July 28, 2023

Game Preview | Lions At Elks

It’s familiar territory for both Dane Evans and the BC Lions (5-1-0) as they prepare to battle the Edmonton Elks (0-7-0) on Saturday evening at Commonwealth Stadium (4:00 PM/TSN/AM730).

Once the hired gun for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when Jeremiah Masoli battled injuries in 2019 and 2021, Evans knows his role with Vernon Adams Jr. reduced to a backup role after avoiding a major injury to his left knee in the win over Saskatchewan. The squad as elected to go with Evans for at least one week after making the wise decision to acquire the experienced pivot in an off-season trade. That move has not paid dividends and Evans looks forward to the challenge.

“It’s been fun to kind of progress throughout the week during the game- planning with Jordan (Maksymic) and their coaches,” said Evans after the club’s final full practice before departing to the Alberta capital.

“He takes a lot of my input and he has a lot of good ideas too. And it’s cool to move the pieces around and put guys in different spots. So yeah, we’re ready to make it happen.”

Evans’ stock on the trade market was thanks in large part to leading the Tiger-Cats to a 15-3 record in 2019 and a Grey Cup appearance against Winnipeg. He also played a big role in helping Hamilton get back to the big game in 2021. Just like in Steel Town, Evans is fortunate to have a solid group of playmakers around him, even with Dominique Rhymes missing this one due to a lingering knee problem. Justin McInnis will take his spot in the starting lineup.

“I’ve never been anywhere where we had depth like this,” stated Evans.

“It’s pretty unique, pretty special to have guys that can just step in and there’s no drop in play at any position. So to be able to do that and keep this train rolling, I think it’s huge. And it is a testament to those guys that want to have to step up their character and their professionalism ready to go. That’s what pro football’s about.”

Evans and the Lions are also approaching this one the correct way. Whether they like it or not, a big storyline continues to be the Elks struggles to win games, especially at home where they have dropped 20 straight dating back to the end of 2019. The facts are also this: Edmonton has played several of those opponents tough including their opener against Saskatchewan where the difference was their inability to punch in a major from the one-yard line.

As everyone saw in their most recent meeting, the Elks have an aggressive defence capable of disrupting the opponent’s rhythm on any given series.

“They have a fantastic front seven. On the back end, they just some things that can confuse you. So it’s going to be a good game,” explained Evans.

“I do understand the storylines, I get it, but that’s just not been our mindset and we’re not walking down that road,” said head coach Rick Campbell.

“We’re playing a tough Western opponent. They played Winnipeg tough last week, in Winnipeg. The good news is I don’t have to do a big sell job to our team. All they have to do is throw on the game film and watch it. They’ve got a lot of good players and we’re going to have to play really well to beat these guys. That’s going to be our focus this week, not their record.”

Added Evans: “Everyone’s fully aware of their streak and everything, but we just want to be us. We’re going in there with a nameless and faceless opponent. We just want to go in there and be the best offence that we can be and whoever we’re playing, the preparation remains the same.”

Four Lions To Watch

QB Dane Evans #17- with a full week of practice leading the starters under his belt, expect a bit more consistency from Evans who isn’t far removed from helping lead the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to back-to-back Grey Cup appearances.

WR Alexander Hollins #13– on pace to crack the 1,000-yard mark, Hollins emerged as an early-season favourite target for Adams. We shall see if he develops similar chemistry with Evans behind centre.

DB Quincy Mauger #36- the hard-hitting safety has shown no signs of letting his starting roster spot slip which is what happened as a rookie due to injury. The Georgia Bulldogs product has been a major cog in the secondary’s wheel.

DL Woody Baron #58– we spoke in recent weeks about the interior of the defensive line quietly going about their business. Baron has been a huge part of that with a pair of sacks in the win over Saskatchewan.

Extra Yardage

Taquan Mizzell returns to the backfield in place of Shaun Shivers. ‘Smoke’ last suited up in the week four loss at Toronto before dealing with a knee injury. Kienan LaFrance will get this week off with fellow National Daniel Petermann getting back into the lineup.

Rhymes’ omission results in linebacker Brooks Parker coming back on in a special teams role. Evans and Taylor Cornelius represent the fifth new quarterback matchup in as many meetings between these two teams. The last four are as follows: Adams vs. Cornelius, Adams vs. Tre Ford, Nathan Rourke vs. Cornelius and Rourke vs. Nick Arbuckle.

Hat tip to the specialists through six games: Sean Whyte’s 16 field goals trailed only Ottawa’s Lewis Ward for the CFL lead entering this week. Stefan Flintoft averaged 49.6 yards per punt last week with his longest going for 64 yards.

Divisional Dominance: for the first time since 2005, the Lions have won their first four games against Western rivals. In this case, they have beaten each of them once with Edmonton being the first they will see for a second time.

Betts watch: with ten sacks in six games, Mathieu Betts is on pace to shatter Brent Johnson’s Canadian record of 17 set in the 2005 season. Johnson had seven sacks in the Lions’ first six games that season.

Looking back at the 22-0 shutout over Edmonton in week two, the Lions also recorded 23 first downs compared to just ten for the Elks and had a 36-minute to 24 advantage on time of possession.

Offensive comparisons: through seven weeks the Lions are averaging 431 net yards per contest with the Elks averaging 151. Ball control and extending drives will be a major key for Evans and company.

Matt Baker: