The Elks’ season is over and 10 more thoughts on the finale

Finally, it’s done. The Edmonton Elks officially end their season with a 3-11 record, which thanks to an epic Montreal collapse and Ottawa win earlier in the day means they finish last in the CFL.

Hey, at least they’ll be drafting first overall.

Suspicious, to say the least

The Elks did not have a good start to the game.

It was great to see Edmonton burn a timeout three minutes in to avoid yet another too many men penalty on special teams. It’s okay, though, nothing bad happened on B.C.’s kick. They just onside-punted to Jevon Cottoy, who easily overpowered Darius Williams and earned a Lions first down, after which it took three plays for them to score.

That clearly was a sign of things to come and laughing about this team is by far the best option.

Prukop? Prukop!

After many long weeks, Dakota Prukop finally got to throw the ball. The way he entered was hilariously typical for Edmonton, though: after Taylor Cornelius threw his second interception of the first half, the Lions took a 20-0 lead and Prukop came in. I was determined to wait until he did more than run, and sure enough he ran once, snuck once, and took a sack before bizarrely being replaced by Cornelius for second down and 19.

Cornelius promptly threw his third interception of the first half, and was mercifully sat down for the rest of the night.

Prukop got off to a jittery start, taking two time count violations in his first six plays. But after that he settled in, leading the Elks on a 48-second, 69-yard scoring drive to only be down 34-7 at the half.

The second half contained a lot of forcing the ball downfield, which led to two interceptions and there could have been more. Overall, 17-of-24 (71 percent) for 183 yards suggests basic competence. It’s good we got to see him in action at least once, and at this point he’s the best backup option to probable 2022 starter Nick Arbuckle.

Making plays

Fairly quiet night for the offensive skill players. Armanti Edwards contributed with his by far biggest play of the season, a 45-yard catch to set up Jalen Tolliver’s touchdown before halftime. Tevaun Smith made a 34-yard catch on a great third down back shoulder throw from Prukop and finishes his difficult season on a reasonably high note. Earnest Edwards was the most consistent, finishing with six catches for 48 yards on seven targets.

And running back Walter Fletcher continued to show some electricity that will likely help him earn a feature role in 2022. He was much more involved in the passing game than on Tuesday, with five catches and 72 yards total, though giving him five of the team’s first ten passing targets was definitely questionable distribution.

Third down

Jaime Elizondo demonstrated an odd third down philosophy over the course of the night. He faced his first question down 34-7 just after halftime, and elected to go on third-and-five from B.C.’s 44. Regardless of the score that makes a ton of sense, since a field goal is difficult from that position and a punt is wasteful, it resulted in probably their best play of the game in Smith’s long catch.

Three plays later Edmonton had a third-and-five from B.C.’s five. I almost thought they may have already committed to leaving the offence on for the rest of the game; Elizondo instead chose to kick a 12-yard field goal, which is questionable at the best of times and especially so when you’re down 27 points. It really put a bandaid on a gaping wound.

The next drive saw the Elks punt on third and six from close to midfield before going on two non-sneak third downs in the fourth. When I said ‘philosophy,’ that was for lack of a better word. Elizondo seemed to be choosing on a whim, and while this is arguably making a big deal out of not very much in the circumstance, he has rarely shown ability to get the little things right, which is not a point in favour of him staying in his role for another season.

D- *groans* -fence

I appreciate the effort that the players put into this gruelling stretch of games, but clearly, the defence had little left to give and it was obviously a struggle.

Canadian rookie Nathan Rourke racked up 359 yards, one passing touchdown and three rushing touchdowns. At least the defence made two interceptions, but that’s a very small victory. Watching James Butler drive his way up to 109 yards at the end could not have earned more than a pained grimace from viewers. There’s not much to say — missed tackles, missed coverages, and a general inability to slow the Lions down.

Out with a bang

Fittingly, the Elks gave up a punt return touchdown in their season finale. That should mean they finish with 11 “big play returns” allowed in 2021, when no other team gave up more than six. That goes with zero big returns for themselves, against a league average of five. It’s outstanding how Edmonton’s special teams have been so bad, going back years.

Did him dirty

St. Albert product Shaydon Philip made an excellent play to block and recover a Lions punt when the game was, if you squinted a bit, still close. In my totally unbiased opinion, the holding call on Grant McDonald that negated the play was ridiculous. It was merely two players wrestling.

At last!

Aaron Grymes finally got his first official interception. He deserves it.

And the last…

Let’s finish with our favourite bright spot: Sean Whyte was perfect, making a convert and a 12-yard field goal.

So now what?

Now you watch some decent football teams in the playoffs, and await the probable drama that comes out of the Elks’ offices. Bluntly, if multiple coaches and management people don’t get replaced before 2022 there will be no reason to expect anything different.

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