EDMONTON - It was the Edmonton Eskimos’ most exciting pass of the season.
And it wasn’t thrown by ‘starting’ quarterback Steven Jyles, or his backup, Kerry Joseph.
It was thrown by third-stringer Matt Nichols, who at this point in his three-year CFL career has worked his way up to the title of starting holder.
But his back-pedalling lob on a fake field goal — or what turned into one, at least — at the end of the half found its way to a wide-open special-teams specialist Corbin Sharun, who followed up a sure-handed effort with a tackle-breaking push through slotback Marquay McDaniel on his rumbling, stumbling 35-yard trip to the end zone.
Nichols’s and Sharun’s first CFL touchdowns gave the Eskimos their first lead of the game, 11-10, over the Calgary Stampeders heading into halftime on the way to a 20-18 loss in the annual Labour Day rematch.
But, for the second week in a row, it all came down to an unsuccessful last-second field goal by Grant Shaw.
Following up a 31-30 loss in Calgary on Monday, the Eskimos lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, dropping to an even 5-5 record on the season, while their provincial rivals improved to 6-4.
Kevin Glenn hit wide receiver Johnny Forzani on a 37-yard connection in the end zone to cap an eight-play, 75-yard drive that chewed 4:10 off the clock.
A 52-yard punt single later by Shaw, who was also filling in on punting duties for the injured Burke Dales, and Rene Paredes kicked a 28-yard field goal to lead 10-1 heading into the second quarter.
But it got chalked up as a small victory for the Eskimos defence after giving up a 50-yard reception into the red zone by a diving Romby Bryant — who was free and clear after covering defensive back Chris Thompson missed a step and hit the deck.
Benefitted by strong field position off a coffin-corner punt by Shaw, Kerry Joseph steered the Eskimos offence on a short drive into the red zone to set Shaw up for a 22-yard field goal and trail 10-4.
But Romby struck again, making a timbering catch along the sideline before drawing pass-interference against linebacker T.J. Hill for a free 33 yards to set them up on the goal-line.
Thompson would get a measure of revenge by coming up with an interception in the red zone.
Sharun’s touchdown also tasted sweet for Thompson, who was the victim of a poorly batted Hail-Mary pass that landed in Nik Lewis’s hands for a touchdown at the end of the half in the 2011 Labour Day rematch.
It turned into poetic justice for Thompson, who struck again late in the third, ball-hawking his second pass intended for Forzani in the end zone, returning this one 34 yards to set up the fourth quarter.
Cornish broke for a 30-yard ground gain that set up a 13-yard Paredes field goal to give Calgary the lead back by a two-point margin.
All the Eskimos offence managed to achieve in the fourth quarter was earning boos from the home crowd, before Cornish legged out a 59-yard touchdown run on the very next play to lead 20-11 with five minutes remaining.
Not to be outdone, Fred Stamps came up with a 22-yard touchdown reception to pull within two of the lead two-and-a-half minutes later.
Playing in his first game of the season fresh off the nine-game injured list, Marcus Hentry climbed the ladder for a 31-yard reception to put the Eskimos in field goal range.
After missing a 48-yarder into the wind in last week’s loss, Shaw rang a 42-yarder off the right upright and out in the dead calm.