Edmonton’s Nichols a hit with teammates, the opposition
Eskimos backup quarterback sparked team from 20-4 deficit against Alouettes, nearly won game
Quarterback Matt Nichols looks for a receiver at the Edmonton Eskimos practice at Commonwealth Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012.
EDMONTON - The critics have spoken and Matt Nichols is a hit — for the most part.
The Edmonton Eskimos backup quarterback checked into Sunday’s game against the Montreal Alouettes with his team down 20-4 and just 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Three touchdown passes later, Nichols had the Eskimos in position to tie the game up with no time on the clock.
His second two-point convert attempt didn’t go his way, but the 25-year-old who’s in his third-year in the Canadian Football League had people on their feet in a game that just about everyone watching had written off as an easy Alouettes win.
“He came in and gave us a spark, he did a good job. That’s the type of player he is,” Eskimos slotback Fred Stamps beamed, after pulling in a pair of touchdown passes from Nichols in the rally.
“He came in and the first thing he said before he even called the play out was, ‘Let’s go, let’s go. Let’s pick it up.’ What more can you expect from your quarterback? If he puts it on the line, we’ve got to put it on the line for him.”
The chemistry between Stamps and Nichols is undeniable. Even in Nichols’ lone start this season against Calgary on Sept. 28, he managed to find Stamps for a highlight-reel touchdown. Nichols showed promise in that game, but wasn’t able to lift his team past a surging Stampeders group that raced to a 39-15 win.
“Matt did a great job,” Eskimos starting quarterback Kerry Joseph said.
A cut to a finger on Joseph’s throwing hand opened the door for Nichols to play on Sunday. When trainers couldn’t stop the bleeding (an ironic situation, given the Als effortless-looking play against the Eskimos), Nichols went in.
“He was out there in a no-huddle and he handled the situation well,” Joseph said. “He was there to push the ball down the field and that’s the type of offence we need to be.”
Eskimos head coach Kavis Reed said on Sunday that Joseph would remain the starter, but that they liked what they saw in Nichols and have a better understanding of how to use him. Whether that means Nichols takes a larger role in Friday’s regular-season finale against Calgary remains to be seen.
Nichols turned heads in the opposing locker-room, as well.
“He did a really good job,” Montreal middle linebacker Shea Emry said. “He came in, gave them some fire and made some plays with his feet.”
It was something Emry had seen before, having played college ball with Nichols at Eastern Washington University.
“That’s what he did (in college). He’s a good quarterback. Given the opportunity to play, he did a good job.”
Nichols will have to settle for a four-out-of-five star performance. There was at least one detractor in the house on Sunday.
“He got lucky,” Alouettes defensive back Jerald Brown said of Nichols. “He made some throws, but he didn’t have anything to lose. At the same time, he wasn’t faced with the heat that Kerry Joseph (faced).
“If he felt the heat, he would have had no chance. That guy would have stood no chance. But he came in and did his job.”
As of Monday, the Eskimos are still assessing the status of fullback Mathieu Bertrand and offensive lineman Orrin Thompson. Bertrand was knocked unconscious on Sunday when he was hit by Kyries Hebert. Thompson hurt his knee in the first quarter of the game and did not return.
— With files from Herb Zurkowsky, Montreal Gazette
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