Pointless endeavour: six thoughts on the Edmonton Elks’ second shutout loss of the season

Photo courtesy: Steven Chang/BC Lions

The record has been set. The Edmonton Elks officially have the longest streak of consecutive home losses in North American pro sports history, falling 27-0 to the B.C. Lions.

Here are my thoughts on the game:

Might As Well Go Big

The dubious record for consecutive home losses was only one part of Double E history being set Saturday night. It was the first time the team has ever been shut out at Commonwealth Stadium. There were two other home shutouts in Edmonton’s history, but both were at Clarke Stadium.

It is also the first time the franchise has been shut out by the same team twice in one year. I thought that may have been the first time in CFL history that one team was shut out by another twice in one season, but it seems Edmonton was on the winning side of two shutouts in a season against Saskatchewan in 1959.

To top it off, not only have the Elks not scored a single point in 120 minutes of CFL football against the Lions this year, they haven’t even gotten into the red zone during that time. Credit to the B.C. Lions’ defence for their efforts in that, but this EE offence is historically bad.

Definition of Insanity

I cannot count the number of times I was asked the same question in the second half of Saturday’s game, whether in person, by text, or on social media.

“Why is Cornelius going back out there?”

I have run out of answers.

Cornelius has the athleticism and a rocket of an arm, but his accuracy and decision-making under pressure have not taken the steps forward needed to get points, much less wins. After his second one-handed pitch, which almost ended in yet another disastrous play, I thought that would be the end of his night. After two more interceptions were added to his total of nine on the year, you would think he was done. If your team has gone well over 90 minutes and has not been close to getting a point, it should be time to try something different.

Not so in Edmonton. Fans watched as the definition of insanity played out in front of them: keep doing the exact same things and expecting different results.

Offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo shoulders just as much, if not more, blame as the players for not giving them a system to succeed with. There are playmakers on this team, and they are not being given opportunities. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me eight times, shame on everyone.

Another Flag on the Play

The second most common phrase uttered at Commonwealth Saturday night was, “there is a flag on the play.” The Elks had more yards in penalties than they had on offence well into the fourth quarter. If they were shooting their own toes off, they were well past having any feet left.

All told, it was a total of 13 penalties for 177 yards for the green and gold, with a plethora of basic and preventable fouls. Objectional Conduct after the whistle, unnecessary roughness against the long snapper, no yards on a punt, offside on offence — all of these should not be happening in Week 8.

“All the points they were able to get were penalty aided in the first half,” head coach Chris Jones said after the game.

“We have to play better-disciplined football. You go to Sask, tough environment, and then Winnipeg, tough environment, and you play cleaner football and more disciplined football. Then you come home against Hamilton and against B.C. here tonight and you take 13 penalties both times. When you have 200 yards of penalties, that’s 14 points. It’s hard to say. We try to take a step forward and then it seems we take two steps back.”

Punting for Records

Jake Julien punted the ball nine times Saturday night. That brings his total to 63 punts for the year. The team record for punting in a year is held by Glenn Harper at 156. Julien is on pace for 144 after Week 8. This could be a tight race.

All that said, Julien is still punting consistently and getting great hang time on his kicks. His average length is on the lower side in the league but I’d have to think the leg gets tired with all that work. The average opposition return is 11 yards so the punting unit is doing what it needs to do.

Finding a Positive

The Elks’ defence has been giving the team a chance to stay in games. Edmonton sacked Dane Evans five times and applied pressure throughout the game. Jake Ceresna going up the middle gives offensive lines fits and he opens the opportunities for the defensive ends to succeed. AC Leonard added two more sacks to his total, as Ceresna demanded those double teams.

The run defence leaves a little to be desired but that’s to be expected when you are on the field for a full quarter of time more than the offence. Nyles Morgan continues to try and be everywhere on the field and collected another 7 tackles in this game.

The secondary is young but growing together. Missing both Gainey and Grymes as veteran leaders is a difficult spot to be in but it’s the one area of the team that I see improving most games.

What’s Next

Edmonton finally gets its first bye week of the 2023 season. For the players, a chance to get away from the game for a bit is likely more than welcome. For the coaches and executives, this is a difficult week to assess where to go from here.

In my 40 years as a fan, I have heard some boos from the crowd here and there when the team has struggled. I have never heard booing as vigorous and consistent as it was in this last showing. There comes a breaking point for fans and the Elks have hit it.

“We have to look at everything we do because we’ve never been in this position. I personally have never been in this position before, so I have to look inward first, and I told the players the same thing,” Jones said of the path forward.

“It’s an oddity to me to not be able to play good football and secondly, not play good football at home. We have to look at all our processes so we have to take the next week and take a hard look at everything. From everything in our locker room, to everything in our coaching, everything from A to Z.”

The Elks have 12 days to make the assessments and changes before they meet the Bombers back at home and try to find a way to turn things around.

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