OTTAWA — Nathan Rourke lived up to the hype Thursday night as the young Canadian quarterback led the B.C. Lions to their third straight CFL victory with a 34-31 decision over the Ottawa Redblacks at TD Place Stadium.
Rourke finished the game completing 23 of 31 passes for 359 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing TD and two interceptions, the first of his career.
Ottawa’s Jeremiah Masoli proved far less effective going 13 for 26 for 159 yards with one rushing TD, as the Redblacks dropped their third close game in as many outings.
The Redblacks are the first to hold the unbeaten Lions (3-0-0) below 40 points this season.
Trailing 14-6 to start the second half, the Redblacks grabbed momentum when Money Hunter intercepted Rourke and ran the ball to the Lions’ 16-yard line. Three plays later William Powell, playing his first game of the season, ran in a five-yard touchdown. Ottawa hadn’t scored a touchdown through its last nine quarters. Two penalties and three two-point attempts later it was a tie game, 14-14.
On B.C.’s next possession Hunter came up with another interception, running the ball back 56 yards to the Lions’ seven-yard line. Masoli ran for six yards and punched in a one-yard TD. Lewis Ward had a rare miss on the convert and Ottawa took a 20-14 lead.
Ward has only missed six of 46 career convert attempts.
The lead didn’t last long as Rourke then connected with Keon Hatcher for a 71-yard TD pass and with the convert regained a 21-20 lead.
B.C. padded its lead after James Butler wrapped up a six-play sequence with a five-yard run into the end zone giving the Lions a 28-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Ward added a 38-yard field goal midway through the fourth, while Sean Whyte had 32- and 15-yard field goals for the Lions to make it 34-23.
In the final minute of play the Redblacks managed to march down field and get to the one-yard line, thanks to a pass interference call and Caleb Evans punched in a TD. A two-point convert made it 34-31 with 29 seconds remaining.
Rourke made his presence early on. After not having a single two-and-out last week the Redblacks handed Rourke his first on the opening drive.
On B.C.’s next possession, on a third-and-short gamble Rourke ran in a 50-yard touchdown and took an early 7-0 lead.
Rourke connected with Hatcher in the second quarter and got the Lions to Ottawa’s three-yard line. James Butler then ran in an eight-yard TD to make it 14-3.
Ottawa’s first half scoring came off 35- and 28-yard field goals from Ward.