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Can Travis Lulay overcome his Winnipeg demons in Monday’s Lions-Bombers clash?

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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Will B.C. QB Travis Lulay be able to overcome his usual struggles against the Bombers?

On paper, Monday's CFL clash between the B.C. Lions and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (7 p.m. Eastern, TSN/NBCSN) looks like a mismatch. The Lions enter it at 3-2, and while they're coming off a bad 38-12 loss to Toronto, they've still done some impressive things on the year. That's participially true on the defensive side of the ball, as the B.C. defence was first in the league heading into this week in yards of net offence allowed per game (297.0), first downs allowed (88) and passing yards allowed per game (209.0). Meanwhile, the 1-4 Bombers have struggled in most aspects of the game: heading into this week, their offence was last in the CFL in passing first downs (43), two-and-outs (43) and gain per rush (4.8 yards), plus second-worst in sacks allowed (20) and third-worst in yards of offence per game (300.8) and points per game (23.0), while their defence has been carved up through the air, allowing a league-high 74.0 per cent completion rating and a CFL-worst 9.6 yards per pass. There's one area that should give Winnipeg fans some hope, though, and that's in B.C. quarterback Travis Lulay's traditional struggles against the Bombers.

Lulay's done very well overall since entering the CFL in 2010, establishing himself as one of the league's premier passers. However, he hasn't been able to find consistent success against Winnipeg; the Bombers have held him to a 78.8 passer rating over his career, lower than any other CFL team, and he's never thrown for 300 yards or more against them during the regular season. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that this year's Bombers will do as well, as the teams haven't played yet and this Winnipeg defence looks like a step down from several recent iterations (particularly the dominant cast that took the Bombers to the 2011 Grey Cup). Their vulnerability through the air thus far may come into effect again, as there are several questions about their talent level in the linebacking corps and the defensive backfield. Lulay did look good against Winnipeg in that 2011 Grey Cup, too, throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns and earning Grey Cup MVP honours. Still, the Bombers have demonstrated an impressive pass rush at times (their 20 sacks on the season are second only to Saskatchewan), and they've demonstrated a pretty good ability to keep Lulay in check over the years.

What will Winnipeg need to do to pull off a B.C. Day upset on the road? Well, first off, they're going to have to get to Lulay, and preferably without blitzing a lot of guys. B.C.'s incredibly deep receiving corps makes it exceptionally difficult to send too many guys after the passer, as there are a lot of receivers you might not want to see in single coverage. This isn't out of the realm of plausibility, though: Winnipeg's defensive line has been generally very good, and the Lions' offensive line, while decent on the season (they've surrendered a middle-of-the-pack 12 sacks) is facing injury woes, particularly with right guard Kirby Fabien out for the season and Dean Valli forced to step in. Beyond that, the Bombers will have to contain Winnipeg native Andrew Harris on the ground, but they've allowed a league-low 3.8 yards per rush thus far. They'll have to get some offensive production of their own too, so much of this may depend on how Justin Goltz does on the road in a hostile environment in just his second career CFL start, but he showed enough last week to be named the team's starter going forward. Thus, while it's understandable that the Lions are heavily favoured, an upset isn't out of the question—especially if Lulay displays his typical form against the Blue Bombers.

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