ian Smart coming out of the backfield.
But his scrambling, rather than staying in the pocket, adds another dimension to the Lions’ attack, Buono said.
“The more he can do both, the more dangerous he gets. You have to be concerned about the coverage but you also have to be concerned about him.
“Do you put the extra guy in coverage or do you put the extra guy on the quarterback? When you have that kind of a compromise it puts a tough task to the defence.”
The 8-10 Lions lost their last three regular-season games and entered the playoffs as a crossover team from the West when Hamilton beat Winnipeg in the final game of the schedule.
Printers, who joined B.C. in September after being cast adrift by Hamilton following two losing campaigns, got his chance when three Lions quarterbacks suffered shoulder injuries.
But Printers, who played here from 2003 to ’05 and was the league MVP in 2004, had to overcome a sprained thumb in the 45-13 home loss to Edmonton on Nov. 6 before facing the Ticats.
He proved to be a fast healer against Hamilton and, while known for petulance in the past, is playing smarter in his second hitch with B.C. and listening to the coaching staff.
“He’s very receptive right now to the things you ask him to do,” said Buono who had a chat with Printers last week about the value of throwing the ball away when under pressure.
A quarterback who does that shows the defence he’s in charge of the game, the coach said.
“Throwing the ball away is not all negative,” Buono said. “It’s giving your team a chance to play again, not giving up the sack … all the negatives that happen when you hang on to the football.”
Buono coached three 15-3 Calgary teams into the playoffs from 1993-95. The first two lost the West final and the third lost the Grey Cup game. He had an 8-10 Stampeder squad that won the title game.
Now his 8-10 Lions face the 15-3 Als who will be idle two weeks because they captured the division title and Buono said B.C. can build off the Hamilton victory.
“Last week everybody wanted to be the team with the bye,” he said. “Today, everybody wants to be the team coming off the win.
“When you’ve got momentum, keep your foot on the pedal. Teams that come off big wins like Calgary did (24-21 over Edmonton) and we did have momentum. Teams that are waiting have got to re-establish momentum.”
The Lions defeated Montreal 19-12 here on Sept. 4 when a late touchdown by Alouette tailback Avon Cobourne was disallowed. Montreal beat B.C. 28-24 nine days later when the Lions defence conceded a last-minute touchdown.
Giving up late scores has been a problem for the Lions who allowed Hamilton to fashion a 27-27 tie with 11 points on a field goal, a touchdown and a two-point convert with 22 seconds left.
They gave up a tying TD and two-point convert to Saskatchewan with 1:53 remaining and lost in overtime on Oct. 24. Calgary got a field goal with no time left in a 28-26 loss a week later.
Buono said his defence, which got three sacks from Brent Johnson, played well against the Ticats but lost focus late in the fourth quarter.
“Their mental toughness shows but we don’t need to make the games as close as they are,” he said.
“What I didn’t like is that we’re in the right coverages. We’re in four-deep when (quarterback Kevin Glenn) throws the touchdown pass. In real football, that’s an interception. These are plays you should be making.”