The Saskatchewan Roughriders had a chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat in the battle for second in the West division, but instead, the door is still open following a 23-17 loss to the Calgary Stampeders.
The Riders came into the game 5-2, two games clear of the B.C. Lions who lost to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night. A win would have gone a long way to secure that home playoff game.
Instead, the door is still open, and it’s even open a crack now for the Stamps, who the Riders will see twice more in the next three weeks. A lot can now change between now and then.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders third loss of the season.
It’s hard to pick out what went particularly well for the Riders on Saturday night.
For much of the night, they looked out of sorts, especially on offence. They couldn’t really find much rhythm on offence until the fourth quarter when they managed to put 10 of their 17 points on the board.
A couple of bright spots were running back William Powell who did what he could with 106 yards of offence, and receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker again had a big night with 107 yards receiving. Most of those yards came on the game’s biggest play, a 71-yard reception late in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, they started slow but eventually figured it out and played solid the rest of the night after an opening drive touchdown by Calgary.
Overall, it was not a good night for quarterback Cody Fajardo, who missed a number of throws, including multiple deep attempts.
Some of that has to do with protection continuing to breakdown, but Fajardo would probably like to have a number of throws back. To his credit, Fajardo battled until the end and did all he could to make the game interesting and give his team a chance but it wasn’t enough.
If the Riders are going to succeed, they’ll need Fajardo to be better and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be.
They got away with it last week against the Lions, but a slow start did the Green and White in on Saturday night. A quick 14-0 lead for Calgary ended up being the difference in the game.
Part of that rests on the coaching staff that made a curious decision to go for it on third and three at their 46-yard line early in the game. I’m all for aggression, but it didn’t seem like the time to go for it. That said, if Fajardo makes a better throw to Kyran Moore, the drive continues. Instead, Calgary turned that into another touchdown.
A quicker and smarter start could have turned the tide. There will be plenty of discussion about the final play of the game for the Riders, but it always takes a series of events to get to that point.
An ugly problem returned defensively, penalties.
Defensive back Nick Marshall was flagged for an unnecessary roughness call after pushing the Stampeders receiver out of bounds, a penalty that helped Calgary open the scoring. There was some debate online surrounding the validity of the call, but the fact remains that an undisciplined team is unlikely to get the benefit of the doubt.
I’ll be honest, I was starting to worry about this part but boy did this game end up delivering.
With the game hanging in the balance late, the Riders scored a field goal with less than two minutes to go to reduce the Calgary lead to just seven. With not enough time remaining to kick it deep, head coach Craig Dickenson called for the on-side kick. After a couple of funky bounces, it appeared that Schaffer-Baker had recovered the kick after travelling the required 10 yards.
However, upon review, receiver Jake Harty was called for interfering with the returner and it was back to the drawing board.
Just when it looked like kicker Brett Lauther was going to attempt the same kick, Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson called timeout.
After the time out, the Riders kick unit appeared ready to attempt the same kick for a third time, except Lauther then dribbled it forward and recovered the kick himself. Did Lauther see something after the timeout? Dickenson said after the game that Lauther made that decision on his own.
The whole scene was chaotic and dumb — I loved every second of it.
Ultimately, this whole sequence saved what was a rather uneventful and frankly boring game until that point.