Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo didn’t like chewing on a loss served up by the Blue Bombers in the Labour Day Classic.
There were creative Winnipeg fans who photoshopped an ‘L’ over the famous picture of him eating a corn dog in Regina after a win. Saskatchewan and its franchise QB travel to the Manitoba capital for the Banjo Bowl at IG Field where a sold out crowd will be cranking up the volume.
“It’s going to be a hostile atmosphere and the guys are excited to hopefully wash some bad taste out of our mouth. The crowd noise, we’ve had a huge benefit for us playing at home and making it tough on opposing offences, we know that this time it’s going to be tough on us,” Fajardo said.
“We’ve gotta be able to communicate and you can’t be too complex when you’re playing on the road in hostile environments because the more complex you get, the more communication you need. I think it’s good for us, we gotta get back to our basics, play fast, physical and have some fun.”
Fajardo was under constant pressure from Willie Jefferson who brought the heat along with his bookend Jackson Jeffcoat in the Bombers 23-8 win on the September holiday weekend. The 29-year-old was held to a season-low 211 passing yards and Winnipeg intercepted him a single-game career-high three times.
“If we lose any game it doesn’t matter how well I play, it’s not well enough to win, so I’m always going to take the blame. I told the guys that, put it all on me because I can handle that. Nobody was pointing fingers, nobody was blaming anyone else,” Fajardo said.
“We have to run the ball well, we have to mix up our passes and runs. When you get behind against a good team like Winnipeg and you can let their front just rush the passer, it makes it a tough day as a quarterback. Limit the turnovers, that’s my No. 1 goal.”
After playing four straight home games to start the 2021 schedule, Fajardo will try to take care of the football during the first road trip of the year. 33,000 fully vaccinated fans will be in the building with the critical season series tiebreaker on the line.
“If you get the ball first, you drive down and you score, it makes the home fans restless. There is so much buzz and energy at the beginning of the game to take that out early is great,” Fajardo said.
“It’s tough, I think it’s toughest on the younger guys because communication has to be there. If you hear something wrong and you run a wrong route or you protect wrong, it could ruin a whole play.”
The Riders must beat the Blue Bombers by 16 points to hold the advantage if the two teams end up tied in the standings in November. Following the lacklustre Labour Day Classic loss, there aren’t many prognosticators picking Saskatchewan to win against their prairie rivals.
“I see it as an opportunity to go over there and prove some people wrong. See what we’re made of, this is going to be — I believe — a character game for us,” head coach Craig Dickenson said.
“This will show a lot about us, the type of team we have, I hope we play hard, I hope we play well and in the words of Bill Walsh: ‘we’ll let the score take care of itself.'”
That scoreboard will determine whether the sour taste stays or is spit out by Fajardo and his Riders.