OTTAWA - It was ugly and costly, but in the end it was a win for the B.C. Lions.
A pair of Paul McCallum field goals were enough to lift the Lions to a 7-5 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday night.
"It was one of the ugliest games I've seen in a long time," McCallum said.
"We've got a lot of work to get going the way we should. When you hold a team to that few points your defence is doing well, but offensively you have to do better as a team."
It was also a successful return to action for Lions quarterback Travis Lulay — at least until the last minute of the game, when Lulay left the field clutching his shoulder with 46 seconds remaining.
Lulay, who completed 18 of 27 passes for 167 yards on Friday, was making his first start in almost a year after injuring his throwing shoulder in a goal-line collision last September.
"He's being evaluated by the doctors," Lions coach Mike Benevides said of Lulay, who wasn't made available to the media after the game. "We'll find out more as the night goes on."
Added running back Andrew Harris: "Honestly my heart sunk to my stomach. The guy had battled back so hard and he plays with so much heart."
The team had hoped the six-year veteran would be ready following off-season shoulder surgery, but his first start didn't come until the Lions (6-4) 10th game.
Lulay used his feet more than his arm in the win as he was the game's leading rusher with 50 yards in his return to action.
Though the Lions seemed happy with the outcome of the game, Harris said he certainly was not pleased with the way it came about.
"When you're frustrated you have to be able to make plays. I don't miss balls but I jumped up and misjudged it and dropped it," Harris said of a third-quarter incompletion.
"But it was a whole offensive failure. It was a team thing and as an offence we should all be embarrassed."
The Redblacks (1-9) defence kept Lulay and the Lions out of the end zone all night, but the Redblacks offence struggled once again, getting just a field goal.
"We've got all the tools here, we just need to use them and both sides of the ball we need to get better, no matter what," Redblacks defensive back Matt Albright said.
"We're right there. We know it and we just have to push through it. You can never give up in football and it's time to step up."
The Redblacks had their chances throughout the game.
Henry Burris completed 21 of 32 passes for 188 yards and an interception.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Ottawa took possession of the football before a torrential downpour along with a strong easterly wind ensued.
The Redblacks persevered and managed to get into field goal range, where a successful attempt would have given them a one-point lead with four-and-a-half minutes to play.
Holder Danny O'Brien couldn't handle the wet ball on the snap though, and the Redblacks turned the ball over on downs.
"With the rain driving like that you keep thinking the odds are against us, but we just have to keep working," said Redblacks receiver Marcus Henry, who finished with four catches and 51 yards.
Moments later, the referee suspended play due to lightning in the area. Play resumed after a 21-minute delay. The Lions used up all but 30 seconds on the clock and the Redblacks failed to gain any ground in the dying moments.
Earlier in the half, punter Ricky Schmitt booted a 69-yard single for a 7-5 B.C. lead.
The first half began and ended with fields, one by each side as the Lions went into the break with a 6-5 lead.
On the opening drive of the game, the Redblacks used two completions to get into field goal range before Maher connected from 35 yards to give the Redblacks a 3-0 lead. The big play of the drive was a 26-yard completion to Henry, one of 13 completions for Burris in the first half.
The Redblacks did have some success moving the ball in the second quarter but an interception by Burris early in the quarter was returned 34 yards by Dante Marsh to the Ottawa 51-yard line.
Five plays later, McCallum kicked a 49-yard field goal to tie the game.
On the next series, a couple of elusive moves by Burris, a third down conversion and a B.C. penalty gave the Redblacks a first-and-goal on the Lions' eight-yard line.
After hauling in a Burris' pass though, Chevon Walker fumbled and the Lions took over on their own one-yard line.
"There's some plays we could have made in (that drive) better. But (Walker) was just trying to make a play to get in the end zone and ended up getting hurt on it," Henry said.
"We'll find a way to push us over the edge."
The Redblacks defence tackled Harris in his end zone for a safety and a 5-3 Redblacks lead.
McCallum's 34-yard field goal on the last play of the half got the Lions their first lead of the game.