For the second straight season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders couldn’t topple their chief rival in the West Final, but head coach Craig Dickenson feels like he has his team right on the threshold.
The visiting Riders fell short by a score of 21-17 against the eventual back-to-back Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers back in December. The top-seeded Bombers were ultimately the better team, but Saskatchewan pushed them right to the brink with a performance that could have shaken up the CFL hierarchy.
“In some ways I feel like we gave everything we had and we went about as far as we could go. Now, I do believe we could’ve shocked some people, especially that last game against Winnipeg, I believe we could’ve won that game with the amount of turnovers we created,” Dickenson said on 620 CKRM radio in Saskatchewan.
The Riders caused a whopping six turnovers in the West Final, picking off the league’s Most Outstanding Player, Zach Collaros, three times, forcing two fumbles and added one turnover on downs. It wasn’t enough to overcome the team’s offensive struggles on the night.
After losing their lead in the fourth quarter, quarterback Cody Fajardo wasn’t able to complete a game-winning drive, turning the ball over on downs inside Winnipeg territory with a minute left. Had the franchise pivot been able to complete his final pass, the Riders might have gone on to claim the coveted chalice themselves, as it took overtime for the Bombers to topple the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the 108th Grey Cup.
In a sport where winning is everything, some might call coming that tantalizingly close a failure, but Dickenson doesn’t see it that way.
“I’m not going to say I believe we went as far as we could, but I believe the guys gave everything they had and because of that I felt like last year was a successful season,” he said. “Could we have played better? Yes. But I felt like the effort was there and so there was really no regrets, there was no feeling like we let one get away.”
The Bombers have proven to be the Riders undoing since Dickenson took over in 2019, also ending his first season after Fajardo’s infamous pass off the upright. Saskatchewan will look to finally slay that dragon with a reloaded roster in 2022, bolstered by a full season from star receiver Duke Williams, but their head coach won’t look back on his last loss with regret.
“I left that field in Winnipeg after we got beat with a feeling of satisfaction knowing we did all we could,” Dickenson said. “Was I upset, disappointed we didn’t go a little further? Yes, but I was very proud of the guys because I felt they gave it all they had.”