Alouettes score 32 unanswered points to down Elks

The Alouettes may not have had anything to play for on Saturday afternoon in Edmonton, but they didn’t show any quit in their 35-21 win.

The Als found themselves down 21-3 with under four minutes remaining in the second quarter, but they managed to score three touchdowns and a field goal in the final 3:30 of the frame. They went into the break with a 26-21 advantage, and they never gave the lead up.

Jason Maas’ squad has now won four games in a row. They’ll head into their final bye week of 2023 with a 10-8 record.

The fastest three minutes:

This game changed in the final few minutes of the second quarter. The Als were down by 18 points at that point, and they were facing a third-and-two deep in Edmonton territory. Instead of kicking the field, the offence stayed on the field. Quarterback Cody Fajardo hit Cole Spieker for a healthy gain, which moved the chains for the Als. Tyson Philpot found the end zone with 3:31 remaining in the half.

Most people won’t remember that play on third down, but it was a key moment in the game. It helped the Als score their first major of the night and it allowed them to get momentum for the first time.

“The drive before, we had a third-and-two and we ended up kicking the field goal,” Fajardo said. “We got three points. All of a sudden, we looked at the scoreboard and it was 21-3. I remember coach Maas said that we would go for it next time we got the opportunity. We called a play, but we ended up calling timeout. We switched the play; we talked it over on the sideline…Cole ran a great route, and I threw it towards the sideline.”

That was the offence’s big contribution. 40 seconds later, the defence made a splash play.

Rookie defensive end Lwal Uguak, who is from Edmonton, knocked the ball out of Elks quarterback Tre Ford’s hands and defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson scooped up the ball before running it into the end zone.

“Honestly, it happened so fast,” Johnson said of his touchdown. “I was lined up as (the defensive tackle). I’m getting blocked, and next thing you know I see Lwal come around really fast. I tried to counter inside and the ball just popped out. I was able to slide in there and I got the perfect bounce. We work on that in practice all the time, scoop and score. That’s all I thought. When I was running, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t get caught (laughs).”

The Johnson touchdown reduced the deficit to 21-17. That’s when the special teams took over.

On the kickoff following the Alouettes’ second touchdown, receiver Jake Harty managed to strip the Edmonton returner before Brock Gowanlock recovered the loose football. The Alouettes had to settle for a field goal moments later. They were down 21-20 at that point.

But the special teams weren’t done! With 30 seconds remaining, Elks kicker Dean Faithfull missed a field goal attempt that James Letcher Jr. returned 125 yards for a touchdown. That return gave the Als a 26-21 lead right before the half.

The Letcher touchdown was the second longest return in franchise history (Trent Guy had a 129-yard return for a touchdown in 2012.)

“Coach (Byron Archambault) told me that (their kicker) likes to push the ball right. If I caught the ball, he told me to run to the wide side of the field,” Letcher Jr. explained after the game. “As soon as it went wide right, I knew I just needed to find green grass. I saw one of my teammates pointing one direction, so I ran that way, and the rest is history.”

Quick Hitters:

Kicker Jose Maltos went 5-for-5 on field goals, including a 50-yarder in the first quarter.

Running back Walter Fletcher rushed for 88 yards on only 13 carries against the team that traded him to the Alouettes last year.

Linebacker Tyrice Beverette finished the game with nine tackles, four tackles for loss, and one quarterback sack.

Tyler Snead led the Alouettes in receiving yards with 69. Seven different players caught a pass for the Als and four different receivers had 38 yards or more.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo finished the night 23-for-29 for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He has thrown just 10 incompletions in his last two games.