Not with a whimper, but with a bang: eight thoughts on the Elks’ getting smacked in the Labour Day Rematch

Photo: Paul Swanson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

After a 56-28 beatdown on Saturday, the Edmonton Elks have given up 161 points in their four games against the Calgary Stampeders this year, while scoring just 75 themselves. That’s an average result of a 40-19 loss.

I’m not sure I want to ask what the franchise record is for points allowed to their provincial rival in a season. It’s hard to get doubled-up when you score 28 but the Elks managed — in fact, they’ve been outscored at Commonwealth Stadium by Calgary this year.

I don’t just mean they’ve lost twice; I mean they’ve scored 101 points in six games at home, while the Stampeders have scored 105 points in two games here. Thank you to Ka’Deem Carey, Tommy Stevens, and the disinterested Elks’ tacklers for enabling that inauspicious factoid with 40 seconds left in the game.

If you wanted, you could add a 37-7 home loss in their preseason matchup to that tally.

Chris Jones sure doesn’t seem happy with the effort on Saturday.


Despite the loss, Taylor Cornelius had a fair performance. He made some nice plays, and the Elks actually posted their highest yards per play of the season at 6.6. But it was still a rather mistake-filled performance, and not free of inefficiencies.

341 net yards of offence is decent, as is 28 points without the help of significant field position, but converting 4-of-15 second-down attempts is not. It was disappointing that the drives that started with Edmonton’s two biggest plays ended in relatively short field goals.

Cornelius’s best throw was a perfect spiral to Dillon Mitchell down the left sideline. Ultimately it was a 67-yard gain, though a tiny part of me couldn’t ignore a trend I’ve noticed previously: had it not been a smidge underthrown, Mitchell would’ve been in a better position to potentially score on the play. Regardless, that’s a 9.5 out of 10 grade for the quarterback on the throw.

Another notable plus was finding Derel Walker for a combined 39 yards on back-to-back third-quarter plays. Cornelius had a ton of time on both, but I’m happy to give praise for completing routine throws at this point. That drive finished with a touchdown throw that was somewhat behind Jalin Marshall, but the receiver made a nice snag.

Cornelius also got punished for a costly error in a way that he hasn’t been this season, throwing a pick-six to Trumaine Washington — who also had a pick-six in last year’s Labour Day Rematch as well, albeit for the green and gold.

It’s hard to make good decisions when Cameron Judge is charging straight at you but it was nevertheless a significant error. Cornelius had one other throw that should have been intercepted by Jonathan Moxey but he got away with it.

There were a couple of times when he took sacks because he didn’t get rid of the ball quickly enough. A couple of others were clearly on the offensive line, like in the fourth quarter when Shawn Lemon swooped around Martez Ivey on the left side and scored the takedown.

Lastly, Cornelius was responsible for two time-count violations in the first quarter, which is a clumsy minus.

New guys

Running back Kevin Brown was a rare reason to be excited about watching the game and he did not disappoint. He turned 10 carries into 91 yards, including an early 33-yard romp. Brown had less action in the passing game than last week but managed a nice 15-yard play at the very end.

Dillon Mitchell was a second reason, as the two are quickly forming a youthful playmaking duo. He finished with five catches for 120 yards — the first 100-yard game in the fourth appearance of what is looking like a promising career. He actually reminds me a lot of Bryant Mitchell.

Not to be outdone, Derel Walker caught seven of eight targets for an even 100 yards. He was a very successful mid-range weapon and looked much more like the Walker of old. It didn’t seem like his targets were particularly awkward either, which obviously helps.

The problem is that outside of those three, there was nothing. No other player accounted for more than 18 yards of offence. Six others had a touch but given that they all got outgained by Stampeders’ short-yardage QB Stevens on his sneaks, only the two touchdown scorers are worth a remark. Marshall was mentioned above, while fullback Tanner Green gets props for taking a checkdown in space and charging all the way in for a 17-yard major.

D for discreditable

Where to start?

I could point at Calgary’s 8.4 yards per play. Or their 447 total yards, or their 14-of-22 second-down conversion rate.

Perhaps instead I’ll groan about another truly awful tackling performance, or roll my eyes at the space the Stampeders’ receivers had. Reggie Begelton once had about ten yards of room inside of Jeff Richards that helped him make a 45-yard reception, while another time he took a 13-yard pass, thanked Duron Carter for running into Scott Hutter, and turned it into a 54-yard gain.

Better was Carter getting bluntly embarrassed by Malik Henry — see here for the clip in all its glory. Jake Maier was a very clean 20-of-26 (77 percent) for 287 yards and a touchdown, while their offence benefitted from two pass interference calls in the endzone.

It was nice to see Edmonton’s run defence get back into form. Carey only got nine carries yet earned 118 yards — a 13.1-yard average.

I wouldn’t be able to identify a single defender who I thought had a good game. Of course, it’s been noted that the Elks only have one definitely-good player in the unit but Jake Ceresna had a quiet night.

I guess we’ll do the easy thing after the defence was responsible for over 40 points: blame Nick Arbuckle.

Very special

Every Elks fan gives a sad sigh when you mention their special teams.

For the second straight week, they allowed a blocked punt. This one let the Calgary rusher through even more freely and the Stampeders recovered the ball at Edmonton’s one-yard line. The Elks were left in a 21-7 hole after the first quarter.

They also weren’t great at containing Peyton Logan and Calgary’s return team, though the Elks got creative with some shorter kickoffs. Jon Ryan did have one of his better nights punting.

A small glimmer of light was Christian Saulsberry and his 40-yard kickoff return, which came in his first game of full-time return duty.

Big cheese

Not only did all three on-field units make significant errors, the head coach also had a grim showing.

To start, Jones doesn’t deserve a lot of fault for not following through with his pass interference challenge. Ed Gainey gave a tiny jersey tug at the goalline before the receiver unrelatedly tripped over himself, bringing out the flag. Nothing there was especially flag-worthy.

Gainey commented after the game that he was told he touched the receiver at the top of the route, saying “I don’t know how to play defence anymore, apparently,” in reference to the minimal contact being deemed illegal. A tired-sounding Jones later elaborated himself.

“Well, they called it DPI. It was illegal contact. They kind of made a mistake, called it pass interference,” he said. “They said it was going to be upgraded or whatever, but that play… was kind of a tone-setter. I could tell that we weren’t going to get the call… they had in mind that was going to be their call.”

Much worse from the coach was conceding a safety from his eight-yard line to start the second half. They only needed to net roughly 30 yards on a punt for it to be worth kicking, and Calgary started in Edmonton’s half anyway. They even scored a touchdown to make it nine points total allowed off of the decision.

Worst of all was one of his punt choices. Nothing says “we’re trying to win” like punting on third-and-four from the Calgary 49-yard line, down 36-13. Not only is that a perfect spot to go for it at any score — four yards isn’t a lot, a 56-yard field goal is, and punting is a waste — you’re down 23 points halfway through the third quarter. There is nothing to lose.

The CFL needs a “Cowardly Punt Index,” like the NFL has. That was a whopper.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from going for a third-and-11 down 43-20 in the mid-fourth quarter.

Quick highlights

– Sergio Castillo was perfect, with 32-yard and 24-yard field goals, plus two converts.

– I’ve liked the look of rookie Canadian receiver Vincent Forbes-Mombleau in his very limited time in the spotlight. He had an 18-yard catch on Edmonton’s first offensive snap, after which he was left in the background.

– Jalin Marshall caught both of his targets, one of which was that touchdown. You have to ask: why was he cut in the first place?

– Cornelius only ran once, and it was the 11-yard touchdown at the end. Unusual for him, though that was a nice spot for it.

– One last nice, summer Saturday night at Commonwealth.


Edmonton faces off with the Riders in Saskatchewan on Friday. Despite being tied in wins with third place in the East and two wins behind second, a loss will formally eliminate the Elks from playoff contention.

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.