‘We weren’t clicking at all on offence’: Riders bench Cody Fajardo due to offensive struggles

Courtesy: AP Photo/Larry MacDougal

Was he injured or was he benched?

Roughrider fans all over Canada are asking that question after quarterback Cody Fajardo was pulled in favour of his backup, Mason Fine, in Saskatchewan’s 28-10 loss to the visiting B.C. Lions on Friday night.

After the game, Riders’ head coach Craig Dickenson confirmed the switch was mostly due to on-field performance and the team’s lacklustre offensive display through much of the first half, scoring just three points until late in the second quarter.

“We weren’t clicking at all on offence and I just felt like, ‘Let’s do it,’” Dickenson said.

“I was going to do it at the half and then we got the ball back with a couple of minutes left and I said, ‘Well, let’s just do it now. If we’re going to do it at the half, let’s do it now.’ And to Cody’s credit, he took it like a true pro. He knew we had to do what we had to do and he was out there supporting Mason and helping him out in a lot of ways as essentially the second-stringer.”

Fajardo has been battling an MCL injury in his left knee since Week 2 and had been trending up in recent weeks. Nevertheless, Coach Dickenson says the decision to yank his starter was somewhat related to his health, as well.

“A little bit, yeah,” Dickenson said.

“I didn’t feel like he was moving around as well and it looked like he was a little tentative out there and so we went with Mason and I thought Mason did a decent job.”

“We’ve got to look at the film but I thought Mason brought a little bit of energy and the guys rallied around him.”

Fajardo drew a noticeable chorus of boos from the Mosaic Stadium crowd during almost a full half of work, completing 8-of-13 pass attempts for a grand total of 41 yards and 2 interceptions with zero touchdowns.

Fine came in just before the half and engineered a quick touchdown drive that appeared to energize a moribund Riders’ offence. That unit would sputter for the rest of the game, with Fine’s end-of-night stat line showing 16 completions on 26 pass attempts resulting in 210 yards with one touchdown pass and an interception.

His numbers certainly looked better than Fajardo’s and Fine seemed to establish chemistry with Canadian receiver Justin McInnis, who caught his first touchdown catch as part of a career night for him.

Coach Dickenson doesn’t want to see his prized QB booed but sympathizes with the crowd’s displeasure.

“I mean, the fans are a little restless,” Dickenson said.

“I don’t blame them. We needed to win that game and I’m disappointed we didn’t. I really felt like we had a good week of practice. We had a good plan I felt like in all three phases and it was a special week with (the) Plaza of Honour and we had (former Roughrider head coach) Ken Miller here and it was disappointing that we didn’t play better. So, we’ve got to really turn every stone over and figure out what we’ve got to do to get better in all three phases. Find a way to hopefully win a game, get a little momentum and hopefully get rolling a little bit but it was disappointing we didn’t play better.”

Dickenson expects to commit to either Fajardo or Fine as the starter for next Friday’s rematch with the Lions in Vancouver very soon, in order to give that QB the majority of the first team reps in practice next week.

Regardless of who he decides, you can cue the quarterback controversy in Riderville.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.