Simon sets record, BC prevails
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - British Columbia slotback Geroy Simon set the all-time CFL receiving yards record as the Lions defeated the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 33-16, in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup title game at BC Place.
Simon, who began his career with the Blue Bombers in 1999, reeled in five passes for 105 yards to give him 15,192 yards for his career, eclipsing the mark of 15,153 yards set by Milt Stegall in 2008.
BC (1-0) quarterback Travis Lulay connected on 17-of-25 passing for 233 yards and one touchdown, adding a pair of scores on the ground as well for the defending Grey Cup champs.
Blue Bombers (0-1) starting quarterback Buck Pierce had his night cut short as he suffered a knee injury near the end of the first half. In his place, Alex Brink converted 14-of-26 for 121 yards and a couple of majors through the air.
The Lions began the new season in fine fashion as they marched 90 yards on eight plays, culminating with a five-yard scoring run by Lulay to put the home team on top by a 7-0 score midway through the first period.
Late in the frame the Bombers responded with a score of their own, a 33-yard field goal by Justin Palardy to finish off a seven-play, 26-yard drive.
In the second quarter BC kicker Paul McCallum stepped up and knocked through a 32-yard field goal of his own to push the Lions lead back to seven points.
Winnipeg's Demond Washington took the ensuing kickoff 39 yards back to midfield, but during the following drive the Bombers suffered a five-yard, offside penalty and then Pierce fumbled the ball while being sacked. Winnipeg retained possession but had to punt away on 3rd and 15.
McCallum, who was playing in his 275th career game, added a 25-yard field goal late in the second period to extend the lead to double digits at 13-3.
Washington erupted for another lengthy kickoff return of 80 yards, but a penalty nullified that effort and instead of starting deep in BC territory, the Bombers began the drive at their own 30-yard line and eventually punted the ball back to the Lions.
Pierce, who was under constant pressure, suffered his fourth sack of the contest with under two minutes remaining in the half and went to the sidelines where medical personnel appeared to be examining his right knee.
When the Winnipeg offense returned to the field about a minute later it was backup quarterback Alex Brink who took control of the huddle for the visitors. Unfortunately, the results for Brink were very similar to that of Pierce as the teams went into the break separated by 10 points.
Pierce, who did not return, finished the first half a mere 3-of-9 passing for 11 yards, compared to Lulay who connected on 12-of-16 for 134 yards and was intercepted on the final play of the half.
Simon began the second half needing 18 yards to set the CFL record for all-time receiving yards after reeling in four catches for 49 yards leading up to intermission.
First to strike in the third quarter were the Blue Bombers as Brink dropped back under pressure and floated a 14-yard TD pass to Terrence Edwards over the middle to cut the deficit to three points at 13-10.
With just over six minutes remaining in the third, McCallum lined up a 36-yard field goal attempt and split the uprights for the Lions as they pushed their lead to 16-10.
Moments into the fourth the Bombers were forced to punt and Tim Brown took the kick 59 yards back in the other direction. With a 15-yard penalty tacked on the Lions found themselves deep in Winnipeg territory and shortly thereafter Lulay slipped into the end zone on a six-yard run to make the score 23-10.
At the 10-minute mark Lulay and Simon combined to make history as the quarterback heaved a pass down the right sideline for 56 yards to give the receiver 15,192 yards for his career.
After a brief presentation during which Simon addressed the crowd, Lulay tried to cap the drive with a TD pass to the 14-year veteran, but the pass was broken up at the goal line and it was McCallum who finished off with a 25-yard field goal.
The Bombers continued to flounder under Brink, the signal-caller throwing an interception inside his own 20-yard line.
Lulay turned his attention to another receiver on the ensuing drive, combining with Arland Bruce on a 17-yard major to push the lead to 33-10.
With one minute remaining in regulation the Lions were flagged for pass interference, an infraction that placed the ball at the five-yard line, and on the next play Brink lofted a pass out to Chris Matthews who spun into the end zone, but following a failed two-point conversion the visitors still trailed by 17 points.
The Bombers then attempted an onside kick which was recovered by Brandon Stewart who took it to the end zone, but the score was disallowed because the ball was touched short of 10 yards and thus awarded to BC with 45 seconds left.
The victory for the Lions was the first for new head coach Mike Benevides, elevated to the position from defensive coordinator after Wally Buono stepped down in December following the team's championship run.
The Lions won the 99th Grey Cup, 34-23, in their own building back on November 27, 2011 after starting the season 0-5...Simon, who began his career with the Blue Bombers back in 1999, entered the contest with 15,087 receiving yards and 98 TDs on 935 receptions...Stegall, who last played in 2008 with Winnipeg, finished his career with 144 TDs on 854 receptions...Simon has produced 61 games with at least 100 receiving yards during his career.
06/30 01:50:16 ET