Lions fight label

DAN TOTH -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The gaudy orange 'Psycho Squad' T-shirts worn by Wally Buono and his special teams crew are intended to motivate and inspire personnel on the B.C. Lions kicking team.

But the eye-catching duds could also capture the sentiments of a coach and players on an unbeaten team still fighting the notion it's somehow underachieving.

Through wins over Toronto (twice), Ottawa and Hamilton, the Lions' largest margin was eight points, substandard for the defending CFL West Division champs in the eyes of some.

It's enough to make a guy go crazy.

"Nobody in their right mind likes to be criticized," Buono said yesterday after his club's final tuneup for tonight's clash with the Calgary Stampeders (8 p.m., TSN). "So if you're being openly criticized or chastised or whatever, it ruffles some feathers."

Despite twice defeating the defending Grey Cup champs, revenge for last November's loss to the Argos in the title game, the Lions' record is being challenged. In posting a 13-5 mark last year, the Lions also chalked up a league-best 584 points -- an average of 32.4 per game -- a slim two points per contest more than this season.

Last week's 28-22 win over hapless Hamilton saw the Tabbies take a 19-13 lead to the locker-room after 30 minutes. It has the nay sayers wagging their fingers at the Lions suggesting the unblemished record is somehow an illusion.

"People think what?" Buono wondered aloud. "We're just going to go to Hamilton and play against ourselves?

"If you're honest with yourself and with your team, we've not played well enough through four games to blow anybody out, right?

"We played well enough to win, hang in there in the fourth quarter and win, but you have to play better for the whole period of time which we've not done."

B.C. Lions quarterback Dave Dickenson has posted phenomenal stats through the four wins -- a league-leading 74% completion rate, including eight TDs, while throwing just three picks. But while the former Calgary Stampeders pivot continues to amaze with his almost error-free ability to guide an offence, he too has heard the criticism.

"I think the public perception out there is we should be winning by 20 and that's just not the case," Dickenson pleads. "There's a lot of good players in this league and a lot of good defences. I'd like to be more consistent, not have as many short series and change of field position. You don't have to score every series but if you make the other team go 80-90 yards to score, I think we help our defence out.

"We can get better but we're playing pretty good and we're winning and certainly that's been big.

"There's high expectations but I think what we need to realize is we had offensively 27 points as our lowest output and that ain't bad.

"I always set the goal that if you can get to 30 you've got a good chance to win. I don't think we need to let the fans or public perception get us out of our game plan. The days of just running up and down the field on defences -- I don't know if that's going to happen."

Lions right guard Bobby Singh was on Buono's 2002 squad in Calgary that started with four losses, missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years.

"I got there in 2002 and we were 0-4 and I'd rather be 4-0," Singh smiled. "We had some pretty losses in Calgary but I'll take ugly wins over pretty losses any day."


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