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Adams, B.C. Lions look to spark offence against Ottawa Redblacks

VANCOUVER — Vernon Adams Jr. is hungry. While his first three games with the B.C. Lions have had ups and downs, the quarterback is missing an elusive milestone. "We have to be scoring touchdowns.
B.C. Lions quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. (8) is grabbed by Calgary Stampeders' Mike Rose, back right, during the first half of CFL football game in Vancouver, on September 24, 2022. While his first three games with the B.C. Lions have had ups and downs, the quarterback hasn’t thrown a touchdown yet. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER — Vernon Adams Jr. is hungry. 

While his first three games with the B.C. Lions have had ups and downs, the quarterback is missing an elusive milestone. 

"We have to be scoring touchdowns. Man, I haven't thrown a touchdown yet," Adams, who was traded to the Lions by the Montreal Alouettes at the end of August, said Thursday. "So I'm excited and I need that touchdown this week.”

His next chance to find a teammate in the end zone will come Friday when the Lions (9-4) host the ailing Ottawa Redblacks (3-10). 

Both sides come into the matchup bruised and without some key pieces. 

Ottawa has nine guys on the six-game injured list, including receiver Nate Behar (ankle), who led the league with a career-high 119 yards last week as the Toronto Argonauts dismantled the Redblacks 45-15.

Running back William Powell (knee) is also on the six-game list while five others are on the one-game list, including tackle Ucambre Williams (knee) and offensive lineman Darius Ciraco (hip).

B.C. has its share of injury woes, too, with star quarterback Nathan Rourke still out after suffering a foot injury in Week 11. Wide receiver Bryan Burnham joined the Canadian QB on the six-game list this week after sustaining a wrist fracture in the Lions' 25-11 loss to the Calgary Stampeders last week. 

“That’s a big loss, man, because (Burnham's) like a safety for me," Adams said. "I know he's always going to do the right things — and all these guys will — but I know he's been here a long time and he knows his game in and out."

Burnham has already missed four games this season with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung after taking a heavy hit back in Week 3. 

"We’ll absolutely miss Bryan both on the field and what he brings as a leader and all those things," said Lions head coach Rick Campbell. 

"At the same time, we've been through this before this year, and (Keon) Hatcher did a great job stepping up playing his role. So we're going to count on that again. And hopefully get Bryan back here late in the season.”

Hatcher, a 28-year-old Arkansas product, has amassed 820 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 13 games with B.C. this season. 

He and Lucky Whitehead (879) are on pace to join Dominique Rhymes (1,062) in the 1,000-yard-plus club before the campaign ends. 

B.C.'s offence was lacklustre against Calgary last week and will need to find some firepower in order for the Lions to get a different result against the Redblacks.

The Redblacks pride themselves on bending but not breaking, Adams said, and B.C. needs to limit its mistakes against them. 

“They’re not giving up too many points and stuff like that every single game," the QB said. “They’re going to get the offensive ball and then they're going to try to get going as soon as possible. So getting first downs, moving the ball, flipping the field."

The Lions didn't play their best last week, Campbell admitted, but that simply means the team has more to give. 

"I tell them that the bad news is we didn't play our best and the good news is we didn't play our best. So there's room for improvement," he said.

"The name of the game in this long season like this is to be able to bounce back. It's not losing once in a while, it's the ability to bounce back from it.” 

B.C. can't discount Ottawa based on the visitors' record, though, said Campbell. 

"I view them as they've played a whole bunch of close games. I know they had a rough one last week, but (they're) 2-2 in their last four," said the coach, who spent six seasons with the Redblacks before joining the Lions in December 2019.

Campbell is 3-0 in matchups with his former club but said keeping the record up won't be easy. 

"I honestly believe that when you come down the home stretch, you're trying to play good football regardless of who you're playing against," he said. "So we know we're going to have to play well and go from there.” 


Friday, B.C. Place

ORANGE SHIRT DAY: The B.C. Lions will mark Truth and Reconciliation Day by wearing a special Indigenous-themed logo designed by Kwakwaka’wakw/Tlingit artist Corrine Hunt on their helmets. The first 10,000 fans at the game will receive an orange T-shirt with the same logo. Halftime entertainment will feature drummers and dancers from the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

HISTORY BOOKS: Ottawa and B.C. have battled 75 times since 1961. The Lions hold the lead in the all-time series, going 49-23-2. Their home record against Ottawa is a dominant 27-7-2.

PICKED RIGHT OFF: B.C. has gone two games without an interception. The Lions had five in their previous three outings.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press