There’s nothing but pain for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and their fans following an absolutely crushing loss to the Hamilton Ticats.
Both physically and metaphorically.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo was sacked seven times — inflicting much pain on the once-beloved quarterback — as the Riders lost their fifth in a row, putting a playoff spot that once seemed assured in serious jeopardy.
The Riders’ no longer have control of their own playoff destiny. If Hamilton wins their final three games, they are in. Period. Even if the Riders do somehow beat the Calgary Stampeders once.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the dumb of the Riders’ tenth loss of the season.
This should be short and sweet.
This game was looking promising early, the Riders actually managed to score two touchdowns in the first half for the first time since they beat the B.C. Lions on July 29.
Then the wheels fell off… but we’ll get to that.
When the Riders had their moments early, they did so on the back of their top receiver, Kian Schaffer-Baker. Number 89 was targeted early and often as this one got underway. In all, he ended up with 93 yards receiving, but most of those came in the first half.
The former Guelph Gryphon has been the straw that stirs the drink for the Riders on offence since he broke into the league last year. He gives them some swagger and confidence that few other receivers on this team seem to do at the moment. He makes big catches, he runs for yards after the catch. Anything asked of him, he can do it.
As the Riders’ offence tends to do, they go away from what works. They did it again in this game and it cost them.
As mentioned, the Riders got off to a pretty good start. For most of the first half, they were the better team.
Problem? They never had more than a one-score lead. The Riders let the Ticats hang around and, slowly but surely, the home team took over the game along the ground and wore them out.
We all know the offence was bad. After two first-quarter touchdowns and a field goal five minutes into the second, the Riders put up a big fat zero the rest of the game. That won’t win you many football games, no question.
The offensive letdown was an entire team effort. Cody Fajardo got no protection, receivers not named Schaffer-Baker didn’t do much, the run game was non-existent and despite some decent numbers overall, Fajardo missed throws he had to make.
When push came to shove, it was a complete letdown all around.
The defence wasn’t much better, but they mostly got bailed out by an equally inept Hamilton team.
The Riders’ allowed their league-leading tenth reception of 50 yards or longer — a number that was brought to my attention by the Regina Leader-Post’s Rob Vanstone. That can’t happen. They also got gashed along the ground by a team that generally doesn’t run the ball well. The Ticats ran for 136 yards, leaving the defence with nothing in the tank as Hamilton went on an eight-minute drive toward the end of the game that should have finished it.
Letting teams run all over you and giving up big plays is one hell of a recipe to lose big games.
When will TSN get the message?
The in-game interviews are not good and the fans do not like them. Nothing seems to unite CFL Twitter like someone being brought into the booth of a CFL game for an unnecessarily long interview, almost always in the fourth quarter of a game.
This time, it was Ticats legend Danny McManus’ turn to do the deed.
McManus’ interview began with the Ticats on offence, which made sense. However, that drive was rather quick and so it continued long — and I mean long — into a Riders’ drive.
A lot happened in that span. It looked like Fajardo should have been called for a safety, a brawl nearly broke out between both teams, and Hamilton took a penalty to keep the Riders out of the shadow out of their goalposts… just to name a few things.
Instead, we got to hear more from McManus.
This isn’t meant as an insult to McManus, but TSN has got to stop putting people in these positions. This is what pre-game shows, halftimes, Sportscentre, and podcasts are for.
Enough already. Even Alouettes minority owner Gary Stern tweeted his displeasure over the interview.
Someone at TSN once sent me a snarky tweet in support of these interviews. Doesn’t seem like I’m in the minority here. Get the message.
It brings me great pleasure to talk about some good ole’ fashioned, only-in-Canadian-football dumb.
In this game, we saw the Riders attempt an onside punt. Even if it wasn’t the best time for one, I will certainly never begrudge a coach for dialling up one of the best plays in the Canadian rule book.
Things got even better just before the end of the half when punter Kaare Vedvik kicked a punt sky high, but not that far down the field. After a brief second, Vedvik realized he could make a move on the ball as in the CFL, the punter can recover their own punts.
Vedvik probably should have just fallen on the ball when he got to it, giving the Riders a first down.
Instead, things got even weirder as Vedvik ended up kicking the ball forward. The ball bounced off a Ticat and the Riders jumped on it to recover it. There was only one second left on the clock, so they took a knee to end the half, but it was fun nonetheless.
Credit to Andre Proulx and the video crew for figuring it all out and getting it right, as some wondered if Hamilton should have still gotten a first down. However, the yardage needed for a first down isn’t required in that situation.
The CFL has some incredibly fun rules, I’d love to see them used more.