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June 14, 2024

GAME RECAP | Alouettes 23, Elks 20

EDMONTON – For a second straight game, the turnover battle was one the Elks were unable to overcome.

The defending Grey Cup champion Montreal Alouettes followed the blueprint that helped lead them to a championship last season enroute to a 23-20 victory at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night. The Als forced 22 interceptions in last season’s championship campaign and were able to collect two more to stymy the Elks offence on the evening. Despite going toe-to-toe with the champs, there was certainly some frustration from the Green and gold about another game let slip.

We’re an 0-2 football team. We know we should have won that football game, but credit to Montreal, they pulled out, they made it happen,” McLeod Bethel-Thompson said. “We just can’t turn the ball over like we did tonight and expect to win football games. I think there’s two turnovers on our end and none on theirs, so that’s the difference in the football game and there’s no moral victories. We gotta fix it.”

The pivot feels like the team is close. A few missed opportunities including: a dropped pass by Dillon Mitchell, a miscue on a 3rd and short in the fourth quarter, and a missed pass late to Mitchell for an interception allowed for the visitors to leave town with the win.

“We felt like we had a good scheme. We felt like we had a good option. They bring a lot of multiple blitzes and we just weren’t executing when it really matters,” Bethel-Thompson said. “There’s a couple really pivotal plays that were just the hair off and you know, you just got to do it.”

The Elks will now head out on the road for a Saturday night contest on June 22 in Toronto. It will be close to a month before the next game in Commonwealth with a July 14 game against the Ottawa RedBlacks.

GAMEDAY ESSENTIALS

GITTENS HIM THE BALL

One positive from the night is the chemistry between Kurleigh Gittens Jr. and McLeod Bethel-Thompson has certainly made its way to Edmonton from Toronto.

In the Home Opener, the duo connected nine times on 12 looks against Saskatchewan and the Elks QB kept looking Gittens Jr. Way in Game 2. In the first half alone Bethel-Thompson found the Canadian wideout for five catches and 83 yards, including a highlight reel snag along the sidelines for 29 yards.

The 26-year-old finished the game as the Elks leading receiver on the evening with 93 yards and looks like much of the same player who was named the East Division’s Most Outstanding Canadian in 2022. Through two games this season Gittens Jr. has cemented himself as Bethel-Thompsons favourite target with 21 passes his way in two games.

FORMER ELKS SHOW HORNS

It was a pair of ex-Elks that did the majority of the damage for Montreal.

The first was running back Walter Fletcher. With 33-seconds remaining in the fist half, the speedy back showed off his game breaking ability, taking a short Cody Fajardo pass and weaving his way down the field for a 46-yard touchdown reception.

The 27-year-old was also responsible for the dagger on the night, turning the corner late in the fourth quarter to bust a 39-yard rush for his second touchdown of the night. The scoring scamper put the Alouettes up 23-13 with 1:59 left in the contest, effectively pushing the game out of reach. The Edinboro product had a stellar performance on the evening, racking up 143-total yards with 82 coming on the ground on just 12 carries.

On defence, it was cornerback Nafees Lyon who got back at his former team. The 27-year-old recorded four tackles, but his biggest play of the night came when he undercut a deep attempt to Dillon Mitchell for his first interception of the season.

BY THE NUMBERS

  • Elks LB Nyles Morgan continues to rack up the tackles as a member of the Green and Gold. The five tackles collected by the Chicago product on Friday now give him 14 in just two games this season.
  • Lucheiz Purifoy had a solid return to the lineup, notching a tackle and two pass knockdowns.
  • Hergy Mayala continues to be a solid performer for the Green and Gold, catching six passes for 58 yards — plus four catches that moved the chains.
  • Robert Nkemdiche continues to be a solid addition in the middle of the defence, recording his second sack in as many games.

 

THEY SAID IT

McLeod Bethel-Thompson on if he feels a turnaround is close

“I don’t see how you watch this film and don’t see how talented we are. The defense played a winning performance tonight. We just got to get a couple more points on the board on offense and we can’t turn the ball over. We are a Ferrari. We’ve got to prove it, though. We got to take it from somebody and no one in this league is going to give it to us.”

Head Coach Chris Jones on if he saw some steps forward

“They’re a good football team, but there’s a lot of parity in this league. I think Saskatchewan that we played last week does a lot of really good things. People will call me crazy, we can play with every single football team or beat every single football team in this league. It’s just a matter of us playing our a game, and we’ve certainly not done that.”

Jones on the performance of the defence

“Too many big. Too many big plays. I mean, we had too many explosions last week versus Saskatchewan. Had too many explosions tonight. You can’t take two explosions a quarter and feel like you’re playing good defense. So we certainly have a long way.”