B.C. Lions defensive back Crezdon Butler has a chip on his shoulder and a score to settle heading into Saturday’s matchup with the visiting Saskatchewan Roughriders.
The 32-year-old was cut from the Riders’ roster before the season started, but signed with the Lions earlier this week.
Now he wants to show Saskatchewan’s staff that they made the wrong call.
“Obviously they took the younger guy in camp. And, you know, you just want to go out there and prove that you can still play football. And that’s the goal right now,” Butler said Friday.
A veteran of both the CFL and NFL, Butler believes he can bring a “winning mentality” to B.C.’s defensive core after the Lions started the season with a disappointing 1-5 record.
“I know we haven’t won a lot of games, but it only takes one win to get on a streak,” he said. ”You need that first one to get on a streak.”
In order to earn a victory, the Lions need to finish on offence.
B.C. had more first downs, offensive yards and possession time than the Riders (2-3) last weekend, but were forced to settle for four field goals and ended up losing 38-25.
“We need to turn threes into sevens,” said Lions coach DeVone Claybrooks. ”I think that was one of the differences in the game last week. They were able to score sevens and we were able to score threes.”
Riders coach Craig Dickenson said he knows B.C. will be looking to finish in the end zone, so his team will work on once again making Lions quarterback Mike Reilly uncomfortable in the pocket.
“If we can hold them to field goals, we’ve got a pretty good chance of winning,” he told reporters this week.
“They’re going to try to run the ball and hit us with some play action. So we’ve got to be ready for it.”
B.C.’s offensive line has done a poor job of protecting Reilly so far this year, allowing the former Grey Cup MVP to be sacked a league-high 21 times in the first six games.
Saskatchewan’s Charleston Hughes brought the quarterback down three times last week and has registered sacks in his last four appearances. He leads the league with eight sacks so far this season.
Handling the veteran defensive end will be a challenge, admitted Andrew Pierson, who’ll make his first start of the year on the Lions’ offensive line on Saturday.
“He’s a good player. You’ve got to call it like it is,” Pierson said. “Overall, I think we did a really good job against someone like him (last week). But it’s just about making sure every single play we’re getting the job done.”
That means every offensive lineman has to win his one-on-one battle on every play through the entire 60 minutes, he said.
Staying strong and focused for four whole quarters has been difficult for the Lions so far this season. While CFL stats show B.C. is plus-17 in first-quarter scoring, the squad is also minus-86 from the second quarter on.
“Most of the games we’ve come out and played pretty well in the first half and then it kind of starts to fall apart, be it right out of the locker room or the beginning of the fourth quarter. And it’s challenging to win football games that way,” Reilly said.
The hardest part, he added, is that there have been breakdowns in different areas across all five losses.
“It’s hard to pinpoint one thing,” the quarterback said. ”You plug a leak in one area and then one springs up somewhere else. But that’s the nature of football — you’ve always got to be on top of everything in all three phases of your team.”
Details will be key to securing a win this week and that’s why the team is simply looking at one play and one snap at a time, said Claybrooks.
Though the club is looking only at the immediate future, the first-year head coach admitted that he didn’t expect his group to be lingering at the bottom of the West Division standings at this point of the season.
“I didn’t think we’d be 1-5 by this point, by no means,” Claybrooks said. ”But this is the hand that we dealt. We dug ourselves into this hole, now we’ve got to dig ourselves out. We understand that and that’s what we’re going to do.”
SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (2-3) AT B.C. LIONS (1-5)
Saturday, B.C. Place
ROAD WOES: The Riders have struggled on the road so far this season, dropping a 23-17 decision in Hamilton in Week 1 and losing 44-41 to Ottawa in Week 2.
CATCHING STREAK: Saskatchewan’s Emmanuel Arceneaux has caught passes in 102 straight games. The wide receiver kept his streak alive with a five-yard reception in the fourth quarter last week.
SNAP THE SKID: B.C. is looking to improve on a dismal 1-5 start to the season. The last time the Lions went 1-6 to start the year was 2011, when the club rebounded to not only make the playoffs but win the Grey Cup.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press