The Saskatchewan Roughriders grabbed something a lot bigger than first place in Saturday’s win over the Eskimos.
Quarterback, and undisputed new team leader, Cody Fajardo got his mojo back.
The second best passing performance of his four-year pro career came in the aftermath of two of his worst games in a Rider uniform. In fact, Fajardo’s two touchdown passes and 429 yards through the air at Commonwealth Stadium came up just four yards shy of equaling the previous two week’s output combined.
It is becoming clear the long-awaited return of Jordan Williams-Lambert from the NFL’s Chicago Bears was not what the doctor ordered for this fun bunch lighting up Regina in 2019. In the three games Emmanuel Arceneaux was benched to make room for Williams-Lambert, the Rider offence began to gradually sputter.
A herculean effort from Saskatchewan’s defence, still arguably the league’s best, held off the Chris Streveler-led Blue Bombers just enough in the first game, post-Manny. Then a loss at Calgary in a critical match that was there for the taking followed by a lacklustre squeaker over the lowly B.C. Lions was enough to make it clear things were not moving in the right direction.
Something was wrong and with a first-place finish hanging in the balance, not to mention the Roughriders first 13-win season since 1970, something had to change. That change was in the form of: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality.
The Roughrider offence was hitting on all cylinders before the roster change from Arceneaux to Williams-Lambert. Going into that road game in Edmonton, head coach Craig Dickenson made the change back and voila!
So what if it took two and a half quarters and a pass interference call wiping out an interception for Fajardo and his generals to get it rolling again? They made plays when it counted and Arceneaux even found the end zone, something Williams-Lambert hadn’t done in the three weeks Manny was forced to watch from the sideline.
A failure from the quarterback and his coaching staff to properly integrate Williams-Lambert? Or perhaps a failure on the part of the receiver to mix with his new teammates?
Whoever is to blame is unclear and now that the Riders are back in the win column, it doesn’t matter anyways. What has become crystal clear from Saturday’s win, however, is that the conductor (Fajardo) has his symphony back.
And for a fan base trying to choose whether it’s worth braving a chilly Saturday afternoon outside at Mosaic Stadium in Regina to ring in November, a chance to guarantee just their second first place finish since Ron Lancaster and George Reed, has made that choice look a whole lot better.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders and Cody Fajardo have their swagger back and with it, Emmanuel Arceneaux.
Though the production from Manny hasn’t been great, the Riders 9-1 record with him in the lineup has been a pretty good cocktail for the prairies.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.