Winning ugly is just fine with rookie Taylor Cornelius and the Edmonton Elks.
Cornelius ran for a touchdown but threw three interceptions as Edmonton snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 13-7 win over the Toronto Argonauts on Tuesday night. Cornelius finished 15-of-32 passing for just 160 yards but registered his first career victory in his seventh start for the Elks (3-10).
“One of the uglier wins but we’ll take it at this point,” he said. “I definitely have to do a lot better job of protecting the football.
“But I’m just happy with the win at this point and getting that first one under our belt.”
At times, the game certainly had the feel of an exhibition contest given the sloppy play. But Edmonton earned its first win since a 32-20 decision over the Calgary Stampeders on Sept. 6 and was coming off a 29-24 road loss Saturday to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
“I’m just really happy for our guys,” Elks head coach Jaime Elizondo said. “It wasn’t pretty but it was a team win and given the fact they hung tough and just kept fighting.
“You could see the fatigue at times, the way it shows up is always with missed tackles and dropped balls and we had a few of those. But (it’s good) just to get that winning feeling back in the lockerroom. If you want to become a winning team you have to figure out how to win the close ones and we took a step in that direction.”
The contest was originally scheduled for Aug. 26 but was postponed due to COVID-19 issues and rescheduled for Tuesday night. It attracted an announced gathering of 6,247 at BMO Field on a night when the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted the Nashville Predators and Canada faced Mexico in a men’s World Cup qualifying soccer contest in Edmonton.
The Elks earned a fourth straight win over Toronto and fifth in six meetings. But they won’t have much time to enjoy it as Edmonton completes its season Friday night visiting the B.C. Lions.
“Short flight, quick one,” Elizondo said, tongue firmly in cheek. “I told them (Elks players), ‘We have one more shot to get this feeling again. Let’s have some fun doing it.’
“That’s where we’re at at this point.”
Toronto (9-5) suffered its first home defeat (6-1) and had a three-game win streak halted. But the Argos had already cemented top spot in the East Division so most of their veterans, including starter McLeod Bethel-Thompson, didn’t play.
Antonio Pipkin made his first start of the year for Toronto. He completed 10-of-22 passes for 111 yards with an interception before giving way to rookie Cole McDonald in the fourth. Pipkin also ran nine times for 78 yards and a TD.
McDonald completed four-of-eight passes for 45 yards with an interception.
“No doubt, we wanted to stay healthy,” Toronto head coach Ryan Dinwiddie said. “Unfortunately we couldn’t rest everybody so you have to dress some guys and play some guys, we knew that’s what we had to do.
“But we had some guys we wanted to evaluate and so we threw out some younger guys on offence… we got both quarterbacks some reps. We did some good things but at the end of the day we didn’t do enough to win.”
Kicker Boris Bede didn’t dress so Japanese rookie Toshiki Sato handled kicking duties for Toronto. Three times the Argos were called for an illegal kick following Sato punts but his 60-yard boot at 2:39 of the fourth cut Edmonton’s lead to 10-7.
Toronto is now off until Dec. 5 when it will host either the Montreal Alouettes or Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East Division final.
Sean Whyte booted two field goals and a convert for Edmonton.
Thomas Costigan helped Edmonton take a 10-6 lead into halftime. Costigan sacked Pipkin for an 11-yard loss on third-and-five from the Edmonton 14-yard line at 14:47 of the second, ending Toronto’s 13-play, 70-yard march.
Earlier on the drive, Toronto went for it on third-and-7. Pipkin found Damion Jeanpiere on an 11-yard completion to the Edmonton 19-yard line.
Whyte’s 22-yard field goal at 3:59 of the second put Edmonton ahead 10-6 lead. It came after Toronto was penalized for an illegal kick following Sato’s nine-yard punt, giving the Elks possession at their own 40-yard line.
Cornelius put Edmonton ahead 7-6 on an 18-yard TD run at 6:03.
Pipkin opened the scoring with a two-yard TD run at 3:15. It was set up by Robertson Daniel’s 40-interception return to the Edmonton 17-yard line but Sato missed the convert as Pipkin appeared to have trouble with the hold.