Edmonton Elks look to avoid setting CFL futility record against visiting Alouettes

Edmonton Elks' Treston Decoud tackles Montreal Alouettes' Jake Wieneke during first half CFL action in Montreal on Thursday, July 14, 2022. (Peter McCabe/CP)

Maybe the Edmonton Elks should wear their road whites when they take the field Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. 

Maybe they should ask their fans to leave the green and gold gear at home and come to the stadium disguised as Alouettes fans — in red, white and blue gear.

The Elks (4-10) enter Saturday’s game against the Als (6-7) on a 14-game home losing streak that dates back to the autumn of 2019. Lose number 15, and the Elks set a new CFL record for futility at home.

This season, the Elks are 0-6 at Commonwealth, but a respectable 4-4 on the road. 

The question: Why is this Elks team so much better on the road than at home? And, will they do anything to change their home game-day routine when the Als come to town?

“I’m not much on that kind of stuff, it’s pro football,” said Elks general manager and head coach Chris Jones. “But, at the same time, we’ve tried to think of things to change the daily schedule. But, a lot of things, our hands are tied because of the players’ association. There are certain things we can and can’t do on a game day or the day before the game to change the routine.

“Certainly, we’ve tried to mimic some of our away tendencies with things that we do, as far as meetings and things like that. So, we’re going to show up and play solid, hard football. And, hopefully, we can do enough to win the football game.”

The Elks are coming off a bye, but two weeks ago went on the road and won in Saskatchewan. The fact that they’re passable on the road makes their home woes all that more … odd. And it befuddles Jones.

“We’ve won four ball games on the road, at tough places to play, on short weeks. This group doesn’t mind working, and it’s just a matter of putting together enough good things out there on the field, on game day, here at home.”

And it’s not the green jerseys, either. The Elks won a road game this season wearing their traditional home jerseys, when Ottawa decided to switch it up and wear white at home.

“We wore the green at Ottawa and we won,” said lineman Jake Ceresna, who has eight sacks in eight games this season. “We can win in the greens.

“It’s a weird thing that we haven’t been able to win at home for a little bit. I’m just going to do what I always do. I do the same thing on the road or at home. I’ll just keep doing what I do and show up ready to play football and give our team the best chance to win.”

One of the major factors in the Elks’ road win over the Riders was the rapid development of running back Kevin Brown. In just three CFL games, he’s gone off for 245 rushing yards. He rushed for 109 in Saskatchewan and has been a revelation for an Elks team that had struggled to run the ball for most of the season.

“I have speed, I am agile, and I just don’t like to go down,” Brown said.

And while he’s new to the league, he’s well aware of the Elks’ historical home losing streak. 

“It’s not really unheard of, there’s teams like that back in the States,” said Brown. “But it’s a case of needing to get the pieces in the right places. Just like a flower, it takes a process for it to grow.”

On the other side, there is a pressure that comes with not being the team that finally allows the Elks to break their home-game goose egg.

“Hopefully, they can postpone by another week and let us get in and out of town,” said Alouettes coach Danny Maciocia, who coached Edmonton to a Grey Cup back in 2005. “Hopefully, we can come out of it with a win. But they’re a good football team. Don’t let their record fool you.”

Maciocia said that if the Elks can clean up their special teams play, which has dragged the team down in more than a few of those home losses, it will be a “hotly contested game” on Saturday,

According to the depth chart released Friday, the Elks will have receiver Kenny Lawler back in the fold after a six-week absence due to an ankle injury. Lawler led the league with 1,014 yards receiving in 2021. He won’t be at 100 per cent, but if he’s good enough to go, he will force defences to alter their coverages, and leave other targets open for quarterback Taylor Cornelius.

“Our people wouldn’t put him out there if they didn’t feel he could play, and play at a high level,” said Jones. 

The Als also had a star return to practice this week: Running back William Stanback, who had been out since Week 1. He racked up 1,176 yards last season, but, despite returning to practice this past week, won’t play in Edmonton — he’s still listed as injured on the team’s depth chart. 

The Als are coming off a 23-16 win over Hamilton, in which former Elks quarterback Trevor Harris threw for 244 yards. It will be Harris’s first visit to Edmonton since the team traded him away last season — but he downplayed the significance of the return game. After all, the Elks have changed management since the Harris deal, and a lot of the roster has turned over.

“To say I have this nostalgia or anything would be a lie,” said Harris. “I will always remember what happened, but that regime is gone.”

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