The B.C. Lions delivered a championship-worthy performance over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at B.C. Place en route to victory in the 99th Grey Cup.
Lions quarterback Travis Lulay, the league's Most Oustanding Player, found Kierrie Johnson and Arland Bruce for touchdowns in the second half helping the Lions to a 34-23 victory over the Blue Bombers.
Lulay was named Grey Cup MVP after he completed 21 of his 37 passes for 320 yards and two scores. The Lions pivot also added eight yards on the ground.
"I missed a few throws that I haven't missed in a while, especially in the first half, and that unfortunately ended some drives. But it's a championship game, and you've just got to keep on fighting and in the end its feels pretty sweet," said Lulay.
The Lions are the first team in CFL history to start the season with five straight losses and go on to win the Grey Cup and they did so in impressive fashion. They also accomplished the feat on home soil, the first time a team has done that since the Lions in 1994.
"This is so special to win it at home - it feels amazing," stated wide receiver Geroy Simon. "To come from where we came from and win the Grey Cup, it's the best feeling in the world."
"It's been a tough, tough journey for this football club,"said head coach Wally Buono, who took home his fifth Grey Cup as a coach. "I'm extremely proud of the players, the coaches, the whole organization. We all stuck together when a lot of people were counting us out."
B.C. opened the game strong and held the lead from start to finish.
Lions running back Andrew Harris broke free for a 19-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter, capping off a five-play, 45-yard drive to give B.C. an early 7-0 lead. Harris had 65 yards rushing for the Lions offence and helped provide a nice compliment to the Lions' aerial attack.
Veteran kicker Paul McCallum connected on four of his five field goal attempts, including his longest of the day, a 34-yarder, which gave the Lions a two-score lead late in the fourth quarter.
Blue Bombers quarterback Buck Pierce struggled early in the game. The former Lion was intercepted by linebacker Anton McKenzie in the first quarter.
In a matchup of the CFL's top two defences, points proved hard to come by, especially for the Blue Bombers.
Lulay continued to capitalize off the solid field position provided the B.C. defence, helping the Lions to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
Pierce settled down after his early interception and helped the Bombers get into field goal range twice in the first half, with kicker Justin Palardy making good on both attempts. The Bombers fought hard, but trailed 14-6 at half-time.
A 41-yard punt return by defensive back Jovon Johnson in the third quarter gave the Bombers their best field position of the day and led to Palardy's third field goal of the game pulled the score to 14-9.
The Lions quickly moved in position to respond with a field goal of their won, but McCallum clanged his 48-yard attempt off upright.
When B.C. got the ball back, Lulay directed the offence back onto Winnipeg's side of the field, helped by a 15-yard penalty on Odell Willis for a horse collar tackle. The drive set up another field goal kick from McCallum and this time the veteran made good on the 22-yarder.
"Travis was a little bit better with his throws [in the second half]," remarked Buono. "He was a little anxious. He did play with a pulled groin and I think that affected his throwing.
"[Travis] has been a warrior all year and he didn't let it affect him. He made some great plays and some great throws when it counted."
Lulay went deep near the end of the third quarter, finding Johnson for a 66-yard strike. The touchdown was Johnson's first of his career and helped swing the momentum back into B.C.'s favour.
Bruce was the recipient of another Lulay touchdown pass, giving the Lions a healthy 31-9 lead in the fourth quarter.
"We started out slow in the first half, but we kept our composure, took a deep breath and in the second half came out and stuck together, put some drives together, and we did it," said Bruce.
The Blue Bombers mounted a comeback late in the game thanks to two second half touchdowns from Pierce to Greg Carr and Terrence Edwards, respectively, but time ran out on the East representatives.
This was the third time the two clubs played this season, with the Blue Bombers having emerged victorious in the first two contests. Both games took place early in the season and the Lions were clearly a different team this time around.
Coming off of a 30-17 defeat at the hands of the Bombers in Week 7, the Lions clawed back from their 1-6 start to win all but one of their next 13 games, including Sunday's Grey Cup victory.