Fajardo orchestrates last-minute comeback as Riders edge Ticats

The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats played a quiet thriller in Thursday’s late game.

Cody Fajardo started hot, cooled off, then came back to march his team to a 24-19 victory despite some questionable calls by the officials.

A late-fourth quarter drive stuck six had the breaks put on after Fajardo methodically worked downfield. However the drive was set back 10 yards on a questionable offensive pass interference call on Shaq Evans. Craig Dickenson’s challenge to overturn failed, as the refs ruled Evans’ mild encounter with Delvin Breaux Sr. as illegal and it stood. That led to three points on a drive looking poised for at least six and a tie game.

But that didn’t stop their feisty offence. Fajardo went right back to the Evans-Breaux matchup after a quick two-and-out stop and 38-yard punt return where they gained 23 yards. The quarterback called his number a few plays later for a five-yard score with less than 30 seconds left on the clock for the win.

Making his second career CFL start, Dane Evans’ first pass as the Tiger-Cats number one quarterback after Jeremiah Masoli’s season ending ACL tear was an interception.

He relied on veteran safety valve Luke Tasker when they needed to get their offence going and for good reason. He had 77 yards on five receptions. Bralon Addison was a complimentary piece on the night as well as the pair produced most of the receiving yards in the loss. Evans went 19-of-29 for 196 yards, a touchdown and a pick. He also didn’t have the dangerous Brandon Banks to work his magic as he nurses an injury.

A first quarter 51-yard reception to Evans from Fajardo later set up a William Powell plunge and got things cooking for the Riders on a hot Regina night. Evans surpassed the century mark before the half ended and finished with 160 yards. Fajardo threw for 313 yards but recorded only one touchdown – the game winner – which came on the ground. He even had a game-high 56 rushing yards.

Officially now the starting signal caller following the trade of injured former number one pivot Zach Collaros to Toronto, Fajardo had a handful of big plays to have him at 225 passing yards at half.

But the score still read 13-6 Saskatchewan after 30 minutes.  Their two fumbles and a turnover on downs didn’t help converting plays into points. Fajardo had four passes of 20 yards-plus or more in the first half, two of which eclipsed 30 yards. Hamilton also had a fumble forced by Charleston Hughes (who else).

Hughes later added two more sacks to his total, now standing at 10 on the year.

After a Dylan Wynn sack, Fajardo come up limping and trainers taped up his ankle on the sidelines. He didn’t miss a drive but still had a visible limp the next time out. Then he tore off a 14-yard run.

Defence continued to tell the tale of the tilt. Fajardo had only 11 passing yards in the third in a stretch which saw four consecutive Jon Ryan punts.

But Evans did finally string a notable drive together and it resulted in seven points on a 13-yard precision pass to Anthony Coombs. He looked to Tasker three times on the drive and they even reversed it as Tasker flipped one to Evans for a completion and got a roughing the passer call to boot. They took their time on their ensuing nine-play drive but settled for three and a nine-point lead.

Then it was the Riders the rest of the way as they settled for three on the controversial call before taking it for seven on the game-winning drive.

While the Fajardo touchdown was happening, Ticats head coach Orlondo Steinauer was running down the field trying to get the officials attention to call a timeout before the ball was snapped, but it wasn’t granted in time during an an all-around rough night of officiating.

Hamilton (5-2) squares up B.C. (1-6) next week and Saskatchewan (4-3) is in Montreal (3-2)



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