Bowman, Nichols rack up points in dominant Esks win
Matt Nichols set out to prove that not only could he hold down the fort with Mike Reilly injured but he can be relied on as a starter in the CFL. Albeit just one game, Nichols put the Esks early season back on course Thursday night.
The six-year veteran threw three touchdowns and the Green and Gold defence clamped down from the outset as the Edmonton Eskimos defeated the Ottawa REDBLACKS in a convincing 46-17 win.
Adarius Bowman led was Nichols' go-to target all night, leading all receivers with 5 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.
Ottawa entered the game with an impressive second down conversion rate of 56% and on Burris’ first drive, he completed three passes on second-and-10 to set up a field goal attempt but Delbert Alvorado’s boot hit the right goal post and the opening drive came away without points.The REDBLACKS entered as the surprise story early on in the 2015 campaign, starting 2-0 after wins over Montreal and BC. Perhaps the biggest catalyst for the hot start on offence has been Henry Burris and his ability to keep the chains moving on second down.
Burris’ next drive started with better field position but ended with points coming the other way. On second down and medium to go the veteran pivot got flushed out of the pocket and while trying to salvage the play, threw the ball right into the waiting arms of Edmonton rookie DB John Ojo who tool it 57 yards untouched for the game’s first major.
After a quick two-and-out, Nichols took control of the Eskimos offence for his second possession of the night.
Nichols entered the night with only a handful of pro starts since joining the Eskimos in 2009. To say that Edmonton got off to an unexpected start to 2015 would be an understatement. A humbling loss to Toronto which saw Reilly go down to injury thrust Nichols into the spotlight in Week 3 after an early bye.
With the Esks scrimmaging at mid-field, Nichols led a solid 5-play, 52-yard drive with three completions to last season’s leading receiver Adarius Bowman. Bowman’s final catch of the drive was from 10 yards out which he hauled in for a touchdown to give Edmonton an early 14-0 advantage.
Despite the aforementioned success on second down, Ottawa entered the game as the only team not to register points in the first quarter through two weeks and staunch play by the Eskimos did little to buck the trend.
As the second quarter began, Nichols was working on another short field where a 20-yard rumble by veteran Calvin McCarty and a pass interference in the endzone set up a 1-yard plunge by backup quarterback Jordan Lynch.
The Northern Illinois grad’s major extended the Edmonton lead to 20-0.
Another two-and-out for Ottawa led to another score by the Eskimos.
Edmonton put the ball in the hands of receiver Nate Coehoorn and tailback Chad Simpson who set up a two-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Kendial Lawrence who helped pile on a 26-0 advantage early in the second quarter.
Nichols steps in and steps up for Eskimos
For at least the first half of the season, the Edmonton Eskimos are Matt Nichols' team and he showed his club why panic shouldn't set in with Mike Reilly out. Nichols was solid in his first start since September of last season passing for three touchdowns in the win
The only blemish on Edmonton’s almost-perfect first half was two missed 32-yard converts by Grant Shaw. The Esks kicker redeemed himself on the next Eskimos possession, nailing a 46 yarder to put another three on the board.
The REDBLACKS eventually got on the score sheet but it was in the most unusual of plays. Nichols dropped back and looked to deliver a shovel pass but placed it right into the hands of Ottawa defensive lineman Zack Evans. The 6-foot-4, 295-pounder chugged 65 yards for the Ottawa major.
A successful two-point conversion that saw Burris spot Greg Ellingson cut the lead but the dent was brief.
Nichols answered three plays later with a sharp pass to Bowman for a huge gain and then a 9-yard touchdown strike to Cory Watson put the Esks up 36-11 heading into halftime.
The REDBLACKS opened up the second half with a ball-control drive that produced a field goal but Nichols went right back to work on an already comfortable lead.
The Esks’ pivot dropped a pass into Kenny Stafford who netted 36 yards off the reception and a penalty to Ottawa’s bench. Another big gain by Bowman set up Lawrence’s second touchdown of the day. This one, from 11 yards out on a pitch play to increase the lead to 43-15 midway through the third frame.
The two-minute mark of the third quarter signaled the end to Burris’ day as backup Danny O’Brien entered the game under centre for Ottawa.
Burris finished 20 of 37 for 162 yards and no touchdowns.
Good field position off a Nichols fumble allowed him to complete a dump pass to Chevon Walker for 16 yards and a swing pass to Maurice Price for 9 yards but couldn’t capitalize with the REDBLACKS in three-down territory.
Nichols exited the game as the fourth quarter start and a sizable lead as James Franklin took over the Eskimo offence from there.
The Eskimos will look to keep the roll going as these two teams meet up in the second half of a home-and-home next Friday in Ottawa.