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Porous defence, slow start spoil Alouettes' season opener

EDMONTON — Khari Jones saw some things he liked in his head coaching debut but there were also two major disappointments in the Alouettes’ 32-25 loss to the Edmonton Eskimos Friday.

It starts with the defence, which was supposed to be one of the Alouettes’ strong points this season. The Eskimos racked up 607 yards in total offence with quarterback Trevor Harris leading the charge. He completed 32 of 41 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns.

“That’s a problem and we have to address that for sure,” said Jones “They did a very good job controlling the ball and controlling the clock. We need to look at this film. We can’t allow a team to gain that many yards.”

Harris was making his first start for the Eskimos after enjoying some success in Ottawa and he kept the Montreal defence off  balance.

“We didn’t know exactly what they were going to do,” said Jones. “We looked at some of their past film and (head coach Jason Maas) is still there so you have a sense of what they’re going to do but with a new quarterback. He switched it up a bit and did some of the things Harris is more accustomed to doing and it was pretty successful for them. We have our work cut out for us (going forward).”

There was one other factor in Edmonton’s favour: the running of C.J. Gable. He carried the ball 20 times for 154 yards, and that made it more difficult for Alouettes’ defence.

Jones’ other disappointment was that the Alouettes didn’t start clicking on offence until late in the third quarter and their comeback from a 25-8 deficit came after Vernon Adams Jr. replaced starting quarterback Antonio Pipkin. It’s a change that might not have been made if Pipkin hadn’t sprained his right ankle when he was sacked by Josh Johnson.

Adams completed seven of 10 passes for 134 yards and guided the Alouettes to two touchdowns and a field goal in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 25-25. It appeared that the game was going to overtime, but Harris engineered another TD drive to put Edmonton ahead with 1:07 to play.

The relief appearance raised questions about whether Adams had jumped ahead of Pipkin on the depth chart but Jones didn’t add any fuel to the fire.

“I said we had good competition coming out of camp (and) all three of them played well,” said Jones. “Pipkin did some good things early and ran into some trouble and then got injured. Vernon came in and gave us a spark. He’s one of those guys who lights up the field when he gets it going. We had our chances and It was a good job getting the tie but we just started too late. If we had gotten going a little earlier in that third quarter, it might have been different.”

There was no hint of a quarterback controversy in the locker room.

“I got his back,” Adams said. “We got a bye week coming up and he’s gonna get right. It’s up to the coaches to decide who plays but I’m his backup and I got his back.”

Adams said the most important thing for the Alouettes was to clean up things they can control such as penalties which hurt both teams. Jones noted that the Alouettes had a large gain wiped out by a holding penalty and several Edmonton drives were extended when the Alouettes jumped offside. The Alouettes were penalized 11 times for 108 yards while Edmonton took 12 penalties for 118 yards.

There was some drama off the field with the appearance of Peter and Jeffrey Lenkov. The  Montreal-born brothers emerged last week as the latest bidders for the financially strapped franchise which is owned by the league after Robert Wettenhall failed to find a buyer.

At least three other groups have kicked the tires on the Als and the Lenkov brothers, who made their fortunes in Los Angeles — Peter is a TV producer and Jeffrey is a top litigator — are believed to have exclusive negotiating rights through the weekend. They watched the game with CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie.