Saturday, June 25, 2022
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Preview: Cornelius makes first start as Edmonton hosts Winnipeg

EDMONTON — The league-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers travel to Edmonton to take on the Elks at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.

 

With a record of 5-1 on the season, the Bombers have arguably been the best team in the CFL. After handing the Saskatchewan Roughriders, their biggest threat in the West, a pair of losses, there seems to be no stopping them.

 

However, the Edmonton Elks, who will be without Trevor Harris after he was moved to the six-game injured list, will be looking to change that trend this week. In his place will be former XFL Tampa Bay Vipers’ starting quarterback Taylor Cornelius.

 

Cornelius, 26, spent for seasons with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. During his time there, the Amarillo, TX., native completed 59.4 per cent of his passes for 3,978 yards and 32 touchdowns in his senior season while an additional 10 touchdowns on the ground saw him tie OSU legend, Barry Sanders, for the second-most in program history.

 

 

Following his collegiate career, Cornelius spent time with the Green Bay Packers before finding a home with the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers. There he played for then offensive coordinator Jaime Elizondo, who spoke highly of Cornelius ahead of his first CFL start.

 

“Obviously he has a cannon of an arm,” said Elizondo. “He can stick a throw into tight windows, he’s accurate. I think his composure and his toughness is very even-keeled. The kid’s played in some big-time environments, went down to Texas where he was the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State and won that game.”

 

While he won’t be on the field Saturday, Harris’ presence in the Elks quarterback room is still there and has played a role in Cornelius’ preparation ahead of the game, giving him advice with his first start looming.

 

“Trevor’s been awesome,” said Cornelius. “He’s helped me prepare this week more so than I ever could have asked for.”

 

One area the Elks look to sure up this week, especially when breaking in a new quarterback, is their ability to prevent sacks. Having given up seven against the Calgary Stampeders just a week ago, Greg Ellingson feels that there are certain things that they can do to ensure that the pocket isn’t collapsing as fast, giving time for throws to be made.

 

“As receivers, it’s our part to be fundamentally sound, we have to make sure we’re in our right assignments, we have to be in our right splits, have the right depth on our routes because it’s precision football,” said Ellingson. “If we have a certain route that we need to change because they’re bringing pressure then we have to do that to make sure we’re on time with the quarterback.”

 

In Winnipeg, the news of Harris’ injury and Cornelius’ start hasn’t altered the course of preparation established earlier in the week for Mike O’Shea’s squad.

 

“Our guys are prepared to play our system and execute our plays against an Elks’ system that shows up through their first bunch of games,” said O’Shea. “We imagine like in any system, the next guy up is quite prepared to run it, they expect him, whoever gets in there to them help win a football game by executing their system.”

 

Similar to O’Shea, Alden Darby believes that who starts at quarterback is irrelevant in the thinking process leading up to Saturday.

 

“They’re still a well-coached team, still have great athletes on all sides of the ball,” said Darby. “We still want to go out there and play ball no matter who lines up. Whoever lines up, we’re going to play ball as if it was Trevor Harris.”

 

Having yet to play the Elks this season, the Bombers are eagerly looking forward to what could be a defensive showdown especially with the addition of former Roughrider and CFL All-Star, Derrick Moncrief who joined the Elks a week ago.

 

“He’s been an All-Star at that spot so we’ll know where he is,” said O’Shea. “Like all good players on your opposition, your team is aware of what they bring to the game and some of the nuances they bring.”

 

With Edmonton’s defence being able to generate big plays much like Winnipeg’s, Zach Collaros knows what it’ll take to play against a unit that just got better.

 

“Crief’s [Moncrief] a great player so we’ll have to be ready however they decide to utilize him,” said Collaros. “Upfront is where it really starts there in Edmonton, they got a really great front four. They get after the passer, they’re very very physical so we’ll have our hands full…they’re a very very good opponent.”

 

Kickoff is set for 9:45 p.m. ET on Saturday night and can be watched on TSN and ESPN+ or followed along on CFL.ca’s Game Tracker.

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