New Stamping grounds in B.C.?

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono wants to stay away from the headaches of another loss to the...

B.C. Lions head coach Wally Buono wants to stay away from the headaches of another loss to the Stampeders, who have made the most of visits to Vancouver.

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:47 PM ET

VANCOUVER — The empire started crumbling a couple of years before they moved to Empire Fields.

Long the powerhouse in the CFL’s West Division, the B.C. Lions no longer dominate, and now they have no mystique at home anymore after moving outdoors.

And with the Calgary Stampeders visiting for the first time at the temporary stadium being used while B.C. Place gets a renovation, the Lions are faced with a mounting list of problems.

Not only has the team not won at its new home in two tries, it has lost four straight games coming into Saturday’s meeting with the Stamps (8 p.m., TSN).

For years, the Wally Buono-led Lions controlled the Stamps, but now John Hufnagel’s team is riding a seven-game win streak in the rivalry.

That dates back to the start of 2008 and includes one playoff outing.

However, the Stamps are aware it won’t last forever.

“It’s tough because we know they are going to be fired up after the way we’ve played against them the past two years,” said Stamps receiver Ryan Thelwell, who enjoyed life on the other side with the Lions for six seasons.

“They will want to beat us bad. They will be pumped up. That’s the way Wally is.

“With their record, them playing at home and some exchanges with trash-talk, it’s going to be tough going in there. There is going to come that day when they will beat us. It won’t be this week.”

The Stamps have every reason to be confident.

Coming off two consecutive wins at home, the Stamps are facing a backup quarterback for the second straight week.

Travis Lulay is making his third start for the Leos in place of the injured Casey Printers. Printers is expected to return next week, so this is a pivotal outing for the second-year QB. Lulay hasn’t played terribly but has made a couple of key errors late in games that resulted in losses.

The first was a pick-six that Toronto Argonauts cornerback Byron Parker used to take the lead two weeks ago. Last week, there was a late pick by Edmonton Eskimos’ Chris Thompson that Lulay was trying to throw out of bounds.

Despite a four-game losing streak, the 26-year-old pivot isn’t feeling the heat like most would expect.

“The team’s approach is pretty good,” said Lulay, who has four INTs in two starts. “No one likes to be 1-4, so we’re pretty hungry to win a game. We have to take the lessons of losing and apply it to a win.”

It’s not that the Lions aren’t competitive, which makes it hard to put a finger on why they are no longer anything like the team that rattled off four straight West Division first-place finishes (2004-07).

Since losing 37-18 at home to the Saskatchewan Roughriders July 10, the Lions have dropped the next three games by deficits of four, four and three points respectively.

“But we keep losing,” said Lions defensive lineman Brent Johnson. “That’s the part that hurts. If you were getting your butts handed to you, at least you would say this is our weakness and we can move on.

“It’s tough to lose by three points. It’s tough to assess yourself because you are on the verge of beating really good teams. It’s tough for the players, too, because we’re close to pulling it off.”

Although one win won’t completely solve the problem, it certainly will help.

“Either 1-5 or 2-4, we still have a long road to hoe,” said Lions head coach Wally Buono. “We’re not throwing in the towel one way or the other.(The record) is not where we want to be, but it’s not time to commit suicide yet. I’m not committing suicide. My job is to coach our guys up and make sure they are 2-4 after this week and then 3-4 the next week.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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