Cody Fajardo and the Saskatchewan Roughriders fell short to the West Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers at the 2022 Labour Day Classic on Sunday.
“Same story, different day seems like every time we play these guys,” Fajardo explained to the media after Sunday’s game. “Just sickening, a great final drive at the end there and then tip-pick seals it for them, it’s just depressing and when we’re in field goal range that just sucks.”
The 20-18 loss was the Riders’ fourth straight loss against Winnipeg dating back to the start of the 2021 season. The two teams’ last match-up was the 2021 West Final at IG Field in Winnipeg where the Riders lost 21-17.
“Obviously they’re the defending Grey Cup champs for a reason, but when you lose one like that at home, we got to be able to stay together,” said Fajardo. “Sometimes those losses are a little bit harder on our team than if you were to just get blown out, right? So we just got to stay together.”
The six-foot-two, 223-pound quarterback threw for 292 yards and rushed for nine yards. The 30-year-old earned the team’s only touchdown, which came on their first possession of the game.
“You know that felt good going down and scoring, but we knew that one touchdown wasn’t gonna win the game,” said Fajardo, also noting how the team needed to keep scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.
The team had 12 penalties for 99 yards, which Fajardo and head coach Craig Dickenson believe was a factor that contributed to the loss.
An objectable conduct penalty called on receiver Duke Williams was particularly upsetting for the team. Williams did not dress for the game due to injury, but was on the sidelines with the team when the penalty happened.
“I can say this much moving forward, there will be no players on the bench that aren’t either playing or thoroughly involved in coaching because that was very disappointing, that hurt us bad,” said Dickenson. “It was a stupid penalty and I think Duke feels bad about it, as he should. Hopefully he’s expressed that to this teammates.”
Dickenson noted how the team’s penalties came at the worst times and is looking for each player to take some “ownership” and clean up their play after the whistle.
“It’s just unfortunate when it’s a penalty that’s from somebody not on the field, right?” said Fajardo. “You get the holding calls or just the penalties that go into game, but when it’s objectionable conduct or something that’s away from the play, those things sting a little bit more especially when we were second-and-three.”
Looking onto next week, Dickenson said the team will work hard to prepare for the rematch in Winnipeg. The Riders’ head coach is going to rely heavily on the leadership in his locker room because he believes the best teams are “self-motivated.”
Dickenson trusts the team is in “good shape” to succeed, but admits there is “extra pressure” to win against the Bombers.
“They’re the standard,” said Dickenson. “If you can’t beat Winnipeg you aren’t going to win. So you got to find a way to build your team so that you can compete and hopefully beat Winnipeg because they’re gonna be there at the end. They’ll be there this year just like they were last year.”