TORONTO — Ronnie Yell helped rally the B.C. Lions to their first win of the season.
B.C. scored 10 second-half points off two Yell turnovers (interception, fumble recovery) en route to a 28-15 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Friday night.
Jonathon Jennings hit Chris Rainey on an eight-yard TD strike at 3:55 before finding Nick Moore for the two-point convert. Kicker Ty Long added a 67-yard single on the ensuing kickoff to put B.C. (1-1) ahead 19-15.
Jeremiah Johnson's three-yard TD run at 10:02 extended B.C.'s lead to 26-15 lead at 10:02, three plays after Yell recovered James Wilder Jr.'s fumble. The Lions added a safety.
Yell's interception set up Long's 29-yard field goal at 4:48 of the third that gave B.C. a 10-6 advantage after going into halftime nursing a 7-6 lead.
"We didn't get enough turnovers last year and that's what we preached coming into the season — turnovers, turnovers, turnovers," said Lions linebacker Solomon Elimimian, the CFL's top defensive player last year and its MVP in 2014. "Any time you can limit (Toronto's) offence's possessions, you give yourself a chance to win."
Ricky Ray, coming off a career-best 506-yard passing performance Sunday, staked Toronto (1-1) to a 15-10 lead with a four-yard TD strike to Armanti Edwards just 13 seconds into the fourth. However, the two-point convert attempt was unsuccessful before a disappointing BMO Field gathering of 11,219.
"Football is about confidence and I thought in the fourth quarter we were getting more and more confidence, especially on offence," said Lions coach/GM Wally Buono. "It was good to see Jonathon respond when they scored.
"We came right down and scored and I thought that was a big lift for our team."
Jennings finished 23-of-35 passing for 301 yards with a TD and interception. He also ran six times for 28 yards while losing a fumble.
"They did a good job of getting pressure, it was on me a lot of times," Jennings said. "I'm just proud of our defence for holding it down for us and I'm proud of the guys for making plays down the stretch."
It's been a rough start for Toronto, which drew 13,583 fans to its season-opening 32-15 home win over Hamilton on Sunday. Last year's worst crowd was 12,373 for a 30-20 loss to Ottawa on July 13 as the Argos averaged 16,168 fans per game in 2016, their first at BMO Field.
"A part of me is a little saddened by that," Buono said of Friday night's attendance. "The way things are structured right now, people want convenience and a lot of them, I believe, stay home and watch it on TV.
"Wherever I go there's thousands and thousands and thousands of (CFL) fans and I believe that, except it's not translating to getting them to the stadium. Again, if I'm a Toronto fan I am disappointed . . . but the problem now is getting away from the TV — and probably TSN doesn't want me to say that — and getting them into the stands. It's an issue and hopefully the league can address it."
Ray, who finished 30-of-45 passing for 327 yards with a TD and interception, said the Argos appreciate those who do show up.
"It got decently loud there, their energy was really good," he said. "Hopefully, if we get a little bit better and improve as a team we can get them a little more excited."
Elimimian believes Toronto is heading in the right direction under new head coach Marc Trestman and GM Jim Popp.
"With Trestman and Popp over there, they're on the right track," he said. "It's all about the product.
"When you win people want to come support you . . . winning cures everything."
Toronto had two factors working against it Friday night. Not only was it the start of a holiday weekend but the Blue Jays were hosting the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre.
Toronto receiver S.J. Green, who had seven catches for 124 yards versus Hamilton, registered just two receptions for 33 yards Friday night.
"They shuffled their coverage to make it tough to get me the ball," he said. "They dropped a lot of players into the zone and made it hard for Ricky to find anyone to throw to.
"Hats off to Mark Washington (B.C. defensive co-ordinator) and their defence."
The Argos averaged 47,356 in their heyday in 1976 at Exhibition Place. In 2014, the average Rogers Centre regular-season crowd was 17,791 — down from 21,926 in 2013 and 23,690 in 2012.
Toronto averaged just 15,083 spectators in '03 when it was 9-9-0 and taken over by the league. Then again, just 19,175 fans watched the Lions drop a 30-27 home decision to Edmonton last week.
Toronto moved to BMO Field following 27 seasons at Rogers Centre. Although the domed facility had a capacity exceeding 52,000 for football the Argos struggled there, averaging just 12,431 spectators in 2015.
Fans often complained about the proximity of the field as well as a cold and antiseptic atmosphere at Rogers Centre. By comparison, BMO Field is an open-air facility providing fans with terrific sightlines of both the field of play and nearby Lake Ontario.
Long finished with three field goals, a convert and two singles. Toronto's Lirim Hajrullahu added three field goals.