VANCOUVER — Travis Lulay threw a 31-yard touchdown to Andrew Harris with 1:11 left in the fourth quarter Thursday as the B.C. Lions stormed back to beat the Edmonton Eskimos 26-23.
Down five late, Lulay lobbed a pass up to Harris out of the backfield to give the Lions their first lead since early in the second quarter. The veteran quarterback then found Shawn Gore for a two-point conversion to give B.C. (3-3) a three-point edge.
Lulay threw a first-quarter touchdown to Manny Arceneaux, while Harris had 118 yards rushing and ran in another score. Richie Leone added a field goal and a punt single.
Matt Nichols threw touchdowns to Chad Simpson and Kenny Stafford, while Grant Shaw booted three field goals for the Eskimos (4-2), who saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.
Edmonton’s defence, ranked No. 1 in the CFL, came in averaging 12.6 points against per game, and looked to have sealed the win when Aaron Grimes intercepted Lulay with 2:28 to go.
After the Lions got the ball back and went ahead, Nichols got the Eskimos into B.C. territory before getting picked off by Ronnie Yell on third down.
Thursday’s matchup looked to have turned early with the Lions leading 7-6 late in the first quarter following Arceneaux’s 46-yard TD and Shaw’s field goals from 42 and 22 yards.
John Ojo intercepted a Lulay pass and returned it to B.C.’s 49 yard-line, and Simpson made the Lions pay on the first play of the second quarter, gathering a screen pass from Nichols and outrunning the B.C. defence for a touchdown that made it 13-7 with Shaw’s extra point.
The Eskimos recovered the ensuing onside kick, but were penalized to set the Lions up on Edmonton’s side of half. Lulay led his offence down inside the five-yard line, however short-yardage quarterback Jonathon Jennings was stuffed on third down to hand the ball back to the visitors.
Nichols gave it right back to the Lions when former Eskimos safety Chris Rwabukamba picked up his first interception for his new team on the quarterback’s wobbly pass, returning it to Edmonton’s 18-yard line.
But the B.C. offence stalled against the Edmonton defence, which hadn’t given up a touchdown since July 17 before Arceneaux’s early score, with Leone hitting on a 22-yard field goal. Leone was wide on a 47-yard attempt on B.C.’s next possession, his first miss of the season, that Kendial Lawrence returned to the Lions’ 40 to eventually set up Shaw’s 34-yarder that made it 16-10.
B.C.’s next drive faltered and gave Edmonton the ball late in the quarter, with Nichols hooking up with Stafford for a 25-yard touchdown with 48 seconds left in the half to make it 23-10.
The Lions took the first drive of the second half down the field quickly and got within points six on Harris’ one-yard TD plunge, but neither team did much on offence the rest of the quarter as the Eskimos took a 23-17 advantage to the fourth.
Note: CFL commissioner Jeffrey Orridge held a media availability before kickoff and said the league is monitoring the Lions’ attendance, which has dipped noticeably this season. Through three games B.C. is averaging just 21,154 fans per games, including a crowd of 20,316 against the Eskimos.