The good, the bad and the dumb of the Riders’ 34-23 win over Edmonton

Photo: Paul Swanson/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Did the Riders win that game? I don’t know.

At the end of the day, the standings will say the Riders won but it certainly didn’t feel like they won it more than the Edmonton Elks lost it.

For three-plus quarters, I think it’s safe to say that the Elks were the better team on Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. In the end, it was the road team that came away with the win, as the Elks completely fell apart late and did the kinds of things bad teams do to lose football games.

The team won’t care, as the Riders’ three-game losing streak is now over and it had to end against the Elks, otherwise this season really could have gone off the rails. That said, it’s still pretty hard to be optimistic about this team at the moment.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ fourth win of the season.

The Good

Admittedly there isn’t a whole lot to pick from here — it wasn’t a pretty football game — but defensive coordinator Jason Shivers continues to prove to be one of the best at what he does.

I think it’s safe to say that Shivers and the rest of his defence were not happy with how the first half of this game went, especially with how many yards they gave up along the ground to Elks quarterback Taylor Cornelius.

The big-armed quarterback ended the night with 86 yards rushing, but 60 of those yards came in the first half.

In the back half of the game, Shivers made the appropriate adjustments to make life difficult for Cornelius. The pressure started getting home — the key to the Riders’ defence — as the Elks managed just six points off two field goals in the game’s final 30 minutes. One of those kicks from Elks’ kicker Sergio Castillo came off an interception from Cody Fajardo, so to use a baseball term, they only gave up the earned runs.

The unit has had its struggles and challenges without the likes of Pete Robertson and A.C. Leonard in the lineup but Shivers continues to get the most he can out of the players available to him right now.

The Bad

If Jason Shivers and the defence can adapt to what’s around them, the same cannot be said for the offence.

It’s honestly getting tiring talking about this every week but it’s hard not to. The single biggest thing holding back this edition of the Saskatchewan Roughriders is the offence and there still isn’t a simple fix.

If it’s not one thing, it’s another on any given play.

Fajardo has too little time to make a play far too often and when he does have the time, he sometimes doesn’t trust that the protection will hold — and it’s hard to blame him. When he has enough time and trusts that the pocket won’t collapse, either his receivers aren’t open or he’s not seeing the field properly.

That’s without getting into the offensive coordinator’s puzzling inability to keep running back Jamal Morrow involved in the game. Once again against Edmonton, Morrow had a strong start to the game through the first two drives with five touches. From there, Morrow’s usage dropped until the fourth quarter.

What worries me the most is what this is doing to Fajardo.

In 2019, Fajardo was a Most Outstanding Player finalist and since then it’s been downhill. I think it was fair to expect Fajardo’s play to level off from the magic that we saw in 2019 but it’s difficult to watch what’s happening to him now.

I wouldn’t say it’s entirely his fault either. Sure, he’s not throwing the ball well at times, but we’ve seen plenty of quarterbacks just get worn down and broken both physically and psychologically by a revolving door of an offensive line.

The most famous case in the CFL lately was Drew Willy, who looked like a fairly decent quarterback in Saskatchewan and then was just completely ruined by the atrocious offensive line Winnipeg had at the time.

Fajardo isn’t quite Willy yet, but the signs are starting to appear. Whether it’s through the game plan, making a change along the offensive line — Jamal Campbell anyone? — or something else, the Riders need to find a way to restore Fajardo’s confidence in what’s going on in front of him. Not just to salvage this season but perhaps his career.

The Dumb

As troubling as the offence was for the Riders on Saturday night, it was a good night for receiver Duke Williams.

Heading into the bye-week, Wiliams had hit a rough patch in Saskatchewan with a number of dropped passes, and another alleged spitting incident against Toronto to go along with the helmet throwing that resulted in his suspension.

Williams needed a good game against Edmonton and he got it, finishing with four catches for 80 yards.

Most importantly, Williams had some good clean fun when celebrating a touchdown that gave the Riders the lead in the fourth quarter.

I mean, who doesn’t love a good plate of nachos? You can’t blame Duke for wanting a little snack after how long that game was with the extended half-time due to a weather delay.

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.