Vancouver – Two weeks after surrendering a second half lead, the BC Lions charged back late in the fourth quarter to top the Edmonton Eskimos 26-23 Thursday night at BC Place.
After trying all night to solve a vaunted Esks defence, quarterback Travis Lulay led a 65-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 31-yard pass to RB Andrew Harris to complete the come-from-behind win. A two-point conversion to Shawn Gore with 1:11 remaining handed Edmonton just their second loss of the year.
Although Lulay took control when the game was in the balance, the story was Harris who rushed for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns on 24 carries. He also added 55 yards receiving.
BC entered the contest with a League-best 17 points on first possessions so far in 2015 and kept pace by scoring almost immediately after their defence started the game with a stop.
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Lions RB Andrew Harris quickly got his team into scoring range, taking a handoff from Lulay, bouncing outside as he hit the line of scrimmage and turned up field for a 33-yard gain. Two plays later, Lulay dropped a pass into Emmanuel Arceneaux who got in behind DB Patrick Watkins and tiptoed his way down the sidelines for a 46-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
Nichols, coming off a 300-yard-plus performance in a win over Saskatchewan last week, answered by executing a pair of first downs with the help of RB Chad Simpson and set up a field goal for K Grant Shaw.
Simpson found his way back into the lineup after newly-named starter Shakir Bell was placed on the one-game injured list with a concussion.
A 22-yarder from Shaw on the Eskimos next possession cut the BC lead to 7-6 before Simpson grabbed the Esks first lead of the game. The former Blue Bombers rusher took a screen pass as Nichols avoided the blitz, broke an arm tackle and raced 50-yards to pay dirt to put his club up 13-7 as the second quarter got underway.
Looking to answer, Lulay worked his way into the redzone after a short kickoff from the Esks gave the Lions instant field position. However, with a fresh set of downs available inside the Eskimos 3-yard line a third-and-one quarterback sneak by backup Jonathan Jennings fell half-a-yard short and Edmonton took over possession.
Third down stops is something that is becoming all too common for the Lions who surrendered two possession on third down gambles in their Week 4 loss to the Toronto Argonauts at home.
Backed up inside their own five, Nichols turned the ball back over two plays later as Nichols threw an interception down the sidelines which led to a 22-yard Richie Leone field goal to put the Lions within 3 points.
Leone had been perfect all season on field goals but his first miss, on the Lions next possession, would prove costly. A long miss was taken out of the end zone by slotback Kendial Lawrence who navigated his way through the BC cover team and set the Eskimos up at the Leos 40-yard line after an 80-yard return.
The Esks could only manage a field goal however, but extended the lead to 16-10 just after the three-minute warning.
Lulay took over but didn’t seem himself at times, throwing a pair of incompletions over the heads of his receivers and not able to sustain long drives against the League’s top defence. With just over a minute left, the Eskimos got one more possession and padded their lead before halftime.
|Lulay leads late in Lions comeback|
Travis Lulay only had 195 yards passing on Thursday but 46 of those yards came while the game was in the balance as he led a 65-yard touchdown drive to give the Lions a huge home win.
Three quick plays and a roughing the passer call later, Nichols dropped a near-perfect pass to slotback Kenny Stafford who just needed to let the ball land into his mitts before he was rewarded with a 25-yard touchdown.
The Eskimos entered halftime with a 23-10 lead and with Nichols registering just under 200 yards passing and two touchdowns.
The only downside to a second quarter that was owned by the Eskimos was the loss of star slotback Adarius Bowman who left with a lower body injury. Bowman entered the game as the most-targeted receiver in the CFL.
In need of a big play early, BC leaned on their two offensive playmakers to being the third frame. Lulay spotted Arceneaux for a 29-yard reception and then Harris capped off the drive with a pair of runs. A spin move on second-and-long allowed him to race for 12-yards before a 1-yard touchdown cut into the lead and put the Lions within 6 points.
As the third quarter charged on, momentum seemed to be sticking with the Lions. Despite a spectacular one-handed grab by Calvin McCarty to keep the ball moving for the Eskimos, the Lions secondary tightened and contained Nichols and surrounded Lawrence on punt cover.
No bigger defensive stop than a third-and-short stop inside their own 40 yard line with 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
As the defence kept getting the ball back, Harris and the Leos continued to get the ball out of their own end but on three consecutive drives couldn’t find a way to get into Leone field goal range. A pair of completions to Austin Collie seemed to get a bit of rhythm into the offence but settling for a punt single with 5:12 remaining was all they could muster before the three-minute warning.
An Aaron Grymes interception with 2:28 remaining could have sealed it for the Eskimos but a quick two-and-out gave the Lions the ball back with 1:46 remaining and 65 yards to the endzone. Lulay took it upon himself and engineered the aforementioned comeback to give the Lions a much-needed home win.
The Eskimos did indeed have one more shot but instead of kicking a 48-yard field goal with less than 40 seconds on the clock, they elected to gamble on third-and-four only to have Nichols’ pass sail into the arms of Lions DB Ronnie Yell to salt away the win.
The Eskimos remain on the road next week as they head to Montreal for their lone visit to Percival Molson Stadium. The Lions also head East as they visit Tim Hortons Field to battle Zach Collaros and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.