Riders’ QB Cody Fajardo felt sick after not targeting Shaq Evans in 2021 West Final

Photo courtesy: Liam Richards/Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ quarterback Cody Fajardo felt awful when he realized that he didn’t throw a single pass to star receiver Shaq Evans in last year’s West Final.

“I was sick to my stomach,” Fajardo told the SportsCage. “It’s one thing if you try to target him a few times and maybe they’re not in the flow of the game so you went somewhere else, but that wasn’t the case (with Evans in the West Final). He didn’t even get one (target).”

Fajardo threw to Duke Williams and Paul McRoberts six times each in Saskatchewan’s 21-17 loss to Winnipeg in last year’s West Final. He didn’t attempt a pass to Evans even after Williams left the game with an apparent head injury, targeting slotback Mitchell Picton on Saskatchewan’s final offensive play of the game.

The 30-year-old passer indicated that he doesn’t usually consider how he’s distributing the ball among his receivers during a game, focusing instead on reading the defence and determining the most prudent way to attack it on any given play.

“Each play that comes in, you kinda take what the defence gives you is the best way to put it. Winnipeg has a great boundary corner in Winston Rose but it wasn’t so much that they were taking Shaq away as they were … (leaving) a little bit more to the field-side,” said Fajardo.

“As you go through the game you really don’t know and I wish somebody would’ve told me and this kinda speaks to Shaq’s character — Shaq didn’t come up to me and be like, ‘Hey man, I’ve got no passes, give me a ball.’ I had no idea throughout the entire game until I got home and watched the West Final and (offensive coordinator Jason) Maas and I were watching it and we’re like, ‘How does Shaq Evans not have a ball?'”

Fajardo revealed that Saskatchewan was working to set Evans up for a deep post route on their final drive but the pocket had collapsed before Fajardo had an opportunity to attempt the pass. The pair recently trained together in California where Fajardo reassured Evans that he will never again go untargeted over the course of a game.

“I told him, ‘I can guarantee you the rest of your career with me as a quarterback, you will not go a game without at least one target,'” said Fajardo. “We had a heart-to-heart and I’m glad he’s back with us.”

The Riders re-signed Evans and Williams this off-season with fellow stars Kyran Moore and Kian Schaffer-Baker set to return as well. Having arguably the best receiving corps in the CFL at his disposal is a luxury, though Fajardo admits that it sometimes makes it tough to ensure everyone is seeing enough targets.

“It’s a blessing and a curse. We’ve only got one football. If I could cut it in five different pieces and everybody gets a piece of the ball, I would gladly do that but it’s just part of football. One game is gonna be your game and one game is not gonna be your game. It just depends on what defences are taking away and what defence are giving us,” he said.

“All of our receivers believe in that, all of our receivers know that. But it’s one thing when you don’t get a target — you want to have the opportunity to catch a ball, so moving forward I’m extremely excited about our offence.”