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Lauther's late field goal lifts Roughriders over Elks 28-27 in pre-season action

Saskatchewan Roughriders' Brett Lauther (12) kicks the field goal to win the game against the Edmonton Elks during second half CFL preseason action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday May 25, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson. Saskatchewan Roughriders' Brett Lauther (12) kicks the field goal to win the game against the Edmonton Elks during second half CFL preseason action in Edmonton, Alta., on Saturday May 25, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.
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Brett Lauther's 23-yard field goal with 23 seconds left lifted the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 28-27 victory over the Edmonton Elks on Saturday in CFL pre-season action.

The good news, for Edmonton fans, was that quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson completed 17-of-25 passes for 190 yards with 190 yards in his Elks debut.

The two-time Grey Cup champion, who signed with Edmonton in January after spending last season with the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL, is joining an Elks team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2019.

"Obviously you want to win, so it's not the greatest of results, but the excitement should be there and hopefully we can turn this thing around," Bethel-Thompson said.

Third-year QB Tre Ford replaced Bethel-Thompson to start the second half, and completed 12-of-14 passes for 121 yards.

Roughriders starting quarterback Mason Fine was 9-of-11 on pass attempts for 75 yards with a touchdown pass.

Woodrow Trey Lowe rushed for an Elks touchdown, while Roughriders receiver Dhonte Meyers caught a TD pass.

The Elks outgained Saskatchewan on total offence 411 yards to 191 but turned the ball over a costly five times. Roughriders defensive back Kosi Onyeka returned a fumble for a touchdown, while Antoine Brooks, Jr. had a pick-six for the Riders.

"I thought for the most part we got the (player) evaluations that we needed," Elks head coach Chris Jones said. "As far as the outcome of the game, we had two-to-one offensive output. The five turnovers is the difference in the ball game."

Kicker Boris Bede, who signed a two-year deal with the Elks during the off-season after spending the last four years with the Toronto Argonauts, was successful on both of his field goal attempts.

Dean Faithful also booted three field goals for Edmonton, and rookie Vincent Blanchard was successful on a 47-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter.

Lauther was 2-for-3 on field goals and kicked three extra points as well as a single.

This was the first of two pre-season contests for the Elks, while Saskatchewan concluded its two-game exhibition slate with a 2-0 record. Edmonton wraps up its pre-season in Vancouver against the B.C. Lions on Friday.

The Roughriders led 7-6 after the first quarter and 21-13 at halftime. Edmonton was up 23-13 at the end of three quarters.

A pair of first-quarter field goals from Bede staked the Elks to an early 6-0 lead, before Edmonton's Javon Leake fumbled a punt that Onyeka recovered at the two-yard line and carried into the end zone.

After Faithfull hit a field goal from 20 yards to restore Edmonton's lead at 9-7, Fine connected with Meyers on a four-yard touchdown toss.

Saskatchewan went ahead 21-9 when Brooks picked off Bethel-Thompson at the Edmonton 46-yard line and ran untouched to the end zone. Faithfull added a 40-yard field goal at the end of the first half to pull the Elks closer at the half.

Edmonton's opening possession of the second half culminated in a 48-yard field goal by Faithfull. Lowe got the lead back for the Elks, plunging into the end zone for a touchdown that was set up by a pass interference call against Saskatchewan that gave Edmonton first and goal at the Riders' two-yard line.

Lauther hit a field goal from 47 yards to put Saskatchewan up 24-23 early in the fourth quarter. The Saskatchewan kicker's single came with just over five minutes remaining to put his team in front by two.

Blanchard, a fourth-round selection in the 2024 CFL draft out of Laval University, was good on his first career field-goal attempt with 2:12 left in the fourth quarter.

Edmonton forced a two-and-out on Saskatchewan's ensuing possession, but Malik Flowers fumbled a punt at the Elks 32-yard line with 1:49 remaining, setting the stage for Lauther's winning kick. Blanchard missed a 57-yard field goal for a single on the game's final play.

Elks Close Upper Bowl

Saturday's game marked the first CFL game at Commonwealth Stadium with the upper bowl closed since the facility opened in 1978.

The largest venue in the CFL, with a capacity of more than 56,000, Commonwealth Stadium has often been only half full or less in recent seasons. The lower bowl has a capacity of more than 31,000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2024.

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