Calagry – Bo Levi Mitchell threw a pair of touchdown passes and Jon Cornish rushed for another in his return from injury as the Calgary Stampeders pulled away from the BC Lions in the fourth quarter to win 35-23.
The Lions wasted a brilliant effort from Chris Rainey, who scored both a kickoff and punt return touchdown.
BC was forced to use rookie pivot Jonathon Jennings after starter John Beck left the game in the second quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. He did not return.
Rainey’s second return of the night, a 103-yard punt return, put some more points on the board to cut BC’s deficit to 21-19 two minutes into the fourth quarter. Andrew Harris powered his way through on the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Nate Slaughter, on kick return duties replacing Tim Brown, responded with deep kick return of his own. Eric Rogers would move the Stamps deeper downfield where Bryant Moniz would punch into the end zone as Calgary regained the lead at 28-21.
On the first play of the Lions next possession, Jennings fumbled the football and it was recovered by Micah Johnson. Cornish would bulldoze his way on a 16-yard touchdown run to increase the Stamps’ lead to 35-21.
Jennings and the Lions comeback attempt did not go as planned. After Jennings connected with Lavelle Hawkins on a 58-yard pass, his next attempt was intercepted in the end zone by Keon Raymond.
His next drive began similarly as Jennings hooked up with Bryan Burnham on a 34-yard pass to keep a possible late rally alive. On third-and-goal, Manny Arceneaux hauled in a pass with his feet in the end zone but the ball did not cross the goal line and the Lions were forced to turn it over on downs.
Starting the drive on their own goal line, punter Rob Maver would concede the safety but Calgary still led 35-23.
Raymond recorded his second end zone interception on a last-play hail mary attempt from Jennings.
Entering the game, much of the attention was on Cornish’s return from a broken finger.
Cornish’s first run was for seven yards on Calgary’s opening drive. Rene Paredes converted his 16th consecutive field goal to give the Stampeders the early lead.
The Lions could not answer on their first drive and Richie Leone pinned the Stampeders deep with a punt. A number of catches by the league’s leading receiver Eric Rogers moved Calgary downfield and Paredes booted another field goal to put the Stamps up 6-0.
The first turnover of the game went the way of the Lions after the team recovered a fumble by Nate Slaughter on a punt return. After being unable to move the chains, Leone missed a 43-yard field goal attempt as Calgary got the football back in the final minute of the first quarter.
BC began the second quarter in great field position after Paredes was forced to punt from his end zone. Bryan Burnham converted on third-and-one to keep the drive alive before John Beck connected with Lavelle Hawkins to put BC inside the 10-yard line. Leone hit a 18-yard field goal to cut the Stamps’ lead in half, 6-3.
Ronnie Yell’s unnecessary roughness penalty for a late hit on Mitchell moved the Stamps up 15 yards. On the next play, Mitchell connected with Jeff Fuller on a 38-yard touchdown. Calgary could not convert on the two-point conversion attempt and led 12-3.
The Lions lose possession after Beck fumbled the ball following a hit by Freddie Bishop. It was recovered by Junior Turner, who ran downfield all the way to inside the 10-yard line. Mitchell connected with Tory Harrison for the major, Mitchell’s 18th touchdown pass of the year. Paredes missed the extra point so the Stampeders’ lead grew to 18-3.
The hit on Beck would take him out of the game and he was replaced at quarterback by Jonathon Jennings with 5:12 left in the second quarter. He drove the Lions downfield but struggled to connect with his receivers on deep passes as the Lions entered halftime trailing 18-6 after Leone nailed a field goal at the whistle.
BC would start the second half off with a bang as Chris Rainey returned the kickoff 103 yards for the touchdown and to cut the Calgary lead to 18-13. It was the first kickoff return in the CFL this season.
On the next Lions drive, Jennings was picked off by Joe Burnett inside Lions territory as the Stampeders offence went back to work. Calgary could not move closer to the end zone and Paredes booted another field goal, this one from 42 yards out, for a 21-13 lead.
With under five minutes left in the third quarter, Eric Rogers caught a short pass that put him at 1,000 receiving yards, the first player to reach that mark this season.
Next week, the Stampeders visit the Blue Bombers on Friday while the Lions (4-6) travel to Edmonton.