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Winless Elks hoping they’ve found the formula to upset powerhouse Blue Bombers

The underdog Ottawa Redblacks drew up a blueprint for the winless Elks to follow when Edmonton takes on Winnipeg on Thursday.

The Redblacks stopped the Blue Bombers’ rushing attack, put pressure on quarterback Zach Collaros, then rode rushing QB Dustin Crum to a come-from-behind 31-28 overtime victory over the Bombers on Saturday.

“It’s pro football, so any team can beat any other team on any given day,” said Edmonton defensive lineman Jake Ceresna. “At the end of the day, Ottawa did a great job of (executing its game plan) last week, so we’re hoping to do the same — go in, execute our game plan and come out with a win.”

It would be the first of the season for the 0-6 Elks.

“I’m sure (Edmonton head coach) Chris Jones and his staff and players have watched a bunch (of film) and understand what Ottawa did well against us defensively, and I’m sure they’ll try to imitate some of that, as well as well as having their own twist on it,” Collaros said. “It’s something you prepare for each week. You look at what the other team did well against you, and you try to counter that. Sometimes, you’re chasing a ghost, sometimes, you’re not.… That’s what makes this thing fun, too.”

The Bombers hope to do a better job of blocking on Thursday.

“Obviously, Ottawa played a good game,” said Winnipeg centre Chris Kolankowski. “They put their best effort forward and we just have to match that, and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve just got to get back to what we do — just fire off the ball and play our game.

“You know, we love the run, we love the run late in the game, so we’ve just got to make sure we get back to that and put ourselves in a position where we can continue to run it.”

Crum rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries versus Winnipeg, adding 261 yards in the air by completing 26-of-42 passes.

Taylor Cornelius, another mobile quarterback, will start for Edmonton.

“Just to see the way they were able to play in the second half and what (Crum) was able to do with his legs, and he was throwing the ball well, too,” said Cornelius, who has rushed for 122 yards on 20 carries this season. “The way that game finished was a good one, for sure, and I think it was good for the league.”

Surrounded by other players, a ball carrier in black eludes the tackle of a player in blue and gold.
Ottawa Redblacks quarterback Dustin Crum tries to run the ball past Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive back Alden Darby Jr. in last week’s game. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Cornelius has also completed 68-of-114 passes for 843 yards and three touchdowns, with five interceptions.

“Obviously, they (Redblacks) moved the ball well on us the last couple of drives, so I imagine they’re going to try to run with Taylor Cornelius — he’s a pretty mobile quarterback,” said Bombers defensive lineman Jake Thomas. “Obviously, we’ll have to sharpen up what we did last week but we’ve moved on to this week pretty quick.”

But how do you stop a running quarterback?

“It’s just gap consciousness up front when we’re rushing,” Thomas said. “We just kind of rush as a group of four and try to cage them as best as we can.”

The stunning loss to Ottawa may have made the Bombers tougher to beat.

“They just had a bad loss, so I know they’re going to come out hungry and ready to get a win,” Ceresna said. “I know they’re itching to come out here to prove that they weren’t the team that they were last week.

“I think they’re going to come out ready to play and we’d better be ready to play, too, because it’s going to be a tough game, for sure.”

Player in blue and gold throws a football, surrounded by other players from both teams.
Veteran Bombers QB Zach Collaros, shown here in action against Ottawa last week, says he relishes the weekly challenge of preparing for an opponent that’s trying to exploit weaknesses they’ve seen on film from previous games. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

The Bombers, who have been to the last three Grey Cups, winning two, are off to a 4-2 start and Jones was asked if there were cracks in their armour.

“They’re an awful good team right now,” Jones said. “You don’t see too many things that they do wrong. I mean, are they three or four years older? Yes, they are a little bit older than what they have been, but you still have to make a lot of football plays against them in all three phases in order to win the game.

“They force you to have to come in and beat them, and you have to play all four quarters.”

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