The speculation is over: Mark McLoughlin is the B.C. Lions field-goal kicker today. That brings a massive sigh of relief to the Lions and their faithful.
After injuring his hamstring two weeks ago, the 40-year-old has been on an intensive rehab program, nearly around the clock. And it has worked.
"I had pretty good range (yesterday). I hit, (with) a very nice easy stroke, from 45 yards and felt fine," McLoughlin said. "I don't anticipate any problems."
The Lions could have had massive problems if Duncan O'Mahony had been given the starting assignment. Nobody in the league has been worse kicking field goals this year, as O'Mahony has a dreadful 26-for-42 record.
On the flip side, McLoughlin is a money player in the post season, with a league-record 214 points.
But Sean Fleming could own the new record by the end of next week if he continues to sizzle. The Eskimos aren't worried about their kicking situation after Fleming nailed six FGs last week.
Will Mark McLoughlin be forever blowing bubbles?
2. RUNNING BACKS
Troy Davis and Antonio Warren might be the most important players on the field at B.C. Place today.
When Davis has rushed for 100 yards or more this year, his team hasn't lost - be it Hamilton or Edmonton.
He's averaging 92 yards a game versus the Leos this year.
Warren touched only the ball seven times in B.C.'s last game. The Lions need to get him more involved to win today.
If Warren gains plenty of yards early, Edmonton's defensive line can't pin its ears as much at quarterback Dave Dickenson, giving the pivot more time to dissect the secondary.
Dave Dickenson has only thrown five passes in a game situation in 50 days.
After suffering a major concussion on Oct. 1, Dickenson has stepped on the field just once - for a few plays two weeks ago.
"That is something you want to worry about," said Ricky Ray, offering a QB's perspective on that frightening stat.
Ray has his own brutal stat to worry about: 0 TD passes in 57 days.
Who will step to the plate and finally deliver today? Or will both be yanked on short leashes?
If Ray struggles yet again, what does his future in Edmonton look like?
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KEYS TO THE GAME
1. PASS PROTECTION
The Lions have surrendered a league-high 74 sacks this year. Edmonton is second in the CFL in sacking the QB.
An obvious point after Calgary coughed up the ball six times last week.
3. OPENING 15 MINUTES
If the Eskimos hold the lead after the first quarter, doubt re-enters the mind of the slumping Lions. On the other hand, B.C. is 9-1 with the lead after the first quarter.
4. SUCCESSFUL RETURNS
The Leos haven't lost this year when Aaron Lockett returns a punt for a TD. Edmonton has lost only once when Tony Tompkins finds the house.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. A bad penalty can sink a team in the fourth quarter.
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IN: DL Charles Alston
OUT: DB Gerald Dixon
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Davis Sanchez (groin), Mike Bradley (knee), Taylor Inglis (knee), Rashad Jeanty (hamstring)
Eddie Linscomb (wrist), Chris Hoople (shoulder), Carl Courgues (shoulder), Kelly Lochbaum (shoulder)
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THEY SAID WHAT?
"If a team comes in and beats us three times in a row, then we are no good.''
- Carl Kidd, knowing the Esks have won twice already
" I expect our team to be very physical, very intense and to play with an emotional high for 60 minutes.''
- Esks receiver Ed Hervey on today's game
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STAT ATTACK: AVERAGES FROM THREE HEAD-TO-HEAD GAMES THIS SEASON
- TOTAL TURNOVERS
Ray has thrown five INTs against B.C. Dickenson has thrown five the entire year.
- TOTAL SACKS
Edmonton sacked the QB a stunning six times in the first meeting this year.
- PENALTY YARDS PER GAME
The Esks self-destructed in the first game, taking 12 penalties for 163 yards.
- TIME OF POSSESSION
When Edmonton ended B.C.'s perfect season on Sept. 24, the Lions had the ball for 37:38.