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Riders 29 – Elks 21: View from the booth

The stories behind the score from the Elks and Roughriders.
Riders @ Edmonton June 8/2024

The Saskatchewan Roughriders scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter on Saturday afternoon in Edmonton to pick up their first win of 2024.

The weather was a challenge for both teams at Commonwealth Stadium. The kick-off temperature of 8 degrees was compounded by on-and-off heavy first half rains and a Northwest wind that swirled around the stadium.

The first half seemed to be a feeling-out process with numerous execution errors on both sides of the ball for both teams. For the Saskatchewan Roughriders, a penalty-plagued first half gave the Elks second chances on offence and took some big special teams plays off the board.

Half time was part of the Elks 75th Anniversary celebration. Some of the biggest stars in Edmonton franchise history were on hand to celebrate. Micheal Reilly, Damon Allen, Matt Dunigan, and Warren Moon were all introduced. The biggest ovation, however, was for Henry “Gizmo” Williams.

Seeing some of the biggest names in CFL history made me think of the Andy Bernard quote from, “The Office.” “I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” For a franchise like the Elks/Eskimos which was such a perennial powerhouse with all of those superstars, those dominant days must seem like an eternity ago.

The second half started with a curious decision. Edmonton won the opening coin toss and decided to defer. So, coming out of halftime the Elks had their pick of the ball or the end they wanted to defend (or when they wanted the wind at their back). Edmonton, who was leading 11-7 chose to take the ball allowing the Riders to select the wind at their back in the fourth quarter.

With the wind at their back, the Elks could only put 7 points on the board, extending their lead to 18-8. Of note in the third quarter, however, was Trevor Harris’ interception pass. The pass attempt to a streaking Shawn Bane Jr. on a post route looked to catch the wind and hang up allowing the Elks defender to swoop under the route for the interception. Harris post-game would say that “I babied the throw.” This may also have been the case but from my viewpoint, the wind seemed to be a factor in the toss.

In the fourth quarter the Elks would cap an early drive with a Boris Bede 30-yard field goal to extend their lead to 21-8. Cue the comeback where a series of miscues would allow the Riders to score 21 unanswered points to score the victory.

The Elks’ penchant for turning the ball over in the final 12 minutes of the game (3 times) were all game-altering plays. However, one moment that may have gone unnoticed was Boris Bede lining up a 48-yard field goal into the wind. A successful kick would have swayed momentum back into Edmonton’s favor. However, the kick didn’t even make the goal line off of Bede’s often-talked-about strong leg. The miss allowed Mario Alford to pick up the ball and return it near midfield to keep momentum on the Riders side.

How big of a factor was the wind and the choice not to have it in the fourth quarter? Time won’t tell but it is worth consideration.

The Riders, although a little stumble with a fumble in the waning moments, were able to hand on for a win.

The play of the game, however, was a 2nd and 8 pass from Trevor Harris to Shawn Bane Junior for a 33-yard major. The call, a gusty one, with 1:10 left had everyone anticipating a run play from Offensive Coordinator Marc Mueller to try to run out the clock. However, Mueller dialed up the quick throw down the sideline from Harris with the Elks in a full blitz. The result was a touchdown, essentially sealing the Elks fate.

The Riders are off until Sunday when they head to Hamilton to take on the 0-1 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.