Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

The Saskatchewan Roughriders invested in Cody Fajardo this week and they’re already seeing a return after a thrilling 24-19 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The win puts the Riders over .500 for the first time this season.

In the days leading up to this game, the green and white dealt injured quarterback Zach Collaros to the Toronto Argonauts, making Fajardo the undisputed starter for the rest of the season in the process.

What did he do with that news? Well, he only threw for 313 yards, completing nearly 81 per cent of his passes and ran for a thrilling game-winning touchdown with just 24 seconds to go.

The guy makes all the throws, has the trust of his offensive coordinator and teammates and he’s as tough as nails. He told reporters after the game that he twisted both of his ankles in Vancouver but still he came out and played on a short week. I’m sure once that shoe comes off, his ankle isn’t going to be in great shape. What’s not to love?

As usual, it’s also the little things that continue to impress me when it comes to Fajardo after he punted on the final play of the first half when it was clear no one was going to get open for a touchdown. All kinds of things could happen when you do that, the worst being nothing as we saw, but it also gives you a shot at least one point at worst. Every week, he seems to get smarter and smarter.

Welcome to your Fajardo years, Saskatchewan.

Shaq Attack

One of the other big stories for Saskatchewan in this game was the play of receiver Shaq Evans. He finished the night with 160 yards, most of which came up against stud Ticats defensive back Delvin Breaux.

Coming into this season, there was some chatter about Evans being a guy who is in tough this season. He had his problems with drops last season. The receiving corps got stronger over the offseason, would there be space for him?

Yeah, there’s space for him.

Evans has taken his game to another level this year. He’s already piled up nearly 600 yards receiving eight games into the season. There’s definitely something there between him and Fajardo. He’s become a legitimate second option with Naaman Roosevelt.

#RefShow

For the most part, CFL officials have done a good job not becoming a story. That didn’t happen in this game.

In total, 30 penalties were called, a number of them earned, but there was definitely some head scratchers as well.

Most notable, the stripes are going to take heat for a strange blocking down field call on Evans and not seeing Ticats head coach Orlando Steinauer calling for a timeout before Fajardo rumbled for the game-winning touchdown.

Andre Proulx will take the heat for announcing the calls, but he’s not making them all.

The walking wounded

The Riders were pretty healthy coming into this one, the key word being were.

Whether it was the short week, the heat or just pure coincidence the Riders took a beating but managed to pull it off. Zack Evans, Michah Johnson and Mike Edem were just some of the names that left the game. Yes, Hamilton is banged up too, but it’s harder to replace guys mid-game than heading into one.

How serious these injuries are will be important for the Riders heading forward. Yes, next man up, but there’s only so many starters that can go down before it starts to effect the game.

Odds and ends

The Riders were again fulled by the run rushing for 120 yards as a team. This team will make some noise if they keep getting success like that around the ground.

Defensive lineman Makana Henry is talented but if he can’t figure it out then he’s got to either find the bench or more. Henry took another couple of incredibly stupid penalties. This is going to seriously hurt the team soon if it’s not sorted out one way or the other.

Attendance? 29,516. Long live the night? Maybe not. Does anyone like Thursday night games?

The Cory Watson signing is proving to be another great move by general manager Jeremy O’Day. Watson added another 53 yards against Hamilton giving him 215 on the season. Not earth shattering numbers but he’s playing a role very well for this team.

Kyran Moore learned a lesson. In the fourth quarter he had a chance to pick up a first down if he simply went north. Instead, Moore tried to break one toward the sideline. It didn’t work. Moore didn’t make that mistake again on two other chances.

I liked Craig Dickenson’s decision to go for it on third and two on the first drive of the game, just didn’t like the play call. Never go empty backfield there.

It wasn’t a masterpiece, both teams had chances to pull away but couldn’t. In the end, the Riders pulled it out of the fire. Good teams find a way to win games, are the Riders one? Just maybe we’re seeing the start of something special.

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Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.