The floor keeps dropping in the Tower of Terror (& more thoughts on the Elks’ eighth loss)

Photo courtesy: Edmonton Elks

I’m not really sure what my expectations going into a game are anymore. What I do know is the Elks are really testing the limits of how many different ways I can express exasperation.

It would be generous for me to describe their first half as a bottom-five half of this CFL season. To summarize: Jeremiah Masoli at halftime, 13-of-17, 297 yards and three touchdowns; Taylor Cornelius, 4-of-13, 71 yards. On 29 plays each, Hamilton had 379 yards to Edmonton’s 120.

OK, that’ll do it, see you next week!

Fine, fine, here are some other thoughts.

Playoffs?

I mentioned in the weekly picks that Edmonton was technically ‘alive’ in terms of possibly making the post-season. That’s because they would be, necessarily, 2-0 against B.C. and 2-0 against Saskatchewan at year’s end. That’s also why they’re not officially dead yet, although they need almost everything to fall perfectly.

Aside from going 4-0 to finish — and there’s no doubt about that, right? — I believe they need at least two of: Lions beating Calgary while going 1-1 or 0-2 against Toronto and Hamilton, before losing to Edmonton; Calgary losing to B.C. and Winnipeg; Saskatchewan losing to both Hamilton and Montreal, as well as Edmonton twice.

The Elks would have a good record against the tied teams at 6-8, in the 0.01 percent of alternate universes that happens in.

The one bright spot

If you guessed ‘Sean Whyte,’ you’re correct! He was two for two on field goals, and had a very nice onside kick attempt that no Elk managed to get anywhere close to.

Whyte thoroughly outplayed his counterpart Taylor Bertolet, who had two bad misses. Sorry, Hamilton, the trade deadline was last week – you can’t have him.

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It’s very upsetting. Derel Walker disappointingly had an early ball go through his hands. Then as Glen Suitor was talking about how the receivers need to help Cornelius out, the quarterback missed a different open man by a good eight feet on the very next play.

Fast-forward to the start of the third quarter when Walker beat his man easily in the right side of the endzone and Cornelius aired it ten yards over his head. Gee, I wonder why he’s frustrated?

It’s a painful snowball effect where Walker can’t break out of it so it keeps getting worse. This week, one catch for 11 yards on five targets.

Mild amusement

On Edmonton’s last drive, all of Tevaun Smith, Mike Jones, and Jalen Tolliver made their first and only catch. I’m particularly disappointed that Mike Jones has barely been utilized in over a month now, seeing as he was arguably their most productive early season receiver.

The lone strong performer was Greg Ellingson, who had one drop but also seven catches on ten targets to sneak up to 101 yards.

Start Dakota Prukop. I am no longer asking.

It would probably be wise to give Nick Arbuckle another week to settle in. Even so, the Cornelius experiment needs to be shut down for the season.

Dakota Prukop unquestionably deserves a shot at this point, for more than the rhythm-busting sneaks and gadget run plays. From Argonauts analyst Ben Grant too:

Irresistible

Cornelius, as mentioned above, completed 4-of-13 passes in the first half. If a pair of drops are caught, those numbers brighten slightly but were still sub-average.

In the second half, when Hamilton hardly needed to care, he went 15-of-20 for 180 yards. Unfortunately the ‘garbage time’ argument seems to hold up here, with 126 of those yards – exactly half of his game total – coming on two fourth quarter drives starting when the score was 32-7. Meanwhile, Masoli only threw for 60 yards in the entire second half.

The attractive traits are the same. Coach Jaime Elizondo seems unable to resist Cornelius’ arm strength and ability to throw on the run. But he misses too many throws. The good isn’t good enough to outweigh the bad.

Everyone has a clear idea of what Cornelius is right now. Let’s get a sense of what Prukop is.

‘D’ for dysfunction

I’ve given a lot of praise to Edmonton’s defence. Friday night was awful enough to match, nay, exceed the offence, and probably tops the game in Ottawa for their worst performance of the season.

Missing starters Jake Ceresna and Jonathan Mincy isn’t nearly enough of an excuse for what we saw. The damage was mostly done in the first half, so playing two rookie cornerbacks in the second half after Jonathan Rose’s disqualification doesn’t affect my opinion much either.

Hamilton earned 10.2 yards per play, which you can pick your favourite Halloween word to describe – mine is ‘hideous’. That seems to be the league-wide season-high, topping Winnipeg’s 9.1 in B.C. (Week 9), and nearly doubled Edmonton’s 5.2 on the night.

Edmonton got spots of pressure on Masoli, including two sacks, but against a team with such frequent offensive line issues, it was very poor to allow so many deep passes against, both in terms of time to throw and coverage. On the flip side, Cornelius had to fight through much more pressure and I think he only completed two passes beyond 11 yards downfield, both in the fourth quarter and maxing out at 17 yards. Edmonton’s longest play was 22 yards on a screen to Ellingson.

Jaelon Acklin, who is Hamilton’s leading receiver, had only one target. It was a 65 yard touchdown. Add that to Tyler Ternowski’s lone catch for 48 yards, realize the Elks weren’t any better in the short and intermediate range, and there’s really nothing good to say.

Watching them get torn up by Don Jackson plainly suggested that their hearts aren’t in it, consciously or not. I can’t say ‘no longer in it’ because they haven’t consistently been invested in a while.

Dirt

I was trying to think, and I don’t believe there’s much of a challenge to Simoni Lawrence’s throne as current dirtiest player in the league. Should James Wilder Jr. have gone full WWE on him? Probably not, but it was a reaction to Lawrence coming in low, very late, and helmet first into Wilder shortly after another helmet to helmet contact in a pile.

As Glen Suitor put it: “Wilder was upset, and then he saw [Lawrence’s] number,” which is to say, ‘and then Wilder knew it was deliberate,’ and he reacted fiercely.

I’m a little surprised neither of them got kicked out, though Wilder left at halftime anyways with an ankle injury.

Murphy’s Law

When just about everything goes wrong. Summed up by three examples:

1) Derrick Moncrief making a solid defensive play in the end zone to break up a suspicious pass, but the ball deflecting straight up to be caught by his guy Tim White anyways.

2) Hamilton taking a time count penalty, but had the snap gone through a Masoli and Jackson miscommunication would have caused a fumble with several Elks nearby.

3) Masoli dropping the ball on a run – cold dropping it, no less – but gets a nice bounce right back and earns nearly 20 yards anyways.

The little things

First point: Elizondo made a good challenge to get a pass interference call on the king of drawing them, Greg Ellingson.

Second point: props for going for a two point convert after scoring at 32-7. Ideally, you would go for two again, to go from 32-15 to 32-23 to 32-30 and a field goal for the win. But even planning the standard 17 points down, to ten, to three, to a tie shows the correct awareness from Elizondo. Obviously, keep in mind this is a far-fetched hypothetical.

Third point: what on Earth was the time and timeout management in the last six minutes? I was already wanting Elizondo to use his first timeout to save roughly 40 seconds on any random Hamilton play as they were driving down the field. Then we got to a snap at the 4:30 mark, where the Ticats handed off and with a fight for a non-fumble, the next play wasn’t going to start for nearly a minute and a half. Elizondo finally called a timeout at 3:22, saving maybe 15 seconds on the play clock instead of a full minute-plus.

I have a question for the officials, whether it’s appropriate to ever allow 90 seconds between adjacent snaps – in essence, allowing roughly 60 to 70 seconds to run without stoppage before blowing in the next play when Hamilton can run another 20 – but regardless the coach should have been more on top of it.

We’re almost done

 

Four more games, three of which happen within a week. Remember: friends don’t let friends judge teams on beating Edmonton or Ottawa.

Mike Ludwig enjoys math, chess, and football, all of which are kind of related. He lives in Edmonton and does not endorse Rod Black's metaphors. Follow him on twitter at @CityOfChamps14.