VANCOUVER — The B.C. Lions accomplished their mission Saturday night.
They succeeded in their goal of limiting star Calgary running back Jon Cornish, while handing the Stampeders a 26-22 loss at B.C. Place Stadium.
“We ran through our plan totally,” said Lions nickelback Korey Banks, who forced Cornish to fumble in the second quarter, setting up a touchdown that put B.C. ahead to stay.
“He’s a great back and he runs behind a great (offensive) line. Calgary was as good as advertised. They were 5-1 for a reason. We knew it was going to be a tough fight. We come out and played our best.”
The Lions improved to 5-2 and moved into a tie for second place with the Stampeders, who are also 5-2. B.C. avenged a one-sided season-opening loss to the Stampeders and ended their winning streak at four games.
But the win was not all about defence.
Tim Brown returned a kick-off 97 yards for a touchdown and Andrew Harris scored on a 40-yard passing play. Backup quarterback Thomas DeMarco also scored a touchdown for B.C., the first of his CFL career.
The Lions earned their remaining points from a Paul McCallum field goal, three converts and a late safety conceded by Calgary.
Cornish did score a touchdown for Calgary, on a short run, but the Lions held him to 73 yards rushing and just 10 through the air. The effort was a stark contrast from his previous game when he ran for 175 yards and four touchdowns against Saskatchewan, and the June 28 season opener against B.C. when he scored four TDs.
Marquay McDaniel also scored a touchdown for Calgary, while Rene Paredes furnished two field goals and a pair of converts. B.C. also surrendered a safety.
“I think if you look at the film we made a lot of mistakes,” said McDaniel. “Not to take anything away from B.C. They played great. But I think when we look at the film, I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of mistakes out there.
Calgary general manager and coach John Hufnagel lamented his team’s struggles to close the gap on B.C.’s seemingly precarious 21-16 half-time lead.
“We really had a poor third quarter, and that’s because we did not do a good job catching the football,” said Hufnagel. “I didn’t think it was the quarterback’s play that hindered us. We need to catch the football.”
The Lions, who have had trouble scoring in the first quarter this season, got off to a quick start as Harris caught a short pass from Travis Lulay and scampered into the end zone from 40 yards out on B.C.’s first drive.
Harris gained the upper hand on Cornish in the ongoing rivalry between the two Canadian tailbacks.
The Lion gained 117 all-purpose yards as he rushed for 56 on 13 carries and gained 61 more on three pass receptions.
“I don’t even know what the stats were,” said Harris. “I’m just happy we got the win.”
Cornish enabled the Stampeders to draw even at 7-7 as he bulldozed two yards into the end zone late in the first quarter.
But B.C. quickly took the lead again, with Brown returning Paredes’ ensuing kick-off 97 yards for a touchdown. Parades had a chance to tackle Brown near the sideline, but he turned away and did not make contact while Brown twisted in the opposite direction and angled his way into the end zone.
Brown said he saw Paredes, but he also got a block that enabled him to go away from him.
A safety conceded by McCallum helped the Stampeders reduce their deficit to 14-9. Calgary took a 16-14 lead midway through the second quarter after Kevin Glenn connected with Marquay McDaniel on a 14-yard touchdown pass.
But a rare miscue by Cornish enabled the Lions to take a 21-14 lead. After catching a Glenn pass, Cornish was hit hard by B.C. nickelback Korey Banks and the ball popped into the hands of linebacker Adam Bighill.
Although the ball did not hit the ground, it was ruled as a fumble, with Banks credited for the force. But he downplayed his effort.
“I’d rather get the win than turnovers,” he said. “We encircled the ball from the first quarter to the fourth quarter.”
B.C. got the ball on Calgary’s 28-yard line. Four plays later, backup quarterback Thomas DeMarco plunged across the goal-line.
“It was a great feeling to get back into the end zone,” said DeMarco, a second-year pro who had not hit paydirt since college and has yet to throw a TD pass in the CFL.
The touchdown came after a pass interference penalty on Calgary’s Chris Randle, who tugged on Emmanuel Arceneaux in the end zone, giving B.C. the ball at the Stampeders one-yard line.
DeMarco was searching for the ball after the game, hoping that someone from the club had secured it for him.
“If I can find it, I’ll keep it,” he said.
Lulay completed 16 of 28 passes for 223 yards, but was intercepted three times. Glenn was good on 22 of 38 pass attempts for 199 yards with no picks.
Calgary managed to get in scoring range in the closing seconds, but a Glenn incompletion on a third-and-one situation gave the Lions the ball and the victory. The Stampeders’ passing game was hurt by the loss of veteran Nik Lewis in the first half.
Hufnagel said he suffered a broken leg.
“For the next half-dozen games, yes, he’ll be out of the lineup,” said Hufnagel. “Yes, he is instrumental to our football team, but that’s the game. Not one person is bigger than the team.
“We just wish Nik a speedy recovery.”