The Edmonton Elks’ quarterback was Tre-mendous.
Canadian-born Tre Ford lived up to all the hype on Friday while piloting Edmonton to a 36-27 CFL victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders before 25,304 eyewitnesses at Mosaic Stadium.
When Ford wasn’t leaving members of an injury-depleted Roughriders defence grasping at air, he was handing off to the other member of the Elks’ double-barrelled ground attack — Kevin Brown.
Brown, who carried the ball 19 times, rushed for 175 of the Elks’ 265 yards. One of his runs produced a 35-yard touchdown.
Ford took off eight times for 70 yards, 10 of which were on a TD run that snapped a 27-27 tie and put Edmonton ahead to stay.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Ford had scrambled … and scrambled … and scrambled some more before finding a wide-open Eugene Lewis for a 30-yard major on second-and-17. Dean Faithfull’s convert created the aforementioned 27-all deadlock.
“They’re good players. Credit to Edmonton,” said Craig Dickenson, Head Coach of the 6-7 Roughriders.
“It’s little things. We didn’t set the edge in the run game like we should have and they’re fast. Our guys came off the field with that look in their eyes like, ‘That guy’s a lot faster than I expected.’
“You learn best by making mistakes, but it’s also pretty expensive. So hopefully we learned against a mobile quarterback that can really run like that and a good running back.”
The Elks had employed the same successful formula six days earlier while defeating the visiting Calgary Stampeders 25-23.
Versus Calgary, Brown rushed 15 times for 143 yards and a major. Ford carried the ball eight times for 82 yards and threw for 173 yards and a TD.
He followed up with another 173-yard, one-TD-pass performance on Friday.
It was also a case of déjà vu for the Roughriders, who surrendered 263 rushing yards on Sept. 9 in a 51-6 loss to the host Winnipeg Blue Bombers before Edmonton topped that yardage total by two.
“We’ve been off the past two games with the run game, just schematically,” defensive lineman Micah Johnson said in a quiet Roughriders dressing room. “Teams have been attacking us a certain way and we’ve got to get it figured out. We haven’t figured out how to defend it yet.
“It’s a copycat league and every team is doing the same thing to us, so it’s no surprise. We knew what they were going to do.
“All week, we knew what it was, and we just didn’t execute.”
As a result, Edmonton improved its record to 4-10. Most notably, the energized Elks are 4-2 since Ford took over as the starting quarterback.
“He’s extremely fast and we know that,” Johnson said. “We talked about it all week and, still, too many times we gave up contain and lost contain.
“I just think it’s a lot of looking in the mirror, and guys have got to do better. We didn’t execute and that’s professional ball. No team is that bad that you will beat them if you’re not executing well and you’re not executing the game plan.”
Complicating matters, four Roughriders defensive players left the game with injuries during Friday’s first half. Defensive linemen Anthony Lanier II, Miles Brown and Nicholas Dheilly were hurt, along with linebacker Justin Herdman-Reed.
“Injuries happen,” Dickenson said. “That’s part of the game.
“Unfortunately, we lost a lot of good ones tonight. I’m hoping that they can come back soon. I don’t know if they will.
“But that’s why you have a practice roster and that’s why you have an organization. Everybody pulls together and tries to put the best team we can out there.
“I think we’ll see some new faces next week (against the host Ottawa REDBLACKS on Friday) because of the injuries and hopefully they play well. We’ll have to keep it simple for them, but we plan on putting a good team out there and winning the next game.”
While Edmonton had Tre behind centre, Saskatchewan countered with a trey.
Jake Dolegala threw three touchdown passes for the second time in four starts this season.
The 6-foot-7 flamethrower found Shawn Bane Jr. for two scores and Tevin Jones for another major.
In Dolegala’s first start of 2023, he struck for three aerial scores in a 34-29 victory over the visiting B.C. Lions on Aug. 20.
On Friday, he became the first Roughrider in six years to twice throw three TD passes within a span of four or fewer games. In 2017, Kevin Glenn had two three-TD-pass performances over a period of three games.
But the only numbers that matter to Dolegala are on the scoreboard, as evidenced by his description of the mood in the Roughriders’ dressing room.
“Not good,” he said. “It feels worse than last week, with how close it was … and we know we can beat that team.”
Saskatchewan had earlier won nailbiters against Edmonton, prevailing 17-13 on June 11 at Commonwealth Stadium and 12-11 on July 6 at Mosaic Stadium.
On both occasions, Trevor Harris — who has been sidelined by a knee injury since July 15 — was the victorious quarterback. His opposite number: Taylor Cornelius, who is now the Elks’ short-yardage quarterback.
In that capacity, Cornelius threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to A.C. Leonard — a defensive end who lined up as a receiver on second-and-one — early in Friday’s second quarter.
Not to be outdone, the Roughriders’ short-yardage quarterback (Antonio Pipkin) also went over the top. He completed a 57-yard pass to running back Jamal Morrow on second-and short late in the third quarter to set up the Roughriders’ final touchdown.
Two plays after Morrow’s longest reception as a CFLer, Dolegala found Bane Jr. for a 12-yard score. Brett Lauther’s convert gave Saskatchewan a 27-20 lead. Edmonton countered with the game’s final 16 points.
“We stalled,” Dolegala said of the Roughriders’ fourth-quarter offence. “A lot of it comes down to a little inaccuracy on my end.
“They were just playing real soft and not allowing us to take any shots. It’s tough to put together 10-play drives.”
The Roughriders’ penultimate possession consisted of one play. With two minutes remaining, Saskatchewan began a series on its four-yard line. Dolegala was promptly sacked just inside the end zone for a safety touch that gave the Elks a two-possession lead and effectively sealed the outcome.
“They had a good rush on,” Dolegala said. “I was trying to step up. You’re obviously thinking about the goal posts if you’re working the field, so that has a little bit to do with it.
“You can’t have that mistake. I’ve got to find a way to get out of the end zone — maybe work the boundary, or just do something different other than that.”
A Roughriders-Edmonton game ended with a score of 36-27 for the first time since Oct. 19, 1975, when Saskatchewan won by nine points at Taylor Field.
Steve Mazurak caught four passes for a team-high 124 yards and two touchdowns. George Reed rushed for 101 yards and one score in what would be his final regular-season home game.
Mazurak and Reed were both at Friday’s game.
Another very interested spectator was Alan Ford, who played for the Roughriders from 1965 to 1976. He had one catch for 12 yards and a 46-yard punt in that 1975 meeting with Edmonton.
His grandson, Jaxon Ford, had two defensive tackles and one special teams stop for Saskatchewan on Friday.
Alan Ford and Jeff Fairholm signed autographs during Coors Light Party in the Park on Friday.
Nerdy stat of the night/year: Edmonton registered 25 first downs in both 36-27 games.
• Larry Dean and Derrick Moncrief led the Roughriders in defensive tackles, with seven each, on Friday. That output helped Dean improve his career total to 544 and ascend to 27th on the league’s all-time list. He began the game in a tie for 30th before passing Matt Finlay (537), Marvin Coleman (538), Joe Montford (540) and Gerald Vaughn (541). Dean is now one tackle behind 26th-seeded Omarr Morgan, who spent 10 of his 11 CFL seasons with Saskatchewan.
- Bane Jr.’s two TD catches on Friday enabled him to double his season total. The multi-TD game was his first in the CFL. After 13 games this season, he has 67 receptions for 746 yards. With five games remaining, he is one reception shy of matching Kian Schaffer-Baker’s team-high receptions total for all of 2022.
- Jones, who had four catches for 72 yards on Friday, now has 56 receptions for a team-leading 796 yards. He has played in 12 of the Roughriders’ 13 regular-season games.
ROLL CREDITS …
- Nice people who deserve a plug: Makaia Anne Hus, Jorgen Hus, Kenzi Hus, Liam James Hamilton, Andrew Hamilton, Amanda Hamilton, Blaze Dunn, Perry Dunn, Carol-Lyne Dunn, John Schmeiser, John Lu, Darrin Bauming, John Houlden, Marilyn Houlden, Ross Vanstone, Rashawn Taniskishayinew, Heather Dufault, Christopher Dufault, Noel Selinger, Len Antonini, Harv Curts, Joan Curts, Jay Curts, Taylor Shire, Jay Onrait, Bruce Arthur, Andrew Paterson, Herb Zurkowsky, Thomas Bertrand-Hudon, Dan Barnes, Gaye Cooley, Doug Norris, Cory Lechner, Pete Paczko, Riley Schick, Micah Johnson, Bill Ames, Philip Blake, Mitch Cook, Jeff Fairholm, Stacy Fairholm, Jake Wieneke, Ashley Martin, Rod Lustig, Nadine Lustig, Ken Fuchs, Bill Curtis, Tegan Huber, Brad Herauf, Ken Schneider, Evan McFeeters, Dr. Tom Robinson, Scott Redl, Lanis Anthony, Greg Fieger and Jock McDowell.