After a couple of weeks of angst, Rider Nation is resting easy again after the Riders boot, scooted and boogied their way to a 38-26 win over the visiting B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium on Country Day.
Saskatchewan was led by the big men along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, keeping their pivot clean and getting in Mike Reilly’s grill all night.
The win comes at a good time for Saskatchewan after the Eskimos dropped their second game of the season, leaving the Riders just one game behind Edmonton and Calgary for third and second in the West respectively. While it’s certainly too early to start thinking about playoff spots, it is early enough to put yourself in too deep of a hole. The Riders have avoided that.
Here’s some thoughts on the game.
1. Pulling away
After a pretty entertaining first quarter, the game kind of dragged to a halt in the second quarter. The Riders found a way to let the Lions back into it. The home team led by just one point after the first 30 minutes.
From there, the Riders pulled away in a big way throughout the second half. Only a garbage time touchdown with three seconds left made the Lions look like they did much of anything in the back half of the game.
For as much heat as offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo has taken over the last year and a bit, especially in this space, he deserves some credit for helping making it happen. McAdoo’s play calling for much of the second and third quarters was his normal conservative self.
Much to the chagrin of many. Then, after the Riders had just taken a 25-19 lead off the legs of quarterback Cody Fajardo, McAdoo opened it up with a deep shot to Shaq Evans (one of a few on the night) as the Riders got aggressive in a (successful) attempt to put the game away. They rolled the rest of the way.
2. Fajardo is back (if he ever left)
At some point, a young quarterback is going to hit a bump in the road. For Fajardo that was the game against the Calgary Stampeders.
What often separates young quarterbacks is their ability to bounce back or not. Fajardo did that against the Lions.
Fajardo was 17-of-23 for 278 yards and two touchdowns. He was also picked off twice but one was a tipped ball and the other was on a two point conversion. He rushed for another 53 yards and a touchdown.
3. Hungry Hughes
When the Riders acquired Charleston Hughes some wondered how much the defensive end had left in the tank. A season seemed reasonable, but the ageless wonder still has it.
Hughes had himself a night against the Lions, yes a bad offensive line, with 10 tackles, three sacks and two forced fumbles.
Hughes now has a league leading eight sacks already this season.
Is his pace sustainable? Probably not, but he’s still producing.
4. Protecting Cody
It would be understandable if the Riders offensive line struggled against the Lions. They continue to miss starters like Brandon LaBatte, then Phillip Blake was injured early in the game.
Dakoda Shepley and Braden Schram filled in admirably as Fajardo was kept clean and the Riders rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns as team.
5. What in the what?
Many fans and media were left scratching their heads on a couple of occasions by head official Al Bradbury, who isn’t exactly well liked by fans in these parts.
Late in the first half, the Riders appeared to have pulled off a fake field goal attempt for a first down. Except the guy who caught the ball, Kienan LaFrance wasn’t allowed to catch the ball.
I didn’t have a clue what was going on at first (not aided by the fact that the Riders are the only team in the league without a press box announcer who announces yards, key stats and explains things) After the league explained what had happened on Twitter it made sense.
Such eligibly numbered players shall not be eligible as pass receivers, regardless of the position occupied on that play if any player from the list is lined up at an ineligible position. #Riders #CFL
— CFL Football Operations (@CFLFootballOps) July 21, 2019
Later, he seemed rushed in explaining that an illegal contact call was upgraded to pass interference and Craig Dickenson couldn’t have challenged what didn’t look like DPI in the end zone. There was a jersey tug at the start of the play.
The calls weren’t wrong. Bradbury just needs to work on his mic skills a bit.
6. If we have to…
It can often be hard to find negatives in pretty convincing wins, but there’s a couple of things that stand out.
One of the league’s better defensive lines needs to tighten up against the run. Brandon Rutley gashed the Riders for 73 yards, mostly in the first half. Then the Lions for some reason got pass happy. Even though that was working and helped their offensive line.
Jon Ryan needs to reign in his punts. Ryan is getting all of the ball, and then some, but on three occasions it was too much. Both of his rouges basically resulted in field goals for the Lions as the extra yardage gave them a head start. He was bailed out of a third rouge by a Lions holding call. His best directed punt of the night was undone by a no yards call from a gunner who didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to the five-yard halo.
Also, the fans who are, need to stop cheering Rider rouges. It’s presumably not what the coaching staff wants.
7. Do it again
The Riders and Lions will meet again next Saturday and it’s a huge opportunity for Saskatchewan. A win gives them a cushion over the last place Lions. It will also earn them the season series giving the Riders essentially an extra game on B.C.