VANCOUVER – The B.C. Lions were tested Thursday but hung on for a 17-12 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Quarterback Nathan Rourke tossed for 250 yards with two touchdowns for the Lions (4-1). He connected on 22 of 30 attempts, had two interceptions and was sacked once.
Sean Whyte stayed perfect on the season, making a 37-yard field goal, his lone attempt of the night.
Hamilton’s Dane Evans was sacked early but recovered and connected on 26 of 37 attempts for 297 passing yards. He connected with Steven Dunbar Jr. for a touchdown and went without an interception for a second straight game.
Kicker Seth Small made two of three field goal attempts, including a 23-yard kick in the second quarter.
The result moves the Lions into a tie with the idle Calgary Stampeders for second spot in the CFL’s competitive West Division.
The game began as a defensive battle, with both sides struggling to generate offence.
James Butler sparked the Lions midway through the first quarter, taking a handoff from Rourke deep in B.C. territory, and weaving 37-yards through traffic and attempted tackles. The run gave the home side a first down on their own 54-yard line.
Rourke followed the play with a 33-yard bullet to Dominique Rhymes and Whyte capped the scoring drive with a 37-yard field goal.
The kicker has made all seven of his field goal attempts this season.
The Ticats started the second in scoring position but had to settle for a field goal after a pass knock down by Lions defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy. Small’s 14-yard kick temporarily tied the game at 3-3.
A nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive put B.C. up once again. Rourke sent a blistering 14-yard toss to Jevon Cottoy in the end zone for the QB’s league-leading 13 touchdown pass of the season.
Hamilton steadily worked its way up the field only to be thwarted a second time by a pass knock down, this time by linebacker Ben Hladik.
Small ensured the Ticats’ work didn’t go unrewarded, putting a 23-yard kick through the uprights and whittling B.C.’s lead to 10-6.
The visitors got another scoring chance late in the half after Lions defensive lineman was called for a high hit on Evans. The 15-yard penalty gave Hamilton a first down at the B.C. 33-yard line with seconds left on the clock. Small went for a 41-yard field goal attempt, but the ball sailed wide to the left.
The Lions boosted their advantage midway through the third frame on a scoring drive that included a trick play.
Needing three yards on a third down, B.C. called Whyte out onto the field, seemingly for a long field goal attempt. Instead, Rourke muscled the ball through a scrum for a first down that kept he drive alive.
The QB capped the series with an arcing 33-yard touchdown pass to Lucky Whitehead in the end zone.
Hamilton got its first major of the night before the end of the quarter, when Evans hit Steven Dunbar Jr. with a 32-yard toss as he sprinted in for his fourth touchdown of the season.
The Ticats went for the two-point conversion but Evans failed to connect with Tim White in the end zone.
B.C. took a 17-12 lead into the fourth quarter. The Lions delivered a dagger with less than three minutes left on the clock.
With Hamilton on third down, Evans sailed a pass to White deep in the end zone, only to see it knocked down by Marcus Sayles. The Ticats turned the ball over on downs.
An interception with 93 seconds left on the clock breathed new fife into the visiting side.
Rourke sent a ball flying to Whitehead along the sideline, but Hamilton’s Tunde Adeleke stepped in, gobbled it up and returned it for three yards.
The Lions’ defence got back to work and once again forced the Ticats to turnover the ball on downs.
The Tiger-Cats will be back in action on July 28 when they host the Montreal Alouettes. The Lions will take on the Roughriders in Regina on July 29.
NOTES: Lions star Bryan Burnham helped coach from the sidelines. The receiver remains on the injured list after suffering broken ribs in B.C.’s second game of the season on June 25. The matchup marked the 99th meeting between the Lions and Ticats. Game 100 will have to wait until next season as the two sides only play once in 2022.