The wrong kind of history: six thoughts on the Edmonton Elks’ first shutout loss in 47 years

Photo courtesy: Jeff Vinnick/B.C. Lions

For the second year in a row, the Elks were in Vancouver for the B.C. Lions home opener. The good news is the blowout wasn’t as bad as 2022. The bad news is, for the first time in 47 years, Edmonton was shutout in a 22-0 loss.

Here are my thoughts on the game.

Defence not the concern

The Elks’ defence kept this game a lot closer than it could have been. With three-man pressure used for most of the game, A.C. Leonard was deployed as an extra coverage linebacker and supported the young secondary. The extra body helped as Vernon Adams Jr was not able to complete drives in the first half and only scored one touchdown in the game.

Linebackers Nyles Morgan and Adam Konar were also flying all over the field, finishing with eight and seven tackles respectively.  The only downside for the defence was that they were on the field for most of the game.

“We played 72 plays, I think it was, on defence and we need to play somewhere in the 40 to 52 range,” a frustrated Chris Jones told the media post-game.

Turned over turnovers

This game began with a bizarre first series. On the very first offensive play, Taylor Cornelius was picked off by Garry Peters but the takeaway was immediately nullified by a pass interference call. Two plays later, it seemed as if Kai Locksley fumbled on a QB sneak and B.C. ran the ball in for a touchdown. After one of many long reviews on the night, they ruled Locksley was down and it was not a turnover.

The weirdness continued later in the half. Last week, the Lions had an interception that was promptly fumbled back to Calgary. Edmonton decided to return the favour this week. With seven minutes left in the second quarter, Ed Gainey picked off Adams at midfield and returned it 35 yards before Lions’ receiver Jevon Cottoy punched it loose.

It proved to be a critical play, as the Elks lost the turnover battle 2-1 with both coming in scoring position.

Cornelius’ struggles continue

Last week, Taylor Cornelius had a total of 202 yards passing and a completion rate of 52 percent. The thought was that it could only get better.

This week, he was 59 percent and generated only 101 yards passing. Cornelius struggled to connect with any of his receivers and had several throws go behind, over top of or into the ground in front of his targets.

Chris Jones was asked after the game about his options at quarterback and dismissed the possibility of a change.

“We’ve got our quarterback. We need to do a better job of coaching him. We have to get his confidence back. Certainly, it’s been rattled in the first two weeks.”

The coaching staff has a massive challenge in front of them as they try to find the best way to hit Control/Alt/Delete and get Taylor back on track.

More running

With a struggling quarterback, I would have expected to see the Elks make more of an attempt to run the ball and try to open up the passing game.

Instead, Kevin Brown rushed the ball just seven times. Yes, seven. He did break one run for 25 yards but was mostly held for limited gains.

More touches for Brown and more opportunities for the o-line to not be in pass protection could go a long way toward helping the offence, as a whole, find more success.

Punting continues

Rookie Canadian Jake Julien continues to put up some great punts and he’s getting a lot of experience with the current offensive woes. There were a few that went out of bounds early and resulted in penalties, but the increased hangtime he produces has led to better coverage downfield and he had a couple of excellent outside-the-numbers kicks.

On that front, a weird stat was brought to my attention by 630 CHED’s Morley Scott. The Elks have punted 19 times this season, they have only scored 13 points.

B.C. doing great fan things

Lions owner Amar Doman is doing some good things for his team and the fanbase. The Party In The Park with The Trews was a fun way to arrive at the stadium. LL Cool J was an amazing way to get fans fired up. All delivered well and got the 33,000 fans in attendance excited for the game.

It was also a very classy move by the organization to acknowledge and send sympathies for the passing of Elks’ returner Christian Saulsberry, who died in a shooting in December.

The Elks will next be in action this Sunday against the Toronto Argonauts at Commonwealth Stadium. Instead of “Going Back to Cali,” they will need to go back to the drawing board to be ready for that challenge.

Andrew Hoskins is a lifelong Edmonton resident and the host of the Turf District Podcast.