BC Lions pull off near impossible comeback; stun Hamilton Tiger-Cats in OT

VANCOUVER — The BC Lions mounted a comeback for the ages on Saturday night at BC Place, covering 59 yards in nine seconds to tie the game in regulation, then finishing the job on Ty Long’s game-winning kick in the second overtime period.

Bryan Burnham hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Jonathon Jennings with no time on the clock, adding a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime on a tip-toe catch that needed to be reviewed and overturned.

In the extra frame, Long’s second field goal in overtime — following Lirim Hajrullahu’s miss — sent the Lions to a 35-32 win over the visiting Ticats.

Jennings, starting for the injured Travis Lulay, threw three touchdown passes and no interceptions, finishing his night with 346 passing yards on 32-of-47 passing. Burnham led the Leos with 90 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 10 catches.

Mike Jones scored on touchdowns from 55 yards and 75 yards for the Ticats, while quarterback Jeremiah Masoli went 19-of-25 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. John White also scored for the shorthanded Tabbies, who were missing starting running back Alex Green and leading receiver Brandon Banks, both part of an extensive injured list.

The win moves the Lions into a tie with Winnipeg for the final playoff spot via East Division crossover, while the Ticats fall further behind the East Division-leading Ottawa REDBLACKS.

The two teams will do it again on Sept. 29 at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field in the rematch.

In his first start since July 7, Jennings established some rhythm early in Saturday’s contest, completing his first four attempts and eventually setting up a field goal by Ty Long on the Lions’ second possession. Long’s 51-yarder matched a career-high, giving BC a 3-0 lead.

The Lions forced three straight punts to open the game, getting some help from Davon Coleman in the form of two opening-quarter sacks. Coleman would finish with three sacks on the night.

When the Ticats did have an opportunity to draw even, they missed the mark as Hajrullahu’s first attempt of the night sailed wide of the upright from 42 yards out.

But, finally, after failing to sustain drives early, the Ticats’ offence got things going in the second quarter. The Lions’ offence was ready to run on the field when it appeared Masoli had been intercepted, but the turnover was negated by a pass interference call against Winston Rose.

That provided a window of opportunity for the Ticats, because two plays later, on second down, Masoli’s potential drive-ending incompletion drew another pass interference call, the second in three plays.

With two chunk plays totaling 55 yards of field position, the Ticats took advantage, handing the ball to White for an eight-yard touchdown to give Hamilton its first lead of the game.

After a strong start, the Lions’ defensive struggles carried over to the ensuing drive. This time there was no flag, just Jones running right behind coverage on the way to a 75-yard catch-and-run. Suddenly, within the span of barely a minute, the Ticats had gone from trailing by a field goal to leading 14-3.

Needing to make some halftime adjustments, the Lions’ offence came out with a new look in the third quarter, with Jennings attacking the Ticats’ secondary with an early deep ball attempt. The pass fell to the turf, but Jennings’ longest attempt of the evening seemed to open things up for the offence.

After Johnson’s second-down catch set up a first down, newcomer DeVier Posey had a 31-yard pickup — his longest with his new team — to move the Lions into Hamilton territory.

Not long later, Jennings’ second-down pass to Cory Watson found pay dirt from eight yards out, while Collins added the two-point conversion, pulling the Lions to within a field goal, 14-11.

The Ticats responded with a 50-yard field goal from Hajrullahu to extend the lead to 17-11. The successful attempt improved Hajrullahu to 5-of-5 from 50 and beyond in 2018.

Meanwhile, the defensive struggle continued, with the Lions’ offence failing to gain much traction, punting the ball for the ninth time — including four two-and-outs — to end the third quarter.

From then on, things got a little chaotic for the 18,794 spectators at BC Place.

Masoli created some separation early in the fourth quarter, connecting with Luke Tasker in Lions territory to set up a 47-yard field goal by Hajrullahu, giving Hamilton a two-score cushion early in the fourth.

But the Lions, in the midst of a wild west playoff race, weren’t about to fade into the late Vancouver night.

Long’s field goal cut the deficit to 20-14, then on the next drive the Lions drove deep into Ticats territory in an attempt to regain the lead. Jennings’ pass on second down missed Collins in the end zone, but on a third-down conversion, Jennings connected with Burnham for a seven-yard score, catapulting the Lions in front, 21-20 with 2:26 remaining.

The Ticats weren’t finished yet. Down a point, a 17-yard pickup for Tasker moved the Ticats up to midfield, then, just one play later, Masoli found a wide open Jones behind the Lions’ secondary for a 55-yard touchdown. Tasker’s two-point convert made it 28-21 Ticats, restoring their lead one minute after losing it.

However, even with two minutes left, the game was far from over. Jennings’ deep ball on third down fell incomplete, giving the Ticats the ball back and what many had assumed would become a much-needed two points in the standings. Not so fast, because the Ticats quickly went two-and-out, opting to punt rather than attempt a long field goal try.

After Hajrullaju’s punt went through the end zone, giving the Ticats a single point, Jennings went to work. There were nine seconds left when Jennings threw a 50-50 ball up to Shaq Johnson, with the third-year receiver making the catch and giving the Lions’ offence one more shot at the 20.

Then, on the very next play, Jennings found Burnham in between defenders for the potential game-tying score. With the two-point conversion still needed, Jennings threw the fade to Burnham, with a lengthy review showing that the receiver just got his foot in bounds, sending the game to overtime with zeroes on the clock.

In overtime, Long and Hajrullahu exchanged field goals to extend the game to a second overtime period. But Hajrullahu couldn’t repeat his success when the Ticats were stopped on their ensuing possession, missing the uprights and opening the door for a Lions victory.

The Lions brought out Long on second down, and the sophomore kicker made no mistake, splitting the uprights for a thrilling 35-32 win.

After combining for 28 points through the first three quarters, the Ticats and Lions put up 30 in the fourth quarter alone.

The Lions held an edge in net yards of 429 to Hamilton’s 383.

While Long connected on all four of his field goal attempts Hajrullahu’s two misses came back to bite the ‘Cats, going 3-for-5 on his attempts.

The loss marks the second in a row for the Ticats, who fell to the Calgary Stampeders a week ago in Hamilton. The Lions, meanwhile, go into Hamilton next weekend on a three-game winning streak.

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