WINNIPEG — Nick Arbuckle threw Edmonton’s only two touchdown passes in the Elks’ 30-20 exhibition win over the Blue Bombers on Friday, but he viewed it as a quarterback group victory.
“I feel like everybody did well,” said Arbuckle, who was one of four Edmonton quarterbacks to hit the field.
“We all produced scoring drives and I feel like we won this game together … I feel like it was a really great collective effort and I don’t envy the coaches’ job to be able to make their choices.”
Arbuckle was 9-of-10 passing for 145 yards in his first game action with the Elks. The three-year veteran was acquired last October in a trade with the Toronto Argonauts, but never got into a game with his new teammates.
Both teams were assessing their quarterbacks in front of 20,518 fans at IG Field.
The back-to-back Grey Cup-champion Bombers played a number of their starters on both sides of the ball, but sat starting quarterback Zach Collaros.
Second-year Bombers quarterback Dru Brown was 10-of-13 passing for 108 yards. Former Elks quarterback Dakota Prukop was 5 of 14 for 81 yards with two interceptions for his new club.
“I like that our quarterbacks were able to drive the field,” Winnipeg head coach Mike O’Shea said. “I thought there were a couple pretty big plays on defence.”
Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones hasn’t declared his starting quarterback and looked at four options: Arbuckle, Taylor Cornelius, Tre Ford and Kai Locksley. Most of Edmonton’s starting offensive line suited up to help with the auditions.
“I thought they played pretty good,” Jones said of the foursome. “We weren’t perfect. We missed some of our stuff, some open receivers, but at the same time we moved around, we used our legs and we scrambled to try to push the ball down the field.”
Receivers Caleb Holley and Ka’Ron Ashley caught touchdown passes for Edmonton, and Cornelius kept the ball on a successful quarterback sneak.
Elks kicker Gregory Hutchins connected on field goals from 44, 15 and 24 yards and made two convert attempts. Rafael Gaglianone was also good on a convert but went wide on a 49-yard field-goal attempt.
Winnipeg got touchdowns from Dalton Schoen, Prukop and Brown. Kicker Ali Mourtada made one convert and hit the upright on another. Marc Liegghio was good on his one convert attempt.
Edmonton led 10-7 after the first quarter, 17-14 at halftime and 24-20 after three quarters.
Arbuckle started the game. He was sacked on his first play, but kept the drive alive and hit Holley for a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown at 3:45 of the first quarter.
After Hutchins made it 10-0 with a 44-yard field goal at 8:55, Brown engineered a Winnipeg touchdown drive.
The second-year Bomber first aired out a 49-yard completion to Nic Demski, then capped it off with a two-yard touchdown toss to Schoen at 12:59.
Ford then went in for two Edmonton series, but the Canadian rookie didn’t complete either of his two pass attempts and was also sacked. The University of Waterloo product also played in the third quarter and finished 1 of 3 for 17 yards and ran five times for 47 yards.
A Winnipeg turnover led to Cornelius’s touchdown.
Bombers returner Evan Holm fumbled the ball on a punt. Elks Nafees Lyon recovered the ball and Cornelius finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge at 8:05 of the second to make it 17-7.
Prukop scored his touchdown with an eight-yard run after a fake handoff to Johnny Augustine at 12:23.
Arbuckle also started the second half, but a pass to Charles Nelson didn’t end well. Nelson couldn’t hang on to the ball, fumbled and Winnipeg recovered.
Brown then scored on a two-yard run at 4:52. After Mourtada’s missed convert, Winnipeg finally took the lead 20-17.
The lead vanished fast as Arbuckle connected with Ashley for a three-yard catch in the end zone at 8:16 of the third. With Gaglianone’s convert, Edmonton took over a 24-20 edge.
Locksley guided the offence on an 11-play, 64-yard drive that ended with Hutchins’ 15-yard field goal at 9:32 of the fourth. He added a 24-yarder at 14:50. Locksley completed 9 of 11 passes for 85 yards.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2022.
Judy Owen, The Canadian Press