Edmonton Elks give up 21-3 lead and 32 unanswered points to Alouettes

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The Edmonton Elks are the last ones needing to plan a parade this season.

But it rained on theirs anyway on Saturday, in the form of 32 unanswered points.

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In fact, in an entirely saturated season of rain that’s already seen them eliminated from playoff contention, it all-out poured — proverbially, that is — in a 35-21 loss to the Montreal Alouettes in front of 22,822 at Commonwealth Stadium, where the home side coughed up an early 21-3 lead and would not score again.

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In a span of 3:21 to follow, the Alouettes answered back with 23 straight points to take a 26-21 lead into halftime and never look back on their way to sitting 10-7 and ensuring themselves a winning record, while, more importantly, securing a home playoff date.

“It’s the same thing. Same song, about eighth verse this year,” said Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones. “Where you jump out and you play some good football at times, and then you turn around and play a quarter and a half to two quarters of bad football, which results in a loss.

“So, yeah, I’m pretty frustrated right now.”

And after extending their winning streak to four games, the Alouettes are the hottest team down the playoff stretch. Edmonton dropped their third game in a row to fall to 4-13, with their season finale set for Saturday in Winnipeg (5 p.m., TSN, 630 CHED).

Cody Fajardo completed 23 of 29 passes for 258 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while James Letcher Jr. returned a missed field goal 125 yards for a touchdown, and defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson scored on a fumble recovery.

Tre Ford completed 21 of 30 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns, while adding 47 yards on five carries in the loss.

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Edmonton got up early with touchdowns on three of their first four possessions, beginning with a 13-yard reception by Kyran Moore for a seven-play, 64-yard drive that took 3:32.

After a 50-yard field goal by Montreal’s Jose Maltos, the Elks added another touchdown on second-and-one, which short-yardage quarterback Taylor Cornelius extended into a six-yard sweep to cap a seven-play, 67-yard drive in 2:58.

Another touchdown reception by Moore, this one for 18 yards to polish off an eight-play, 58-yard drive that took 4:24, put Edmonton ahead 21-3, before Montreal strung together 23 straight points.

Fajardo hit Tyson Philpot for Montreal’s first touchdown of the day, an eight-yarder to trail 21-10.

But the very next offensive snap showed the Elks are far from having cured their woes when it comes to finding new and inventive ways to lose. It ended in a strip sack on Ford by none other than Edmonton product Lwal Uguak, which put the ball on the turf to be scooped up by fellow Alouettes defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson.

He trundled 38 yards into the end zone with the diminutive Elks quarterback clinging on from behind, piggyback style, to trail 21-17. Montreal would then pull within one point of Edmonton’s lead with a 24-yard field goal.

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“They definitely got a lot of momentum from the strip-sack, it put them back in it,” said Ford, who is 4-5 since taking over the starting role this season. “They’re a good football team, they can come back from anybody. Definitely, that play was unfortunate, put us behind and gave them a little head start.

“And they had all the momentum from that point, I feel like. And we were just never able to come back and execute.”

But the collapse wasn’t quite complete there.

The Elks lined up for a field goal of their own, only to see Dean Faithfull miss from 41 yards out. Letcher took his cue to return the missed kick 125 yards the other way, weaving in and out of Elks would-be tacklers to see Montreal take their first lead of the day, 26-23, into halftime.

They added to it with a 36-yard field goal to open third-quarter scoring to go ahead 29-21, and close it with a 33-yarder to take a 32-21 lead into the final frame.

With Montreal driving deep, Edmonton got a breath of life in the form of a 25-yard penalty against Montreal left guard Pier-Olivier Lestage for spitting, before an interception by safety Marloshawn Franklin Jr. gave them the ball at their 49 yard-line.

It was short-lived, however, as the Elks failed to capture any momentum since the strip-sack touchdown in the second quarter, which took any remaining wind they might have had out of their sails.

Montreal added one final field goal, a 16-yard chip shot with 97 seconds left, to push their lead to 14 points.

E-mail: [email protected]

On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge

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