LIVESTREAM PPV: CFL – BC Lions @Toronto Argonauts, August 18, 4p ET (10p CET)

TORONTO — While their records are not where they would want them to be, the BC Lions and Toronto Argonauts are both feeling pretty good about themselves entering their Week 10 meeting on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field.

At 2-5, the reigning Grey Cup Champion Argonauts are obviously not where they expected to be at this point in 2018. Given the state of things in the East — and Toronto’s wild 24-point comeback win over Ottawa — the Argos are still far from out of the playoff picture.

The 3-4 Lions are two wins out of a playoff spot in the West Division with a game in hand on Edmonton and Winnipeg above them, and Wally Buono’s team has been playing good football as of late.

“We’re playing better football now than, say, the Winnipeg win,” the all-time coaching wins leader told “Though we did lose on the road to Ottawa and Calgary, I thought in both games we had an opportunity to win and it came down to one mistake.”

The similarities between both teams — they’ve had their early struggles but are entering Saturday’s game with momentum — are not lost on Buono.

“At this point, it’s really more about the improved play,” continued the Lions bench boss. “We’re playing a very good football team, they are the reigning Grey Cup champions. They themselves want to establish who they are after a big win, just like us.”

Veteran BC quarterback Travis Lulay understands that better performances won’t mean much if his team can’t start translating improved play into road victories.

“I’ve been in this league long enough to know that you have to bring it every single game,” said Lulay. “We’re just looking for our first road win, we know we have to put together a good performance to get it. Our last two road games were better than our first two games, but we didn’t make the plays to ultimately win the game.”

As for the challenge presented by Toronto’s defence, the 34 year-old knows what to expect.

“They’ll challenge in pass protection, they play some tough coverages on second down on second-and-long. Like any game, you’ve got to be in second-and-manageable situations — first down’s gonna be really important for us,” outlined Lulay. “They’ll give some twists and stunts and different things on second-and-medium type coverages. I’ve got to stay in there and make plays.”

Coordinator Mark Washington’s defence was the story of the second half in BC’s win over Edmonton last Thursday, but the Lions defenders will have a much different challenge in the form of McLeod Bethel-Thompson at QB this week.

“We may not have his little mannerisms, (because there’s) not a lot of tape on him,” explained Washington. “But we’re not preparing for one particular player or quarterback, we’re preparing for the system. They got the ring on their fingers right now, and they didn’t change too many pieces out there. With Wilder, with Green and Edwards and all these guys. These guys can play, they have a lot of pride and we know we’re going to get a good shot from them.”

Running back Jeremiah Johnson enters the lineup for BC this week, returning from injury just in time to spare off the fallen Travon Van; receiver Ricky Collins Jr. also hits the one-game injured list this week, and will be replaced by Danny Vandervoort.

If the second half of Toronto’s comeback win in Week 8 was any indication, the team may have found its starting quarterback in an unlikely place.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson had not started a game since 2011, then suddenly chucked four touchdowns in the win over Ottawa two weeks ago.

Despite his instant success, the 30-year-old Argos pivot is still getting every rep possible in.

“For every rep at practice, you have to get two mental reps,” the Sacramento State product told “If you can tie mental reps in with footwork, it’s even better. You’ll find me walking around my apartment, in meetings taking drops. I’ll drop walking down the street. The more reps I get connecting my feet and my mind on the same, the better I’ll be.”

Frank Beltre will start on the defensive line for the Argonauts, having assumed Shawn Lemon‘s spot when the veteran was dealt to BC on July 24.

“I’m excited to see BC, and Shawn, as the teammate he used to be and the friend he still is, I’m excited to see him,” said Beltre, Toronto’s Dominican-born D-end. “I think we’re very focused, definitely very confident. After our last win, (we) realized who we really are. We’re ready to go out there on Saturday and prove it again.”

Toronto offensive lineman Ryan Bomben — acquired in a trade with Montreal in late July — will continue working on the O-line at right guard, alongside fellow Burlington, Ont.-native Chris Van Zeyl.

“They’re a pretty easy-going group,” said Bomben of his new team. “In terms of coaches, I know most of them from the past, and some of the guys. Chris I know from Burlington, we’ve worked out together. It’s been a pretty easy adjustment for me.”

As for the Lions, Bomben is expecting a team surging in similar fashion to the Argos.

“They’re a good team, they have a really good D-line, and good linebackers,” explained the Guelph product. “We’re expecting their best game this week.”

The Argos are expecting their best crowd of the season thus far, with a number of themes — #DiversityIsStrength, You Can Play and the Canadian National Exhibition — all going on at or near BMO Field on Saturday.

“We love our fans, (and) we know they’re out there in the Toronto and Ontario vicinity,” said Trestman. “Every day we just want to play a game that our players, team, coaches, owners and fans and community can be proud of. If we do that, our fan base will continue to grow.”

Rookie Marcus Roberson will slot in at defensive halfback for the Argos; the former Florida Gator is no stranger to the professional game, however, with three different NFL teams (St. Louis, Buffalo, Houston) and 35 tackles on his resume.

Crunchin’ Numbers:

– First-quarter touchdowns for BC in its previous five games. In that span, the Lions have managed just nine total first-quarter points, and trailed after the opening 15 minutes in every game.

7 – Saturday’s contest will bring an end to Toronto’s western run of games to begin the season: The Argos will have played a western opponent in seven of their first eight games.

10-4 – Argos record off a bye week since 2011. Marc Trestman’s team is 3-0 off byes since he took charge in 2017.

56-36 – The Lions lead the all-time series between the two teams, with a pair of ties tacked onto that number. Of those games played between the two in Toronto, BC leads 27-20.

Saturday’s contest is pretty simple: One team is going to put itself on a trajectory to continue its upward swing into the second half of the season, while the other is going to fizzle out and fall further below .500.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson looked sharp in his good half against Ottawa, but Travis Lulay — an aging warrior — has the track record to back him up.

The atmosphere at BMO should be fun, and the teams on the field are likely to deliver.

– With files from

AFI, Yare Media and the CFL

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LIVE STREAM PPV: CFL – BC Lions @Toronto Argonauts, August 18, 4p ET (10p CET)

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