Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com

A rare chance for the Saskatchewan Roughriders fell by the wayside in Calgary.

Heading into their big time match up on Friday Night Football, the Riders could have given themselves some serious breathing room atop the West Division by beating their foes from Southern Alberta.

Opportunity missed and the Riders can look at their own missed opportunities as a major reason why the team picked up their fifth loss of the season and second this year to Calgary. This time by a score of 30-28.

What might have happened had Cody Fajardo and Shaq Evans been able to connect on a wide open touchdown pass during their first possession? Would the offence have been off to the races? We’ll never know. In a sense, it felt a little bit like the opening of the Banjo Bowl where the Riders failed to capitalize on a Winnipeg team on their own goal line and never recovered.

This week, the Riders did recover but the self inflicted wounds sting a little more in such a close loss.

Brett Lauther will probably be kept up at night for a little while over his missed field goal. Three points that ultimately could have given the Riders the win. At the very least, it would have kept his team within one score for the final stretch of the game. Instead, it remained a two possession game for perhaps a series or two too long for them to overcome.

A coaching decision early on inexplicably made it a two possession game late as well. After taking a 14-13 lead in the second quarter, Craig Dickenson strangely decided to kick the single after a touchdown run from William Powell. There’s little difference between a one and two point game compared to a three point lead. Another point there could have made a nine point game an eight point game later.

Throw in another dropped interception and you get the picture.

In the name of fairness, Calgary was good and deserve full marks for the win but the Riders certainly did their best to help them out.

If you really think about it, the Riders have rarely done things the easy way. Why would they start now?

Officiating

I really don’t like talking about the refs in this space. For the most part, they do a good job and I rarely buy when people say the refs cost any team any game.

That obviously doesn’t apply here, as the Riders didn’t lose because of the refs but they were definitely a story in the first half.

There was almost little to no chance that we weren’t going to be talking about officiating when the CFL decided to put Al Bradbury and his crew in charge of one of the biggest games of the year. Bradbury is probably the official that most think Andre Proulx is. Every game is seemingly an adventure and this game was no different.

Bo Levi Mitchell will likely be lighter in the wallet for saying the reffing was one sided at half time. It wasn’t, I don’t know if Bradbury could actually call a one sided game if he wanted, he’d probably find a way to mess that up too.

I think the call and ejection of Chris Casher was the right one. The pass interference call on Ed Gainey seemed weak but TSN never really showed us an angle that gave us a definitive answer, so I can’t say for sure. Gainey might also see a fine for whatever he said to the officials after the call.

Otherwise, there was plenty missed and called both ways.

Things did improve in the second half.

It was a typical night for a crew that probably shouldn’t have been put in this situation.

Odds and ends

– The Riders proved they’ve improved since the first time these teams met. They can hang with Calgary but close isn’t good enough this time of year. None the less, it doesn’t feel like they don’t belong, which would make a potential playoff game very interesting.

– This game was kind of a mess in the first half, neither team was very disciplined and both made some mistakes. As good teams do, they both cleaned things up and the second half was a good half of football.

– Cody Fajardo has captured the heart of Saskatchewan this year but a game against Bo Levi Mitchell quickly shows the things Fajardo needs to improve on. His timing seemed a little off on some throws. Glen Suitor was right to point out that Fajardo more or less always looked to the side of the field he was going to throw to. There’s a lot of big things that Fajardo does well. He’s still got some work to do on the little things that will hopefully come with more time.

– I loved the fake field goal call from Dickenson. It was aggressive and the sign of a coach playing to win. If only he followed that philosophy a few other times. Like perhaps an onside kick following the late touchdown. The defence hadn’t held Calgary to a short drive for basically the entire second half, give yourself a chance.

– A game that ends at 10:30 p.m. in the middle of October on the prairies is a tough ask. Props to the Stamps and Riders fans that made their way to McMahon.

– Not all is lost for the Riders, they do have the Lions and the Eskimos left on their schedule. Winnable games for sure. They’re just going to need some help now to claim top spot in the West as Calgary now holds the tie-breaker.

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