B.C. Lions defeat Winnipeg to win Grey Cup
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Travis Lulay led the British Columbia Lions to the Grey Cup title Sunday night, throwing two second-half touchdown passes in a 34-23 victory over the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Lulay, the former Montana State star who added the game MVP award to CFL season MVP honors, completed 21 of 37 passes for 320 yards for the resurgent Lions.
"It's starting to sink in, but it happened fast, " Lulay said. "I was watching the defense, and somebody turned to me and was like, `That's it.' And I saw the clock was at zero. It was unbelievable. It feels pretty special to be able to celebrate it with this group of guys."
B.C. won the title for the sixth time and became the first team in CFL history to win the championship after opening the season with five straight losses. The Lions also became the fourth team to win the Grey Cup at home and the first since the 1994 B.C. squad accomplished the feat.
"This is the greatest feeling in the world, " said slotback Geroy Simon, a former Maryland player. "All the hard work we put in, all the blood, sweat and tears in the offseason, starting 0-5 and then getting in the playoffs . . . then winning the Cup at home, it's the best feeling in the world."
After the dismal start, B.C. won 11 of its final 13 games to finish first in the West Division at 11-7. The Lions then beat Edmonton 40-23 last week in the West final.
"I would never wish that upon myself or anybody else to go through, " Lulay said. "It's tough coming out of the gate like that, but I think this team believed we were a whole lot better than that. Without that belief system, it wouldn't have allowed us to dig ourselves out of that hole."
Lulay's 66-yard TD strike to former University of Houston receiver Kierrie Johnson on the final play of the third quarter put B.C. ahead 24-9.
The Lions then got a huge break with 12:21 left, when Winnipeg defensive end Odell Willis got his hands on Lulay's screen pass inside the B.C. 30, but dropped the ball with a clear path to the end zone.
"Fortunately, very fortunately, he bobbled the ball and Ben (Archibald) made a huge, heads-up play to knock the ball out of his hands, " Lulay said. "My heart skipped a beat, I got a little bit excited there, and, boom, Ben knocked the ball away. ... That was certainly a hair-raising moment."
Lulay then drove the Lions to another touchdown, capping the 82-yard drive with a 6-year-old scoring pass to former University of Minnesota receiver Arland Bruce to make it 31-0 with 6:50 remaining.
"I don't get after it too much during the season. I stay pretty focused, " Lulay said. "But tonight's one of those nights where I'll let loose and hang out with the guys a good bit. It's a special moment. We want to celebrate it with a very special group of guys. We won't all be together again, that's just the nature of professional sports, so we want to take advantage of a pretty special opportunity."
Winnipeg made it interesting with Buck Pierce's two late touchdown passes. The former New Mexico State quarterback hit Greg Carr on a 45-yard scoring strike with 3:38 to go, then found Terrence Edwards on a 13-yarder with 1:37 remaining.
B.C.'s Paul McCallum put the game away with a 33-yard field goal with 58 seconds left.
Pierce was a member of B.C.'s 2006 Grey Cup-winning team and spent his first five CFL seasons with the Lions before being released after the 2009 season and signing with Winnipeg.
"We had too many two-and-outs and they had a short field and we had a long field, " Pierce said. "Our defense had to stay on the field too long. We just didn't start well enough. They came out on fire and we didn't respond."
Lions tailback Andrew Harris, a Winnipeg native, was selected the top Canadian in the game. He opened the scoring with a 19-yard run midway through the first quarter, and finished the game with 60 yards on 10 carries.
"It's such a big honor to be named that and it's such a great league with so many good Canadians, " Harris said. "It's just hard work, dedication and hopefully more to come."
The Blue Bombers failed in their bid to win their first Grey Cup title since 1990.
"This was a collective loss, " said Winnipeg defensive lineman Doug Brown, set to retire. "There wasn't any phase of our team today that dominated. We didn't play well enough across the board."
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attended the game.
"On behalf of Canadians, I would like to congratulate the B.C. Lions on their excellent season and unwavering drive and determination, which culminated in their victory, " Harper said.