VANCOUVER — In his first pre-season start for the B.C. Lions, Vernon Adams Jr. said he felt like time slowed down.
He went 12 for 12 and led three touchdown drives as the B.C. Lions survived a late comeback bid from the Calgary Stampeders to eke out a 25-22 win.
"It's probably the first time in my career (I felt like that)," he said. "I just felt like I was seeing everything very clear tonight and it helped me get the ball out quick tonight."
Adams earned the starting quarterback role for the Lions after Canadian Nathan Rourke departed to the NFL in the off-season.
He arrived midway through last season after a major injury to Rourke, with the Lions sending a first-round pick to the Montreal Alouettes in exchange.
Adams had 1,504 passing yards with eight touchdowns and one interception in eight games with the Lions last season.
He spoke repeatedly during training camp about establishing a connection with his receivers and giving them an opportunity to shine.
"It felt like we were there. Like I said, I might have thrown a little to their back shoulder," he said after Thursday's game. "I'm going to make these guys runners so they catch it on the run. These guys are playmakers."
Head coach Rick Campbell said he was pleased with both how Adams managed the playcalling as well as adapting on the fly.
"He made some off-script plays, buying time with his feet, running for a first or buying time and finding an open guy," he said. "It was good to see him in a rhythm and feeling good about things."
Kieran Burnham kicked the game-winner as the Lions' offensive drives faded in the second half with backup quarterbacks Dane Evans and Dom Davis failing to establish a rhythm.
Justin McInnis led the way in scoring for the Lions receiving corps, catching two touchdowns along with three receptions for 60 yards in the first half.
Only Dominique Rhymes had more, with five receptions for 83 yards and one touchdown.
"I had two big catches for touchdowns," McInnis said after the game when asked if he made a statement with his performance. "I just couldn't wait for this day, to finally get on the field for this team, be with this group and go and make plays and have fun."
The Stampeders struggled to find their offensive rhythm in the first half, including a turnover on downs on the Lions' nine-yard line in the first quarter, but turned that around in the second half.
Tommy Stevens, Luther Hakunavanhu and Dedrick Mills all had touchdowns for Calgary as the Stampeders rotated through quarterbacks with all three getting at least three reps.
Quarterback Chris Reynolds led the way for the Stampeders, going 12 for 13 with 122 yards and one touchdown.
This is the final pre-season tilt for both teams before meeting up in Calgary in their season opener next Thursday.
Campbell said his focus is on the regular season and announcing final cuts to the squad.
"I wouldn't read too much from this game from a standpoint of who won this game doesn't really matter as much as next week," he said. "The evaluation piece was more important than winning the game."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press