The good, the bad and the dumb of the Riders’ 31-13 loss to the Blue Bombers

Photo: David Mahussier/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Just when you thought the Saskatchewan Roughriders had found all of the ways to lose to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, they found another one on Friday night.

Despite a somewhat lackluster opening half filled with mistakes and oddities, the Riders did what they have often done in the past: they found a way to hang around against a superior opponent.

As the second half went on, they gained more and more momentum on their side. Could they actually defeat their prairie foes? It seemed possible. Perhaps even likely.

Then suddenly it wasn’t. This one is on head coach Craig Dickenson, and we’ll get to that.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ ninth loss of the season.

The Good

We all love football, but as we’ve discussed before in this space, there are far more important things in the grand scheme of things.

Today is another one of those days as Canada marks its National Day for Truth and Reconciliation for the second time following its creation last year.

Since this was the first time the day was recognized without COVID-19 restrictions across the country, it felt like it was truly the first time we could come together to listen to First Nations leaders and learn more about the atrocities inflicted on them by the residential school system and what we can do going forward.

The Bombers, Riders, and the league all deserve credit for their efforts on Friday night. Though things like t-shirts, warmup jerseys, and bilingual announcements from the officials are small gestures, they may have helped those watching at home or in the stands to have a conversation and reflect.

It was also good to see many Indigenous people brought in from across Manitoba, Northern Ontario, and Nunavut for the game.

We have a long way to go as a nation, there is no quick fix for what happened, but reconciliation has to start somewhere.

The Bad

As for what happened on the field, a once-promising effort from the Riders fell apart late and it all started with a decision by head coach Craig Dickenson.

Two weeks after Dickenson told the media that his team wasn’t very good (and wasn’t misquoted when he did so), he should probably say that he wasn’t a very good coach on Friday night.

If he doesn’t, I will. I believe one decision by Dickenson cost his team a chance at winning their first game against the Bombers in quite some time.

It was early in the fourth quarter and the Riders had done just about everything right in the second half following a pretty uninspiring first 30 minutes. The Bombers failed to record even a single first down in the third quarter with the Riders holding them to just eight net yards of offence. It was 17-10. The Riders were at the seven-yard line. They were knocking on the door looking to tie the game.

Fajardo threw a short pass to Kian Schaffer-Baker in the rubber pellets, which was bad enough. But then Dickenson decided to trot out kicker Brett Lauther for a 14-yard field goal.

Sigh.

Saskatchewan had the Bombers with their backs against the wall. You have to play to win.

Go for it.

Even if Saskatchewan had failed to score a touchdown or convert the first down, Winnipeg’s offence would’ve been stuck deep in their own territory. The process is more important than the outcome. Trust your offence to make the play and trust your defence to make the stop deep.

Dickenson instead played it safe and let the Bombers off the mat.

As we’ve seen time and time again, karma kicked Dickenson for the decision with a touchdown in three plays, and another touchdown not long afterward. The score wasn’t even close in the end.

Had Dickenson played to win, as we’ve seen many times before, I believe the Riders would have gone on to win. Instead, it’s another notch in the loss column.

The Dumb

We were treated — I guess — to something that could only be seen in the CFL in this game.

Partway through the second quarter, Riders’ punter Kaare Vedvik had a punt bounce off the head of a Bombers’ rookie J. T. Hassell and roll deep into their territory. It looked like Saskatchewan was going to catch a break as the ball went much deeper than the 33 yards the punt had originally sailed.

However, as the broadcast went to a commercial break, Blue Bombers’ head coach Mike O’Shea threw his challenge flag. He believed there was no yards on the play and it turns out there was.

By rule, it was the correct call. Riders’ defensive back Jordan Beaulieu was within five yards of Hassell when the ball struck him, though the rule is designed to protect returners, not random blockers who happen to get hit by the ball.

The Bombers ended up catching a huge break with an accidental no-yards call that put the ball five yards ahead of the spot of the infraction. The difference was 37 yards.

The call was correctly made upon review but it certainly doesn’t feel like it should be the rule.

In the offseason, the CFL should probably look at this one. Should no yards only apply if the receiving team is making an attempt to catch or pick up the football? Yes.

However, teams shouldn’t be punished for something random like the ball unexpectedly hitting the receiving team in the head.

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