Tre Ford has the Edmonton Elks on another home streak.
Edmonton (4-10) will chase a third consecutive victory at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday night when it plays host to the B.C. Lions (9-4). The Elks are 4-2 since Ford, of Niagara Falls, Ont., became the starting quarterback, but those wins have come over the club’s last five contests.
Ford helped Edmonton snap a dubious 22-game home losing streak last month with a 30-20 victory over the Ottawa Redblacks. The Elks then added a 25-23 decision over Calgary at Commonwealth Stadium on Sept. 9.
Ford, Canadian University’s top player in 2021 while at Waterloo, gives opposing defences two concerns. Since becoming the starter, Ford has completed 81-of-117 passes (69.2 per cent) for 1,163 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions, registering a career-best 317 yards in the victory over Ottawa.
But the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Ford, Edmonton’s 2022 first-round pick, has also rushed for 471 yards and three TDs in 47 carries, over that span. And the 25-year-old quarterback has helped rally the Elks to comeback wins over Calgary and Saskatchewan in their past two games.
Ford hasn’t done it alone.
Running back Kevin Brown has run for 662 yards on 86 carries (7.7-yard average) with three TDs over Edmonton’s past six games. He has been especially dominant on the ground the last two contests, rushing for 143 and 175 yards, respectively.
That’s also a testament to the play of Edmonton’s offensive line, and the Elks’ resolve whenever they do fall behind. And when Ford takes to the air, a healthy Eugene Lewis – the East Division’s outstanding player last season – anchors a solid receiving corps.
But B.C. (9-4) will again present a solid challenge. The Lions have not only won the two previous meetings with the Elks to clinch the season series, both victories have been shutouts (22-0 at B.C. Place on June 17, 27-0 at Commonwealth on July 29).
The Lions are also coming off an emotional 41-37 home win over Ottawa, rallying from a 19-point deficit. That victory was B.C. head coach Rick Campbell’s 70th, the same number his father, Hugh, amassed during his illustrious CFL career.
Edmonton has the CFL’s top rushing attack (133.4 yards a game) but is ranked a distant eighth in passing (209.8 yards a game). So the onus will be on B.C. to limit the Elks’ ground game and put them in second-and-long passing situations, something that’s been easier said than done with the elusive Ford under centre.
But Ford has thrown for more than 200 yards just once in his six starts, and the Lions have the CFL’s third-ranked pass defence (239.5 yards a game).
B.C. can secure a CFL playoff spot with a win but would also do so with a loss if Montreal dispatched Calgary this week.
The Lions have also won six straight games versus the Elks. Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. has thrown for 300 or more yards in five consecutive contests, having compiled 1,732 yards and 14 TDs in that span.
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Ottawa Redblacks (Friday night)
At Ottawa, the Redblacks (3-10), who’ve lost seven straight, will be without veteran kicker Lewis Ward (season-ending torn pectoral muscle). Last week’s defeat in B.C. has been the story of Ottawa’s season as five of those seven losses have been by four or fewer points. Saskatchewan (6-7) allowed 265 rushing yards last week against Edmonton and faces an offence that’s third overall in that category (131.3 yards a game) and features a mobile quarterback (Dustin Crum).
Montreal Alouettes at Calgary Stampeders (Saturday afternoon)
At Calgary, the Stampeders (4-9) are coming off a bye. CFL teams are 12-4 following the break and 10-3 at home. That’s not good news for Montreal (6-7), which has dropped four straight and is playing for a ninth consecutive week. The Alouettes are also 2-4 versus the West Division and lost 23-20 at home last week to Toronto after David Cote’s late game-tying field goal try was blocked. Then again, the Stamps are just 2-4 at McMahon Stadium and 2-3 facing East Division opponents.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto Argonauts (Saturday night)
At Toronto, an intriguing matchup as the Argos (11-1) have won five straight and cemented not only the season series (3-0) but first in the East Division. What’s worth watching now is how the defending Grey Cup champs manage their final six regular-season games. Hamilton (6-7) is in a battle for third with Montreal and has won two straight. Rookie Taylor Powell is 0-2 versus Toronto but 3-1 in his last four starts, passing for 1,080 yards and eight TDs while rushing for 79 yards.
Last week: 2-2.