Riders get job done in B.C. (& nine other thoughts)

Photo Scott Grant / CFLPhotoArchive.com
Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/CFLPhotoArchive.com

One team was clearly better than the other in Vancouver on Friday night and it was the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Yes, it was technically a one-possession game, and it was just a three point game at the half. However — in my mind at least — the outcome never really felt in doubt. As Rider fans on Twitter started to get a little nervous late following a Bryan Burnham touchdown, the game still felt over.

The Lions deserve some credit for making a game of it, but without Mike Reilly they weren’t going to score that many points late in the game to complete the miracle comeback. They effectively did nothing for the second and third quarter. It wasn’t going to suddenly change. The Lions hadn’t scored a touchdown all game until that point. They weren’t going to get another. The talent discrepancy was just too much.

Perhaps I was at ease knowing this team rarely makes it easy on themselves and have won football games in many different ways. Under Craig Dickenson’s watch this team has also won the games they’re supposed to and have remained level headed through wild swings in momentum to win games.

That doesn’t mean the Riders can’t learn from this. They’ll need to finish games stronger the rest of the way if they want to go deep into the playoffs. They’ll need faster starts too.

No game is perfect, and this one wasn’t for the Riders, but it also wasn’t as close as the score made it seem.

Turning back the clock

Naaman Roosevelt had his best statistical game of the season.

Roosevelt’s days as deep threat or big play receiver seem to be over but he’s still been an important part of the offence as Fajardo’s possession receiver. The release valve. The guy who makes big second down catches.

He was still those things against the Lions and then some. He was the only receiver with significant numbers.

Roosevelt went over 100 yards receiving for the first time this year and for the first time since September 2018 against the Argos, a long 13 months for the fan favourite.

It’s also only the second time Roosevelt has surpassed the century mark in a game since 2017. He cleared that mark three times that season.

It’s too bad that Roosevelt had a touchdown pass broken up. Number 82 was deserving a touchdown pass to complete his great evening.

All Rise

Cameron Judge is one of the best linebackers in the CFL.

Some eyebrows were raised around Saskatchewan when Judge was left off a sponsored list on TSN of the top Canadians in the CFL. It was a glaring omission and I’m taking it one step further.

Judge is not only a top Canadian in this league, he’s a top linebacker. That became very evident against the Lions. Judge missed some time with a concussion and his game was dearly missed. He was all over the field on Friday night, getting pressure on the quarterback, stuffing the run and making tackles down field.

Judge’s stat line of three tackles, one special teams tackle and one sack isn’t mind blowing but the game film shows a backer who did more than the numbers may show.

Judge should probably be the team’s nominee for Most Outstanding Canadian and he’s certainly making the case for defensive player as well.

Odds and ends

There was some chatter postgame about punter Jon Ryan not getting a rouge when one was probably in order. Ryan had a punt from around mid-field late in an eight-point game. The single would have made it a two possession game. However, the snap was pretty low. I think Ryan just did what he had to do to get the kick off. C’est la vie.

Shaq Evans has been pretty quiet since claiming he’s the best receiver in the league. A title that actually belongs to Burnham. Evans had fewer than 50 yards for the second-straight game.

Speaking of Burnham, his non-touchdown was pretty spectacular, no question. We also didn’t need to hear about it all night. As for the call, it’s impossible to tell. There wasn’t a good enough camera angle to ever know. If it was called a touchdown on the field, it probably stands too and I’m okay with that.

Don’t concede safeties, kids. The Lions could have been down six with a chance to win on their final drive if not for giving the Riders two free points. Instead, overtime was the best they could have hoped for.

We know Cody Fajardo is a gamer but he probably doesn’t need to be running late in games with a comfortable lead. He’s taken his fair share of hits this year and they don’t need to risk it at this point. Leave the running to the guy who’s really good at it. You got the sense early that William Powell wasn’t going to be stopped, rushing for 111 yards and a touchdown. He reached 1,000 yards on the season and one point but then dropped back. So, that accomplishment will have to wait another week.

Credit where it’s due, Makana Henry has really cleaned his game up. The defensive lineman took some really bad penalties early on this season and earned the reputation that followed him. Henry has remained mostly clean since.

The Riders have now officially sent the Edmonton Eskimos east for the playoffs. They still need some help to take top spot in the west but they’ve done their part. At the very least, their chances at a home playoff game of any kind have improved.

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