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CFL Preview - Toronto (1-0) at British Columbia (0-1)



From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, CFL Editor

DATE & TIME: Thursday, July 4, 10 p.m. (et).

GAME NOTES: The British Columbia Lions try to extend their home win streak to seven games on Thursday night as they host the defending Grey Cup Champion Toronto Argonauts at BC Place.

Preparing to play the 1,000th regular-season game in franchise history, the Lions are trying to bounce back from a season-opening loss to Calgary on the road last week, 44-32. BC fell behind in that matchup by 16 points in the first quarter and never recovered, even though the squad outscored the hosts by a 26-13 margin in the second half in order to make things interesting.

Quarterback Travis Lulay not only converted 21-of-36 passes for 283 yards and three touchdowns, but he also led the Lions on the ground with 55 yards on four rushing attempts, his one run of 23 yards representing more than everyone else on the team combined. However, Lulay was sacked three times and had one pass picked off in the loss.

Defensively, the Lions were ripped apart by a Calgary group which gained 200 yards on the ground and close to 450 yards overall. There was one bright spot for the BC defense however, as Cord Parks picked off a pass in the third frame and returned it 45 yards for a major.

As for the Argonauts, their 39-34 home win against Hamilton in the opener wasn't pretty, but at least the squad was able to extend its win streak to six games overall, which includes the 2012 postseason.

Toronto, which began both the first and second halves with successful TD drives, was led by Ricky Ray as he threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Ray, who joined the Argos in 2012 after spending years with Edmonton, avoided being sacked and intercepted as he was named the CFL Offensive Player of the Week.

Also having a strong outing was running back Chad Kackert who needed just 10 carries to generate a game-high 112 rushing yards, 57 of those coming on a TD run down the left sideline to open the second quarter.

Just prior to Kackert's major, superstar Chad Owens took a vicious hit late in the first frame. With just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Owens streaked across the field and went up for a catch but nearly had his head taken off by the defense, giving him more than enough reason to take a break on the sidelines.

Owens did return though, finishing with nine receptions for 95 yards, four punt returns which brought in 48 yards, and four kickoff returns for an additional 92 yards. Even though he is a marked man, after being named the top performer in the league last season, Owens is dead set on logging yet another 3,000-yard campaign.

Toronto kicker Swayze Waters went down with injury as he kicked off the second half. Waters came back late in the contest to attempt a PAT, but he again came up lame during the successful conversion that gave the Eskimos a five-point edge with about five minutes remaining in regulation.

Because of the injury to Waters, the Argos had to improvise and use both Alexander Robinson, a fullback, and wide receiver Spencer Watt to kickoff. Watt, who knocked through an extra point in the third quarter, did so after scoring the touchdown himself on a 20-yard pass from Ray.

While the Lions are trying to bounce back from the season-opening loss, the good news for the squad is that the active roster should become a bit more solid with the return of both linebacker Solomon Elimimian and veteran kicker Paul McCallum.

Elimimian missed the opener with an ankle injury, although he had planned on being in on the action before taking a seat. McCallum was sidelined with a groin injury, but head coach Mike Benevides has every reason to believe the kicker will be back on the field this week.

While getting back both Elimimian and McCallum in all likelihood, center Angus Reid is probably not going to make the cut, which means the offense will miss his leadership while second-year man Matt Norman tries to fill the void.

Dating back to the 1961 season, the Lions lead the series with Toronto by a count of 51-31-2, thanks in part to a pair of wins in 2012. The first of those came in the middle of August in Toronto, with BC doubling-up the nine points registered by the Argos.

The second meeting took place a month later, but this time the Toronto offense responded by losing by only five points, 28-23.

The Lions are set to travel to Rogers Centre at the end of the month to complete the season series.

Being at home should give the Lions a boost for sure, but that doesn't mean they'll be able to overcome the dominating play of Ray and Owens this time around.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toronto 38, British Columbia 27

07/03 11:03:49 ET