EDMONTON — For anyone affiliated with the Edmonton Elks, the suffering is over. Fans, players and coaches alike celebrated the team’s first home win since 2019 with a 30-20 win over the visiting Ottawa REDBLACKS, ending a 22-game home losing streak.
Tre Ford broke the 300 passing yard mark for the first time in his career (15-18, 317 yards, one touchdown) and rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on the ground, both career bests for the second-year quarterback. Elks’ receiver Eugene Lewis had three catches for a game-high 112 yards and a touchdown, as the Elks won at Commonwealth Stadium for the first time since Oct. 12, 2019; a stretch of 1,415 days.
The Elks have now won two games in a row, after starting their season 0-9.
Dustin Crum made 17 of 26 passes for 172 yards, with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox had 10 tackles and a sack for the REDBLACKS.
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The REDBLACKS scored on their first drive, but it wasn’t in the way that they’d hoped. Richie Leone‘s 74-yard punt came at the end of a two-and-out, but yielded a single that gave the visitors a 1-0 lead, 88 seconds into play.
That was all of the scoring the first quarter would see, as both teams’ defences dug their heels in and refused to allow much progress offensively through the game’s first 15 minutes.
That changed as the Elks’ drive carried from the end of the first quarter into the second. Ford capped a nine-play, 79-yard drive that was aided by an end zone penalty on the REDBLACKS with an eight-yard run for the touchdown. Dean Faithfull‘s convert sailed through at 1:26 to put the Elks up 7-1.
REDBLACKS’ kicker Lewis Ward did his part to get his team in the game with a 46-yard field goal at the seven-minute mark, making it 7-4. Ford left the field about five minutes later full of frustration after a tantalizing scrambling play resulted in him unable to get the ball to an open Eugene Lewis in the end zone. Faithfull finished off that drive with a 17-yard field goal to push the score to 10-4 at 11:43.
The REDBLACKS came back with a frustrating play of their own before the half was over. Ward’s 34-yard attempt drifted off to the right and went wide, giving the team its second single of the day, leaving the score 10-5 at 12:45.
Ford and Lewis made up for their end zone miss before the half was over. The second-year pivot scrambled once again, looked down the field and found Lewis for a 66-yard connection and the team’s second touchdown of the day. Faithfull’s convert pushed the score to 17-5 with 22 seconds left in the half.
Ford made 9-11 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown in the half, along with 42 yards on the ground and a trip into the end zone.
Ford burst through the 200-yard mark quickly, as he opened the third quarter by airing out a 68-yard pass to Gavin Cobb, who made it to the Ottawa two-yard line before he was tackled. On short yardage, Taylor Cornelius forced his way across the plane, exactly two minutes into the quarter. Faithfull’s convert gave his team a 19-point advantage, up 24-5.
Undeterred by his previous field goal miss, Ward connected on a 53-yarder at 4:44, getting the REDBLACKS up to eight points on the night.
After another drive that was laced with Ford’s scrambling ability, Faithfull lined up a 38-yard field goal and sent it home, restoring the Elks’ 19-point lead at 10:50.
The Elks took their lead into the fourth quarter, where the REDBLACKS finally got a touchdown. Devonte Williams broke through for a 23-yard run to the Elks’ end zone just 38 seconds into the fourth quarter. Crum’s two-point convert attempt didn’t find its target, leaving the score 27-14.
The Elks looked to hit the 30-point mark with another Faithfull field goal, but a too-many-men call pushed the kicker out of his range, much to the chagrin of Elks’ head coach Chris Jones. His frustration returned when a made Faitfhull 37-yarder was nullified by an Edmonton penalty. The kicker finally got his suddenly coveted field goal at 12:19, when he connected on a 29-yarder, successfully making it a 30-14 game.
The crowd at Commonwealth grew rowdier as the clock ticked down, the fans in the stands seemingly oblivious to the crunch time heroics that Crum has orchestrated this season. The rookie pivot led his team to Edmonton’s 19-yard line as the clock dipped under the two minute mark and got his team to the goal line on a pass interference call. Backup QB Tyrrell Pigrome finished off the 11-play, 59-yard drive from short yardage to get within 10 points with 1:10 left. For the second time in the game, Crum’s two-point convert was unsuccessful, maintaining the Elks’ 10-point lead, 30-20.
In a season where all of their crunch time moments had gone wrong, Lewis calmly pulled in the REDBLACKS’ onside kick attempt, making the conclusion a near certainty, to the delight of those in the stands.
Next up for the Elks is the short trip down the QEII, where they’ll face the Calgary Stampeders on Labour Day Monday as part of the OK Tire Labour Day Weekend. The REDBLACKS head into a bye week and return to action on Fri. Sept. 8 when they host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.