The Saskatchewan Roughriders very nearly blew it in Week 12.
Nursing a 10-point lead in the dying moments of a game the Riders absolutely had to have, the play-call got a bit sloppy.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo chatted with his offensive teammates about running a play they hadn’t really designed to call for this game. During the confusion, Fajardo lost track of the play clock, causing it to wind down and bring a time-count violation.
Kind of a big deal when you’re trying not to give the ball back to Bo Levi Mitchell and a Stampeder juggernaut that has been the ultimate nemesis of the Craig Dickenson-Cody Fajardo era that the Riders had, up to that point, failed to beat in four tries.
The loss of down resulted in a third-and-seven, forcing Brett Lauther to punt in place of an injured Jon Ryan, setting up the Stamps with great field position. There was more than two minutes left for Dickenson’s little brother to dial up a comeback that would’ve sent the Rider coach straight into his dad’s doghouse with an 0-5 record against Calgary.
In the Riders last trip to Calgary, three weeks earlier on that same sideline, Fajardo was angry about his receivers near the end of the game and let offensive coordinator Jason Maas know it. This time, it was Maas giving Fajardo an earful for taking the time-count that could’ve and very nearly sunk the Riders again.
When the Stamps scored to pull to within three and were lining up for a try at the onside kick, Fajardo admits his nervous level on a scale of one-to-ten was high.
“I was about an eight,” the Roughrider QB grinned after the fact. “And it’s always Bo Levi Mitchell and what I told him after the game, ‘It’s always close with you.’ He’s never out of the game.”
The Rider defence saved Fajardo’s bacon with coach Maas and the QB knows it.
“When [Calgary] did score at the end, the good thing was our defence took a lot of clock off that drive.”
“It’s not like they scored right away, so that was huge for us. But, I’m really proud of this team just pulling out a win when it could’ve went south for us after the last two games.”
The roller-coaster finish ended in a 20-17 Saskatchewan win and firmly put the Roughriders back into the driver’s seat for second-place and the last home playoff spot in the West Division. And it appears to have doused the flames of any feud between quarterback and offensive coordinator, according to Fajardo.
“We are such competitors but just know this: I love coach Maas and what I told him after the game is I get it when high pressure situations [happen]. Me and him are both maxed out competitors so there are going to be some back-and-forth and that’s why I love coach Maas because it matters to him, it matters to me and I’m going to learn from that.”
“I’m glad it didn’t hurt the team,” Fajardo said.
“We shared a really good hug because it was a big win for him as well. He said there’s not many wins he’s had at McMahon Stadium as well so I know it meant a lot to him.”
In his 20-plus year career as a CFL quarterback and coach, Maas has shown himself to be an emotional guy just like Fajardo has in his short time quarterbacking the Riders.
It’s a recipe that could lead to more sideline shouting matches and maybe even a few more hugs before the season is over in Riderville.