Lulay prepares for West Final

SURREY, B.C. — There are times when Travis Lulay envies the players on defence.

SURREY, B.C. — There are times when Travis Lulay envies the players on defence.

The B.C. Lions quarterback admits he can be “pretty feisty on game day.” The energy and emotion that bubbles up inside him needs to escape like steam from a boiling kettle.

“It is a constant effort to curve that a little bit,” Lulay said Tuesday after practice.

“A quarterback is not like a defensive guy where you can just go out and hit somebody on the first play and get rid of some of the energy. I do everything I can to calm myself down before the game.”

B.C. defensive half back Tad Kornegay said Lulay is different than most quarterbacks he’s seen.

“He’s got spunk,” Kornegay said with a grin. “He brings a lot of energy you don’t really expect from a quarterback.

“A quarterback you expect to be calm, cool, collected. He (Lulay) almost has a defensive player’s mentality or a running back’s mentality. He brings a lot of energy to the offensive side of the ball.”

Lulay’s leadership and skill helped the Lions finish first in the CFL West with a 11-7 record. He also is the West’s nominee for the league’s outstanding player award.

How Lulay performs when the Lions face the Edmonton Eskimos in Sunday’s CFL West Final at BC Place Stadium will go a long ways to determining which team advances to the Nov. 27 Grey Cup game in Vancouver.

The Lions beat the Eskimos three out of four times during the regular season and outscored them 130-79.

“There is a confidence level knowing that if we play like we feel we are capable of, we can do good things,” said Lulay.

“At the same time we know we have to earn every single thing. Nothing is going to come easy because of what has happened in the past.”

Edmonton quarterback Ricky Ray has played in seven playoff games and thrown for over 1,700 yards. He’s known for his calm, methodical approach.

Lulay, who took over as starter when the Lions released Casey Printers last October, has started one playoff game for B.C. He was at the helm for the Lions’ heart-pounding 41-38 overtime loss to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the last year’s West semifinal.

If Lulay was nervous about taking centre stage in the big show he hid it well. He completed 28-of-49 passes for 357 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran five times for 39 yards, scored a touchdown and fumbled once.

Lions’ slotback Geroy Simon said that experience can only benefit Lulay against Edmonton.

“It gives him an idea what to expect,” said Simon. “He has an idea of how playoff games go. You have to step up your intensity and you have to play good football.”

The biggest lesson Lulay learned from that loss is how missed chances come back to haunt you.

“You have to take advantage of opportunities,” he said. “We felt we had some opportunities in the first half we didn’t quite take advantage of.

“We could have gone into halftime with a better lead than we did. The other thing is not giving up.”

Having confidence in himself has also given Lulay more confidence in the players around him. He understands he doesn’t have to win the game himself.

“I don’t need to throw for 360 yards to be better than last year,” said Lulay.

“It’s going to come down to making decisions, being accurate and protecting the football.”

Wally Buono, the Lions coach and general manager, showed patience with Lulay this season, sticking with him even when the Lions staggered out of the gate 0-5.

There were games when the young quarterback made some bad decisions or hurried throws. He also had some very catchable passes dropped.

Buono’s faith has paid off.

Lulay has become more poised in the pocket. The 28-year-old American has better anticipation of when a receiver will be open and where to throw the ball. That has resulted in fewer interceptions and more big plays.

“He’s had 18 games,” Buono said. “He anticipates well, he reads well.

“He has more confidence in everything he does and the guys around him.”

Lulay completed 342-of-583 passes for 4,815 yards, 32 touchdowns and 11 interceptions during the season. Only Montreal’s Anthony Calvillo threw for more yards.

At six foot two and 216 pounds Lulay has the size and speed to pull the ball down and run. He collected 391 yards rushing on 47 carries and scored three touchdowns while fumbling only once.

Slotback Arland Bruce was traded to B.C. in August when the Lions were still teetering on the brink. He’s watched Lulay mature.

“He’s getting better and better,” said Bruce. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do and the numbers show it.”

Lulay has experienced a steep learning curve this year. He sees the West Final has another test.

“Last year’s playoffs was a good taste,” he said. “Experience does help.

“Having been in that situations gives you a little bit more confidence and a little higher comfort level.”