THE CANADIAN PRESS
VANCOUVER — The B.C. Lions unleashed an aggressive defence and quarterback Buck Pierce looked poised in his first game in a month during a 23-17 victory over the Toronto Argonauts Saturday night that made Wally Buono the CFL’s all-time winning coach.
The snarling Lions defence collected five sacks, three by defensive end Ricky Foley, while Corey Banks snagged two interceptions.
A 54-yard punt return by Ryan Grice-Mullen set up Sean Whyte’s go-ahead, 32-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
The win was the 232nd of Buono’s coaching career. That moved the Lions coach and general manager past Don Matthews for all-time CFL victories. Matthews was at B.C. Place for the game.
The crowd of 27,515 gave Buono an ovation as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“It’s a special night and everybody deserves the credit,” an emotional Buono told TSN at the final whistle.
“Don’s a special guy and he’s done a lot for coaches. He set a standard for all of us to be very proud of, and obviously I’m very proud of being part of this record with Don.”
Running back Martell Mallett scored on a one-yard run for the Lions (5-6), a touchdown set up by one of Banks’ interceptions. Whyte kicked five field goals.
Toronto’s Jordan Younger ran 18 yards for a touchdown on a blocked punt while running back Jamal Robertson scored on a one-yard run.
With quarterback Jarious Jackson out for up to five weeks with a shoulder injury, Pierce saw his first action since suffering a concussion in B.C.’s 36-28 win over Toronto (3-8) back on Aug. 14.
He took a brutal hit to the head from Toronto defensive tackle Kevin Huntley on the first Lions’ possession, a cheap shot that resulted in a flag. While Pierce seemed dazed by the hit he went on to complete his next seven passes.
Pierce also wasn’t afraid to run, putting his down running ran for a couple of key first downs.
Toronto quarterback Cody Pickett had his moments but had trouble finding open receivers and spent a lot of time trying to run away from the Lions’ pressure.
The Argos most effective weapon was Robertson who clawed for some big gains along the ground and hauled in some key passes.
Whyte also was good on field goals of 41, 33, 32 and 15 yards. He boomed a career-high 68-yard punt for a single.
Justin Medlock kicked a 44-yard field goal for Toronto.
Younger’s touchdown late in the second quarter made the score 14-10 Lions at halftime. Toronto’s James Green blocked Whyte’s punt attempt. Younger scooped up the ball and rambled into the end-zone.
It was the first blocked punt the Lions had given up since June 2003.
Toronto took a 17-14 lead early in the third quarter when Pickett found Chad Lucas on a 62-yard sideline pass. That ended in Robertson’s one-yard touchdown.
The Lions used two interceptions and a fumble to build a 14-0 lead.
The game started off badly for Toronto. A sack on Pickett forced Toronto to punt. On the play the snap hit running back Bryan Crawford as he was directing the blocking. B.C.’s Jason Arakgi recovered, setting up a short Whyte field goal.
On the next series Banks picked off a Pickett pass. That led to Mallett’s touchdown.
In the second quarter Pickett seemed to have the Argos on the move, until Banks picked off another pass at the goal-line and returned it 41 yards. That resulted in another Whyte field goal.
The Argos are 1-10 in their last nine games against B.C. Toronto’s last win against the Lions was Oct. 11, 2004, at Roger Centre. The Argonauts last win at B.C. Place Stadium was in 2002.
Notes: Turnovers resulted in 20 of the 24 points scored in the first half. . . . B.C. swept the Argos last season, outscoring them 79-52. . . . This season marks the fifth time in franchise history the Lions were 1-4 after five games. . . . Defensive end Brent Johnson started his 142nd consecutive game.