Home field has been anything but an advantage this season for the Edmonton Elks.
Edmonton is a dismal 0-5 at Commonwealth Stadium this year. The Elks (2-7) return there Friday night to host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (5-5).
The Elks are riding a five-game losing streak overall and haven’t played since dropping a 26-16 home decision to Winnipeg on Oct. 15. Visiting teams have outscored Edmonton 141-79 this year.
Edmonton went into the fourth quarter versus Winnipeg tied 16-16 before Zach Collaros’s five-yard TD strike to Rasheed Bailey put the defending Grey Cup champions ahead to stay. And with the Bombers’ defence having yet to allow a TD in the fourth this season, there’d be no miracle comeback engineered by Elks’ rookie quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who finished 17-of-29 passing for 187 yards and a TD.
Edmonton has yet to win with Cornelius under centre as both of its victories this season came with veteran Trevor Harris as the starter. In fact, the Elks haven’t won since Harris, who was traded Oct. 17 to Montreal, threw for 398 yards and four TDs in a 32-20 road decision over Calgary on Sept. 6.
Edmonton obtained quarterback Nick Arbuckle from the Toronto Argonauts earlier this week, but Cornelius will remain the starter, at least for now. He enters action having completed 64-of-106 passes (60.4 per cent) for 811 yards with four TDs and six interceptions.
Edmonton’s offence has struggled to score this season under first-year head coach Jaime Elizondo. The Elks are ranked fourth overall in net offence (345 yards per game) but eighth in offensive points (16.4) and offensive TDs (12).
Edmonton is also ranked eighth overall with a minus-17 turnover ratio, in part due to a defence that’s forced a league-low seven turnovers. So it’s not a surprise the Elks have only scored 17 points off turnovers.
By comparison, Hamilton has a plus-11 turnover ratio (third-best in CFL) and scored 80 points (Winnipeg leads with 81) off the 27 turnovers its defence has forced (tied for second behind the Bombers’ 33).
James Wilder Jr. has been one of Edmonton’s few offensive bright spots this season. The veteran running back is third overall in rushing with 675 yards (5.4-yard average) and two TDs while also registering 27 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown.
Greg Ellingson is the team’s top receiver (40 catches, 586 yards, one TD) but speedster Derel Walker (39 receptions, 457 yards) has yet to register a touchdown grab this season.
Jeremiah Masoli will make a fourth straight start for Hamilton. Masoli threw two second-half TD passes to lead the Ticats to a 32-3 home win over Ottawa that eliminated the Redblacks (2-9) from playoff contention.
Masoli completed 25-of-28 passes for 320 yards, his second straight 300-yard performance. He threw for 361 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-23 home loss to Toronto on Oct. 11.
However, Hamilton will be without receiver Bralon Addison. He left last week’s game against Ottawa in the first half with a lower-body injury after registering five receptions for 95 yards.
And defensive back Frankie Williams, the CFL’s top special-teams player in 2019, will miss a third straight contest due to injury.
Calgary Stampeders versus Ottawa Redblacks (Friday night)
At Ottawa, Calgary (5-6) chases its fifth win in six contests after having its three-game win streak halted last week by Saskatchewan. Stampeders starter Bo Levi Mitchell needs just 14 passing yards to become the 18th player to reach the 30,000-yard plateau. Mitchell is 7-2-2 all-time versus Ottawa and is 2-1-2 at TD Place. The Redblacks (2-9) are playing the role of spoiler after having been eliminated from playoff contention. It’s the first game since GM Marcel Desjardins was relieved of his duties earlier this week.
B.C. Lions versus Toronto Argonauts (Saturday afternoon)
At Toronto, the Argos (6-4) can clinch a playoff berth with a victory. They’re currently 4-0 at BMO Field and McLeod Bethel-Thompson looks to improve to 5-1 as its starter. Receiver Kurleigh Gittens Jr. has recorded consecutive 100-yard performances and if he does so again, he’d become the first Canadian since Montreal’s Ben Cahoon in ‘04 to accomplish that feat. B.C. (4-6) is 3-0 versus East Division teams but has lost four straight, including a lopsided 45-0 decision to Winnipeg last week, and been outscored 84-10 in its last two games.
Saskatchewan Roughriders versus Montreal Alouettes (Saturday night)
At Montreal, the Alouettes (6-4) can clinch a playoff berth with a win. They’ve won four straight, including their last two with backup Matt Shiltz under centre. But the real stars of last week’s 37-16 home victory over Toronto were running back William Stanback (career-best 203 rushing yards, TD) and receiver Eugene Lewis (seven catches, 156 yards, two touchdowns). Saskatchewan (6-4) is coming off an important 20-17 win last week over Calgary and is 3-0 versus East Division rivals. The Riders’ defence has 32 sacks, second only to Montreal (38).
Last week: 3-1.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2021.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press