Edmonton Elks' HC/GM Chris Jones talking to C.J. Sims after Sims conceded a rouge on July 6, 2023. Edmonton Elks’ HC/GM Chris Jones talking to C.J. Sims after Sims conceded a rouge on July 6, 2023. (Sickos Committee on Twitter.)

It’s been a no-good, very-bad season for the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Elks, and that continued Thursday night. On the road in Regina, the Elks were leading the Saskatchewan Roughriders 11-3 inside the final 90 seconds. But Saskatchewan got a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie the game. And then, on the ensuing kickoff from Brett Lauther, Edmonton receiver C.J. Sims let the ball bounce into the end zone and didn’t return it. That produced what would be the decisive rouge for the Roughriders’ eventual 12-11 win, which bolstered their record this CFL season to 3-1 and dropped the Elks to 0-5.

A little explanation is perhaps required for those unfamiliar with Canadian football and its rouges, or single points. A rouge is scored when the ball is kicked through the end zone (outside of successful field goals and one-point conversion attempts) or, as in this case, kicked into the end zone and not returned out of it. That can happen on a missed field goal, a punt, or a kickoff. And late rouges have often been critical to game outcomes.

On the kickoff front, it’s worth noting that rouges were not previously awarded if the receiving team didn’t touch the ball. But that rule was changed ahead of this season to match kickoffs with punt and missed field goal rouges. So while Sims did eventually touch the ball here, this still would have been a rouge even if he had not, unlike in previous CFL seasons. But Sims had lots of options to avoid conceding the rouge, including running back more quickly to get the ball and running it out or punting it out of the endzone (punts are allowed at any point in Canadian football).

Punting it out doesn’t always work, but it does sometimes. And anything would have been better than the meek concession of the go-ahead and eventually-decisive point here, as evidenced from the above image of Elks’ coach and general manager Chris Jones in a sideline conversation with Sims after this. Both of them spoke to media after, with Jones being more concilatory there:

Sims took ownership of his blunder after the game.

“It hurts, man. It hurts. I feel like I let the team down. It hurts,” he said. “It was a boneheaded play by me, but I’ll learn from my mistakes, and it’ll never happen again.”

…“He knows [he made a mistake],” Elks head coach Chris Jones said of Sims’ mistake. “The moment was big and he’s a good little player. There will probably be more people talking about this than when he had a great game returning the other day.”

Of course, the game didn’t end here. There was still a minute on the clock, so Edmonton could have driven the field themselves and won on a field goal or equalized on a rouge. And being down by just one sets up all sorts of interesting possibilities, including punting to win directly or trying a pass-and-punt play. But while the Elks got 30 yards on Taylor Cornelius’ first-down pass to Maurice Ffrench, Cornelius followed that with an incompletion and then threw a game-sealing interception to Nic Marshall. So Lauther’s rouge here, from Sims’ inaction, wound up as the decisive point. That completed Saskatchewan’s comeback from eight points down, gave the Roughriders their first home win since July 8, 2022, and continued Edmonton’s winless season.

[CFL.ca, TSN; image from Sickos Committee on Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.