Rourke leads undefeated BC Lions past Ottawa REDBLACKS

Canadian quarterback Nathan Rourke led the BC Lions past the Ottawa REDBLACKS for a 34-31 win on Thursday night to kick off Canada Day weekend in the nation’s capital.

The 24-year-old from Oakville, Ont., bounced back from three turnovers in the back-and-forth battle to lift BC to its third straight win. The REDBLACKS made it a one-score game with under a minute left in the fourth quarter, but they ultimately fell short while dropping their third straight.

Rourke completed 23 of 31 passes for 359 yards while throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also added 87 rushing yards, including a 50-yard touchdown, with one fumble on five carries.

Lions’ Keon Hatcher led all receivers with 166 yards and a touchdown on seven catches, while running back James Butler racked up 129 total yards and two touchdowns.

Ottawa defensive back Monshadrik “Money” Hunter made a big impact with two interceptions and a fumble recovery, as the REDBLACKS generated 17 points off turnovers.

Running back William Powell made his Ottawa return after missing the first two games with an achilles injury, carrying the ball 11 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. Powell spent his first three CFL seasons with the REDBLACKS before signing with Saskatchewan for the last two seasons.

Jeremiah Masoli completed 13 of 26 passes for 159 yards in the loss, while also adding 18 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

» Box Score: REDBLACKS, Lions by the numbers
» Through the Lens: Lions at REDBLACKS
» Watch: Rourke shows off his speed for a TD
» Watch: The Next One: Canada’s Great QB Hope

Rourke got things rolling in the first quarter with a 23-yard completion to Hatcher, and he found the end zone two plays later on a 50-yard touchdown run around the left edge that silenced the home crowd. The BC pivot left multiple Ottawa defenders in his wake as he accelerated up the sideline, and Sean Whyte booted the extra point for the early 7-0 lead.

Ottawa responded with a 35-yard field goal from Lewis Ward early in the second quarter, but Rourke answered right back on the ensuing drive by engineering a quick 55-yard touchdown drive.

He completed a 14-yard pass to Lucky Whitehead before connecting with Hatcher again for a 34-yard gain that brought the ball down to Ottawa’s three-yard line. Rourke finished the drive off with a short screen pass to Butler for the touchdown, and Whyte added the extra point to give BC a 14-3 lead.

Ottawa’s offence managed to reach the red zone late in the second quarter, but BC’s secondary proceeded to clamp down and force the REDBLACKS to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Ward.

Lions defensive lineman Tim Bonner sacked Masoli with under a minute left to help close out the half.

Rourke’s hot streak was derailed early in the third quarter when he was intercepted by Hunter, who returned it 11 yards inside BC territory. The turnover led to a five-yard touchdown run from Powell, which Caleb Evans followed up with a QB sneak for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14 points apiece.

Hunter picked off Rourke again on the Lions’ next drive, jumping the route before returning the interception 56 yards down the sideline to set Ottawa up with great field position inside BC’s 10-yard line. Masoli moved the ball closer with a six-yard run before finding the end zone on a one-yard QB sneak. But Ward’s extra point attempt went wide, leaving Ottawa with just a six-point lead.

Rourke bounced back from the pair of interceptions by finding Hatcher for a 71-yard touchdown on the next drive, with Hatcher gaining 43 yards in the open field after making the grab. BC took a 21-20 lead on the extra point from Whyte.

The Canadian maintained momentum by leading another scoring drive near the end of the third quarter that ended with a five-yard touchdown run from Butler to extend the lead. Whyte’s extra point put BC up 28-20.

Rourke coughed up a fumble for his third turnover of the game while running the ball early in the fourth quarter. Masoli then completed a 34-yard strike to Darvin Adams that led to a 38-yard field goal from Ward, cutting BC’s lead down to five points with under 10 minutes to play.

Whyte made a 15-yard field goal with just over a minute to go, but the REDBLACKS responded with a big drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown run from Evans and a two-point conversion from Adams to make the game closer at 34-31.

The ensuing onside kick attempt was unsuccessful, allowing BC to run out the clock for the win.

Ottawa will next face the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Regina on Friday, July 8 at 9:30 p.m. ET, while BC will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to close out Week 5 on Saturday, July 9 at 7 p.m. ET.

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