Vancouver — Even after setting a CFL record, BC Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke saw room for improvement.
The 24-year-old native of Victoria, BC, threw for 436 yards on Saturday, giving the Lions a 44-3 win over the Toronto Argonauts.
It was the most passing yards ever by a Canadian quarterback in a CFL game, eclipsing the 427-yard mark set by Gerry Datilio in 1981.
“I’m just the distributor of football there. Those guys are coming in in the right positions and they’re making big plays,” Rourke said after the win.
“There were some throws today, especially in the first half where I wasn’t as accurate as I should have been. But those guys did some plays for me and showed me good there.”
The performance was no surprise for veteran Lions defensive back Gary Peters.
“When you come into the facility, he’s the first one there. And I’m one of the last people to go. He’s literally following me, eating a peanut butter jelly sandwich, trying to do something. He is always working no matter what,” he said.
“He’s trying to perfect himself. He’s a young boy, but you can see in his eyes that he’s really hungry.”
Rourke completed 39 of 45 passes including four touchdowns on Saturday. He was dismissed once.
Dominic Rhimes featured in two majors for BC (2–0), while Brian Burnham and Jevon Cottoy each had one. Fullback David Mackie scored a fast TD late in the fourth quarter. Kicker Sean White scored three field goals, including a 50-yard strike.
BC’s defense crushed Argos (1-1), holding McLeod Bethel-Thompson for 178 passing yards. The Toronto quarterback made 15 out of 21 attempts, threw an interception and was dismissed twice before turning up late in the fourth quarter.
Chad Kelly came to relief and threw for 26 yards, completing two of four attempts. He was dismissed once and threw an interception.
The Argos’ only point of the night came from a 23-yard field goal from Boris Bede at the start of the second quarter.
“I’m totally embarrassed. It was a terrible show of football,” said Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie. “It was a hard loss. It sucks. I hate it. But we can’t let it ruin our season. We just have to go back to work and find ways to get better.”
The Lions were coming off a bye week but showed no rust at the start of Saturday’s game, kicking it off with an eight-game, 68-yard scoring drive.
Rourke scrambled from a crumbling pocket to take down 11 yards and first, then capped the drive with a crisp 19-yard pass to Burnham in the end zone. The veteran wide receiver hooked the crowd twice after matching his first touchdown of the season.
BC’s defensive unit was tested in Toronto’s possession earlier in the night, with Davis Daniels powering through a tackle and Bethel-Thompson finding Dijon Brissett on the Lions’ one-yard line.
The Lions stood strong and denied the visitors attempted to break into the end zone three times. Toronto swung the ball down the aisle.
“And then it just snowballed and we couldn’t do anything,” Dinwiddie said. And we move a little bit into the third quarter, then we falter. I mean, everyone had a hand in it. It’s just disturbing, but we have to find ways to get better.”
Early in the second quarter, BC cornerback Delvin Breaux dropped a long toss from Bethel-Thompson to Brandon Banks and Dinwiddie challenged the call, arguing for defensive pass interference. Upon review, the officials agreed and Toronto were awarded first down on the BC 21-yard line.
Lions defensive lineman David Maynard sacked Bethel-Thompson on the next play, but Argos still managed to score on the drive, with Bede scoring a field goal that reduced Toronto’s deficit to 10–3.
Rourke extended the Lions’ cushion in the middle of the half, finding Rhimes in the end zone with a 19-yard bullet to cap a nine-play, 70-yard scoring drive.
White headed to the locker room to BC 20-3 after hitting a 44-yard field goal to close the second quarter.
A flurry of injuries ran through BC’s lineup late in the first half, however, with linebacker Bo Locombo, leaving behind James Butler and Burnham, heading into the locker room with game-ending injuries. Receiver Lucky Whitehead also suffered an ankle injury, but remained in the game.
“Some people went down but it makes us stronger,” Rhimes said. “And it just shows the versatility that we have. When a guy goes down, he’s our brother, so we want to make sure we only pick it up for him.”
Lions head coach Rick Campbell said Burnham went to the hospital for further tests and the team would not know his condition until Sunday. Locombo and Butler could be available to play next week.
In the middle of the third frame, Wynton McMannis knocked Rourke down for a seven-yard defeat around center field. However, the Lions remained unmoved and sent White out for a 50-yard field goal attempt. He made a kick to give BC a 23-3 lead.
Lions looked to get some revenge on the next possession by sacking defensive end Obum Gwacham Bethel-Thompson.
Rourke’s 29-yard toss into an open cottony deep in the red zone set up BC’s third TD late into the third quarter. Cottoy made some quick moves into the end zone and lengthened his first major of the season.
The final frame saw Rourke join up with Rhimes again, this time with a 24-yard toss. Positioned just outside the end zone, Rhimes completed the touchdown with ease and the Lions took a 37-3 lead.
Peters added to Toronto’s troubles in the middle of the fourth quarter by taking Bethel-Thompson’s pass.
Mackie – running back for the injured Butler – pitched the ball over the goal line late in the fourth for his first CFL touchdown. A successful conversion from White gave the home team a 44–3 lead.
Kelly came on to close the game for Bethel-Thompson and was quickly dismissed by Maynard.
The Lions will be back in action on Thursday when they tackle the Redblacks in Ottawa. Argos will host the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on July 4.
Footnotes: The win gave BC a 2-0 start to the season for the first time since 2016. … Argos offensive lineman Jonathan Zamora was taken off the field in the middle of the fourth quarter after being injured during a play. Saturday was the 100th all-time meeting between the two teams. BC holds a 60-38-2 lead in the series.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 25, 2022.