Roughriders can’t stop Elks’ ground game in 36-27 loss on Friday night

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post Saskatchewan Roughriders head coach Craig Dickenson.

Taylor Shire

Regina Leader-Post

The Saskatchewan Roughriders had no answer for the Edmonton Elks rushing attack on Friday night, as the Elks beat the Riders 36-27 in Week 15 of the CFL season. 

Elks’ running back Kevin Brown had a career-high and CFL season-high 175 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Elks’ quarterback Tre Ford added 70 rushing yards himself, along with 173 passing yards. 

And while Riders’ quarterback Jake Dolegala threw three touchdown passes in front of 25,304 fans at Mosaic Stadium, it wasn’t enough as the Riders dropped to 6-7 on the season, while Edmonton improved to 4-10. 

“We knew (Ford) was fast, we knew he was shifty,” said Riders’ linebacker Derrick Moncrief, who had seven tackles. “He made a lot of plays with his legs tonight and as the coverages broke down, he was able to escape the pocket. 

“We just didn’t tackle well. Going forward, we have to fix that if we want to do what we want to do, we’ve got to be able to stop the run because it’s about to be playoff football.” 

As a team, Edmonton put up 265 rushing yards and 437 yards of total offence, compared to 317 net yards by the Riders.

“We didn’t do our job on those plays,” said Riders’ defensive lineman Micah Johnson, who had one tackle and one sack “He’s extremely fast and we know that. We talked about it all week and still too many times we gave up contain and lost contain and we knew we were supposed to have contain. 

“I just think it’s a lot of looking in the mirror and guys got to do better.” 

The combination of Brown, who averaged 9.2 yards per carry, and Ford caused the Riders problems all game. And while the Saskatchewan defenders knew the potential of the duo heading into the game, they were outmatched all night.

“It’s just little things that we need to get better at,” said Riders’ linebacker Micah Teitz, who had three tackles. “You don’t realize how fast (Ford) is until you’re out there playing him. 

“Just him just getting outside and then nobody setting it back in, that was our issue.

“It was just very frustrating.” 

After the Riders opened the scoring on a 26-yard Brett Lauther field goal, the teams traded interceptions before Dolegala connected with Shawn Bane Jr. for a 13-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter as Saskatchewan took a 10-0 lead.

The Elks trimmed the lead to 10-7 with a trick play, as short-yardage quarterback Taylor Cornelius faked a QB sneak, before dropping back and throwing to defensive end A.C. Leonard in the end zone. 

After that, the teams traded field goals as the Riders took the 13-10 lead into the half. 

The Elks tied the game early in the second half, before the Riders took a 20-13 lead after Dolegala hit Tevin Jones for the 26-yard touchdown pass. 

But then Edmonton marched right back with a 35-yard rushing touchdown by Brown to tie the game at 20. 

After the Riders used a very similar trick play with short-yardage QB Antonio Pipkin faking a sneak and throwing to running back Jamal Morrow for a 57-yard gain, Dolegala and Bane Jr. connected for their second touchdown of the night, as the Riders went up 27-20. 

However, a quick response by Ford, who threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to receiver Eugene Lewis, tied the game once again. 

From there, the Riders offence didn’t have an answer, while the Elks took their first lead of the night as Ford rushed into the end zone from 10 yards out, giving Edmonton a 34-27 lead. 

Then with two minutes to go, the Riders needed to put together a long drive starting from their own four-yard line to tie the game. 

But Dolegala was sacked in the end zone as the Riders gave up the safety, handing Edmonton two points and the ball back, which essentially ended the game. 

“They had a good rush on,” said Dolegala. “I was trying to step up. You’re obviously thinking, especially for me, thinking about the goalposts because you’re working the field so that has a little 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, just do something different than that.” 

It was the first time all season that the Riders lost a game they were leading after three quarters. 

“We stalled,” said Dolegala, who completed 20-of-34 passes for 213 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. “A lot of it comes down to a little bit inaccuracy on my end.  

“They were just playing real soft and not allowing us to take any shots.” 

It’s the second straight loss for the Green and White, who were blown out by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 51-6 last week in the Banjo Bowl

This one — equally deflating if not more.

“It feels worse than last week,” said Dolegala. “Just because how close it was and we know we can beat that team.

“We’ve got to flush it and move on. We’re still in this thing.” 

The Riders will now get set to head on the road and travel to the nation’s capital to take on the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday night (5 p.m., TSN) in Week 16 of the CFL season.

It also might be “next man up” for Saskatchewan, as four players went down with injury on Friday night including defensive linemen Anthony Lanier II, Miles Brown, Nic Dheilly, along with linebacker Justin Herdman-Reed. 

But the head coach believes his team is willing to put in the work to bounce back from the crushing defeat. 

“That was a tough loss,” said Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson. “I challenged the men in that room, and I challenged the coaches as well. 

“We all want to win. Let’s see who’s willing to work. Who’s willing to put in the work to get better. And that goes for all of us. We’ve got a lot of capable guys, now we’ve got to see who’s willing to put the work in to make it happen.”