Fajardo promises big game from ‘underdog’ Riders despite media ‘dragging our name through the mud all year’

Hosting a home playoff game at a jam-packed Mosaic Stadium generally goes hand-in-hand with expectations of victory. After all, few opponents are able to brave the noise of the watermelon-clad faithful and live to tell the tale.

Yet ahead of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ West Semi-Final matchup with the Calgary Stampeders, it seems no such narrative exists. The Stamps have the hot hand and the usually worshipped Riders are feeling more than a little slighted.

“That’s a good team, they’re really hot right now and everyone wants to talk about them, and we’re kind of in this underdog role even though we’re at home,” quarterback Cody Fajardo admitted Saturday ahead of the much anticipated playoff matchup. “Guys feel in that locker room that we want to go out there and show this league why we were a nine-win team.”

Public perception and criticism have dogged Fajardo all season, with the popular passer expressing earlier in the season the amount of strain that social media critiques had placed on him. This time around it isn’t fans bugging the quarterback, but rather a false media narrative around his team that Fajardo is intimately aware of despite claiming to not pay attention to the noise.

“I don’t read much of the media anyways, but I think the underdog mentality, especially on offense, people have been kind of dragging our name through the mud all year,” Fajardo explained. “We’re a nine-win team and everyone wants to talk about the deep ball. We’re finding ways to win games and no one wants to really talk about that. We do have a chip on our shoulder offensively.”

That isn’t all the team is feeling aggrieved about either. Semi-Final week opened with the announcement of Divisional award nominees and all-stars, an impressive list of names that may have included a lot fewer Riders than many expected.

“I think this whole team has a chip on their shoulder because of what happened with the whole all-star ballot thing,” Fajardo confessed. “There’s a lot of guys, I know that think that they got snubbed and then there’s going to be a chip on their shoulder, there is going to be some motivation.”

Among the omission was the CFL’s sack leader A.C. Leonard, as well as the runner-up Jonathan Woodard. Do-it-all defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy also took issue with his absence and in Fajardo’s eyes, that anger may well work in Saskatchewan’s favour. The fired up Riders will be looking to make a statement to voters and the Stampeders will be the one to pay the price.

“There’s plenty of guys in that locker room who are going to be flying around tomorrow. I feel sorry for some of the Calgary guys that’ve got to go against them because they’re going to be flying around and got a chip on your shoulder, and that’s not a bad thing,” he said, before speaking directly to the media.

“Thank you guys for giving us a little chip on our shoulder, a little motivation going into the game. I don’t think we needed any more, but the more the merrier.”

That will have a fringe benefit for those tuning in on Sunday as well. Despite the apparent low expectations, Fajardo is promising one of the best games of the year.

“I think it’s going to be a slug fest,” he predicted. “Get your popcorn ready, because I think it’s gonna be a great CFL football game.”

Must Read