The Riders opened the gates on a new season at Mosaic Stadium and the flood gates opened, both literally and figuratively, as they swamped the Argos 32-7.
The win was a much-needed one following a couple of tough losses to start the season for the Green and White. Looking at 0-3 with the Calgary Stampeders coming to town next weekend would have been about as good as the new Gainer (more on that in a bit).
Instead, the Riders can breath a little easier this week and feel pretty good about themselves ahead of the big match up.
Here are my thoughts on the game.
1. Fajardo does it again
A lot of the buzz around Saskatchewan since last week’s loss to the Ottawa Redblacks has been the play of quarterback Cody Fajardo. The former Argo and Lion looked pretty good in a losing effort during his first ever CFL start against Ottawa.
So, how would he do in his second start? Pretty darn good.
Fajardo had nearly 300 yards passing before the first half eventually came to an end following the over two-hour weather delay.
His numbers (430 yards passing, and two touchdowns) could have been even higher, believe it or not, but the Riders more or less went into a shell offensively for much of the second half after holding a 26-7 lead through the first 30 minutes of play.
What’s even more impressive than the numbers? Fajardo seems to have a strong command of the offence, the respect of his teammates and the confidence to direct them to the right spots at the line of scrimmage.
It begs the question, what do you do with Zach Collaros if he does come back?
2. An aggressive start
The Riders won the toss and elected to take the ball, perhaps head coach Craig Dickenson knew some weather was coming and wanted to get ahead of it? More likely, he knew he could get the Argos defence on their heels early and it worked.
It was a great decision as a good opening kick-off return followed by a couple of quick strikes had the Riders deep in Argo territory. While they had to settle for a field goal, and doing so against better teams might have come back to haunt them, it set the tone for the night for the home team.
The aggressive play calling led to Kyran Moore completing the Riders longest touchdown pass since 2002. Who expected that coming into this season?
3. The Argos are really bad
While the Riders certainly deserve a lot of praise for their play on Monday night, it’s pretty easy to look good against a team that frankly isn’t good, at all.
The Argos lost by some 50 points in Week 2 and very well could have again against the Riders if not for a long weather delay and the Riders letting off the gas pedal a little bit.
The defence is a mess and their offensive line is among the worst I’ve seen, and we’ve seen a few around here.
Watching James Franklin try and do anything behind that group reminds me of Drew Willy in Winnipeg. Hopefully for Franklin he can get some help before it’s too late for his career.
Perhaps the quarterbacks can file a grievance with the union over their protection.
We now pause for a brief delay in this column due to weather
4. The delay
Once again, the CFL had itself another weather delay game early in the season. It definitely seems to be a trend and isn’t new to those of us in Saskatchewan.
It was a long one that cleared out some of the 30,141 that paid to attend the game but a hefty number decided to stick it out until at least some point in the third quarter. Props to those who did stay.
The TSN panel seemed to have some fun with it too, which is good. I’d love to see them be more like Inside the NBA on TNT and less like a hockey panel.
With Canada Day Fireworks looming and work Tuesday, it’s no surprise it was fairly sparse by the time the fourth quarter came to an end.
The delay also moved the half time act, Big Sugar to after the game, where they played for friends and family.
Speaking of those in the stands, there was a bit made heading into the game about just how many would be there. Ticketmaster had a lot of empty seats in the upper decks and the lower corners.
Some of those tickets may have been scooped up but those people likely watched from the concourse.
In all the 30,000-plus is a solid number for this team now and is actually up a little bit from last season when they drew 29,788 to their home opener also against the Argos.
While the win will be a big talking point this week on coffee row, everyone is going to be talking about the mascot.
Yeah, we’re talking about the mascot.
The Riders surprised just about everyone when they unveiled a new Gainer during the first commercial break of the game. Gainer usually runs out of the tunnel prior to the game, but didn’t on this night. He did so in the pre-season game at Mosaic Stadium and looked as he always had.
Now? He’s apparently lost a bunch of weight, which is fine, but there was definitely some work done on that face and that’s got people talking.
There’s something creepy about it and it’s going to take some serious getting used to. I don’t really know if he had to be changed that much, if at all.
The Riders are going all in on a new experience at Mosaic Stadium this year, some new segments made their debuts during stoppages in play. A clip of players lip syncing seemed to go over particularly well. It is good to see the organization recognize it needs to be more than just a game to get people through the gates now. Will they get right all the time? Probably not, but at least they’re trying something new.