Tre Ford is returning to the scene of his first win as a CFL starting quarterback.
The 2021 Hec Crighton Trophy winner will make his second straight start and fifth overall Thursday night when the Edmonton Elks (0-9) visit the Hamilton Tiger-Cats (3-5).
Last year, the six-foot-one, 185-pound Niagara Falls, Ont., native rallied his team to a 29-25 victory at Tim Hortons Field in his first CFL start.
It’s been a rough go this season for Edmonton, which is riding a CFL-record 22-game home losing streak (dating back to ‘19). The Elks have dropped 13 straight overall, tying a club record.
And earlier this week, president Victor Cui and the Elks agreed to part ways.
Edmonton started strong last week, surging to a surprising 22-0 lead over Winnipeg, which also lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros (neck) in the process. But backup Dru Brown was an effective 17-of-24 passing for 307 yards and four touchdowns in rallying the Blue Bombers to a 38-29 victory.
Ford finished 12-of-16 passing for 189 yards with a TD and interception for Edmonton. He also ran five times for 50 yards and a touchdown.
This will mark the second matchup this season between these two teams. Last month, the Ticats scored 24 points over the second and third quarters en route to a 37-29 victory at Commonwealth Stadium.
Running back James Butler was a key figure for Hamilton. He ran for 127 yards and a TD on 14 carries while adding three receptions for 40 yards.
Veteran quarterback Matt Shiltz started for Hamilton before leaving in the third quarter with an injury. Rookie Taylor Powell came on in relief, completing two-of-four passes for 47 yards and a touchdown.
That could be significant, as Powell will make a third straight start for Hamilton with both Shiltz and incumbent Bo Levi Mitchell on the six-game injured list.
Butler could be a key figure again for Hamilton as senior assistant coach Scott Milanovich will handle play-calling duties Thursday. Last week, offensive co-ordinator Tommy Condell and the club mutually parted ways.
The move wasn’t surprising given Hamilton’s offensive struggles this season. The Ticats enter this week averaging just 17.8 offensive points per game and tied for the CFL lead in both turnovers (25) and interceptions (14).
Milanovich, who was the CFL’s coach of the year in 2012 after guiding Toronto to a Grey Cup title, is a firm believer in the importance of a running game. And with a rookie quarterback, the expectation is the establishment of the ground attack will be a focal point for Milanovich.
Hamilton is averaging a CFL-worst 76.1 yards rushing per game this season, but Edmonton’s defence is ranked last overall in offensive yards allowed (400.3) and rushing yards (144.1).
Then again, neither offence has been a juggernaut this season. Edmonton is ranked last overall in offensive points per game (13.4), with Hamilton standing eighth (17.8).
A plus for Ford, though, will be the return of receiver Geno Lewis (knee). The East Division’s outstanding player last season has only appeared in three games this season for Edmonton, registering 11 catches for 200 yards and a TD.
Edmonton’s quarterback in the first matchup with Hamilton was Taylor Cornelius. He had two interceptions in that contest, including a pick-six to Stavros Katsantonis.
Hamilton, which had last week off, has won six straight coming off the bye while CFL teams are 9-2 overall. Then again, the Ticats are 1-3 at Tim Hortons Field this year while Edmonton is 0-4 on the road.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers versus Calgary Stampeders (Friday night)
At Calgary, all eyes are on Winnipeg (7-2) regarding the status of veteran starter Collaros. He suffered an upper-body injury early in last week’s win over Edmonton and didn’t return. But Brown stepped in admirably in rallying the Bombers to the victory, which will only help him if he starts this game. The Stampeders (3-6) not only lost the first meeting 24-11 last month but are coming off a lopsided 37-9 road loss to B.C. They’re also just 1-3 at home this year and 1-4 within the West Division.
Montreal Alouettes versus Ottawa Redblacks (Saturday night)
At Ottawa, Dustin Crum comes off his best passing performance of the season for the Redblacks (3-5), completing 21-of-26 attempts for 292 yards and three TDs in Sunday’s 44-31 loss in Toronto. Montreal (5-3) is riding a three-game win streak and is 3-1 within the division compared to 0-4 for the home team, which has also dropped three straight. Veteran starter Cody Fajardo is again a game-time decision after missing last week’s 41-12 home victory over Saskatchewan with injuries.
B.C. Lions versus Saskatchewan Roughriders (Sunday night)
At Vancouver, the Lions (7-2) look to improve to 5-0 at B.C. Place after dispatching Calgary there last week. Vernon Adams Jr. completed 23-of-32 passes for 322 yards and four TDs after missing two weeks with a knee injury. The defence didn’t allow an offensive TD for the fifth time this season and fourth at home. That doesn’t bode well for Saskatchewan (4-5), which acquired veteran quarterback Antonio Pipkin from Hamilton this week after Mason Fine (hamstring) was hurt last week. If he can’t play, Jake Dolegala will likely start.
Last week: 4-0.