Nathan Rourke threw for a massive 436 yards and four touchdowns, powering the B.C. Lions to a dominant 44-3 win over the visiting Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.
Rourke set a new record for passing yards by a Canadian quarterback, eclipsing the 427-yard mark set by Gerry Dattilio in 1981. The 24-year-old native of Victoria completed 39 of 45 attempts and was sacked once.
Kicker Sean Whyte chipped in with a pair of field goals for the Lions (2-0), including a 50-yard strike.
B.C.’s defence smothered the Argos (1-1), holding McLeod Bethel-Thompson to 178 passing yards. The Toronto quarterback connected on 15 of 21 attempts, threw one interception and was sacked twice before being replaced late in the fourth quarter.
Chad Kelly came on in relief and threw for two yards, completing one of two attempts and getting sacked once.
The Argos’ only points of the night came off a 23-yard field goal from Boris Bede early in the second quarter.
The victory means B.C. starts the CFL season with a pair of wins for the first time since 2016.
— BC LIONS (@BCLions) June 26, 2022
The Lions were coming off of a bye week but showed no rust early in Saturday’s game, kicking it off with an eight-play, 68-yard scoring drive.
Rourke scrambled out of a collapsing pocket to pick up 11 yards and a first down, then capped the drive with a crisp 19-yard pass to Bryan Burnham in the end zone. The veteran wide receiver bowed twice to the crowd after tallying his first touchdown of the season.
B.C.’s defensive unit was tested on Toronto’s first possession of the night, with DaVaris Daniels powering through a tackle and Bethel-Thompson finding Dejon Brissett on the Lions’ one-yard line.
The Lions stood strong and denied the visitors all three times they attempted to sneak into the end zone. Toronto turned the ball over on downs.
A questioned call kept the Lions in scoring possession later in the first quarter.
Rourke’s seven-yard toss to Lucky Whitehead was ruled incomplete, but B.C. head coach Rick Campbell challenged and the call was overturned, giving his side a first down.
Rourke fired a 46-yard bomb to Dominique Rhymes on the next play and Whyte capped the drive with a 21-yard field goal to put the Lions up 10-0.
Early in the second quarter, B.C. cornerback Delvin Breaux knocked down a long toss from Bethel-Thompson to Brandon Banks and Argos head coach Ryan Dinwiddie put in his own challenge, arguing defensive pass interference. On review, officials agreed and Toronto was awarded a first down at the B.C. 21-yard line.
Lions defensive lineman David Menard sacked Bethel-Thompson on the next play, but the Argos still managed to score on the drive, with Bede booting a field goal that cut Toronto’s deficit to 10-3.
Rourke increased the Lions’ cushion midway through the half, finding Rhymes in the end zone with a 19-yard bullet to cap a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive.
B.C. headed to the locker room up 20-3 after Whyte hit a 44-yard field goal to close out the second quarter.
A rash of injuries swept through B.C.’s lineup late in the first half, though, with linebacker Bo Lokombo, running back James Butler and wide receiver Bryan Burnham all heading to the locker room with game-ending injuries. Whitehead appeared to suffer an ankle injury, too, but stayed in the game.
Midway through the third frame, Wynton McMannis hauled down Rourke around centre field for a seven-yard loss. The Lions remained undeterred, though, and sent Whyte out for a 50-yard field goal attempt. He made the kick, giving B.C. a 23-3 lead.
Lions defensive end Obum Gwacham seemed to exact some revenge on the next possession, sacking Bethel-Thompson.
Rourke’s arching 29-yard toss to a wide-open Jevon Cottoy deep in the red zone set up B.C.’s third TD of the night late in the third quarter. Cottoy took a couple of quick steps into the end zone and tallied his first major of the season.
The final frame saw Rourke again connect with Rhymes, this time with a 24-yard toss. Stationed just outside of the end zone, Rhymes easily completed the touchdown and the Lions took a 37-3 lead.
B.C.’s Gary Peters added to Toronto’s woes midway through the fourth quarter, picking off Bethel-Thompson’s pass.
Lions fullback David Mackie — filling in at running back for the injured Butler — muscled the ball over the goal line late in the fourth for his first CFL touchdown. A successful convert from Whyte gave the home side a 44-3 lead.
Kelly came on for Bethel-Thompson to close out the game and was quickly sacked by Menard.
The Lions will be back in action on Thursday when they tackle the Redblacks in Ottawa. The Argos will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 4.
FOOTNOTES: Mackie took over for Butler at running back in the second half. and tallied 90 rushing yards. … Argos offensive lineman Jonathan Zamora limped off the field after being injured on a play midway through the fourth quarter. … Saturday marked the 100th all-time meeting between the two teams. B.C. holds a 60-38-2 edge in the series.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, Canadian Press