Thursday, January 26, 2023
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Game Recap: Riders defeat Elks for 3rd straight road win

EDMONTON — The Saskatchewan Roughriders held on for their third straight road victory with a 19-17 win over the Edmonton Elks on Friday night at Commonwealth Stadium.

The playoff-bound Riders improved to 8-4 with their fourth road win this season, while the Elks (2-9) fell just short in their last opportunity to claim a home victory in 2021.

Rookie Elks quarterback Taylor Cornelius passed for 322 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Danny Vandervoort, including one with just over a minute remaining. The Elks outscored the Riders 14-3 in the fourth quarter but were unable to complete the comeback.

Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo completed 24-of-33 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown while also adding 44 rushing yards.

Riders kicker Brett Lauther was perfect on all four field goal attempts, while Sean Whyte finished with one field goal for Edmonton.

A.C. Leonard notched a pair of sacks and Jonathan Woodard added a third for Saskatchewan.

Edmonton linebacker Derrick Moncrief finished the game with three sacks.

Fajardo’s opening pass of the game was intercepted by Edmonton defensive back Nafees Lyon, and the Elks proceeded to build further momentum on offence with a 12-play, 87-yard drive.

Walter Fletcher moved the ball into Saskatchewan territory with a 29-yard run, and Cornelius completed four straight passes to set the Elks up in scoring position at the eight-yard line. But the Riders came up with a big defensive stop to keep the ball out of the end zone, forcing Edmonton to settle for a 15-yard field goal by Whyte.

The Riders responded with a 27-yard field goal by Lauther in the second quarter that was set up with back-to-back catches by Shaq Evans. The Riders claimed a narrow lead later in the quarter when a 53-yard punt by Saskatchewan’s Kaare Vedvik was downed by Edmonton in the end zone to concede a single.

Leonard brought down Cornelius for his eighth sack of the season to force a punt late in the quarter, and the Riders’ offence capitalized on the ensuing drive.

Fajardo launched a deep ball down the right side of the field to Duke Williams for a 38-yard gain, and he followed it up two plays later by hitting Brayden Lenius on a slant route for a 22-yard touchdown. Lauther’s extra point attempt went wide, leaving Saskatchewan with a 10-3 lead.

Cornelius engineered another strong drive just before halftime, but Whyte’s 49-yard field goal attempt fell short and was returned by Rashard Davis as time expired.

The Riders had to settle for a 13-yard field goal by Lauther early in the third quarter after a promising drive stalled just short of the end zone. Fajardo used his arm and legs to move the ball down the field  — including a 22-yard run to convert a second down.

Fajardo nearly capped the drive off with a touchdown pass to Kian Schaffer-Baker, but the receiver was unable to secure the catch and the Riders made an unsuccessful challenge for defensive pass interference. Lauther added a 29-yard field goal later in the quarter that Schaffer-Baker set up with a 15-yard catch-and-run.

Lauther booted a 46-yard field goal through the uprights to further extend the lead in the fourth quarter. But Cornelius gave the Elks a jolt of life on their next possession by completing four passes on four plays, with the final throw going to Vandervoort for a 26-yard touchdown — his first in the CFL.

Fletcher’s ensuing two-point conversion attempt was stuffed on the ground, leaving the Elks trailing 19-9.

Cornelius led another touchdown drive in the game’s final minutes that saw him complete five straight passes with the game on the line. Cornelius connected with Jalen Tolliver for a 40-yard gain, and he finished the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass to Vandervoort.

The Elks found success on the two-point conversion with backup quarterback Dakota Prukop bringing it across the goal line on the QB sneak — cutting Saskatchewan’s lead down to just two points.

But the Elks’ onside kick attempt was secured by Williams, and Fajardo sealed the win with a 10-yard pass to Evans that allowed Saskatchewan to kill the clock.

Saskatchewan and Edmonton will meet again in Week 15, with the Roughriders hosting the Elks next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

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