Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson points to three games that led to season collapse

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Saskatchewan Roughriders’ head coach Craig Dickenson doesn’t believe any particular moment caused the team’s season to veer off the rails, though he highlighted three games that most strongly contributed to them missing the postseason.

The third-year bench boss said Saskatchewan’s win over the Ottawa Redblacks on July 8 was “tough for a lot of reasons.” Defensive lineman Garrett Marino injured Jeremiah Masoli on an illegal hit and drew a four-game suspension from the league for his on-field behaviour. Defensive ends Pete Robertson and A.C. Leonard also suffered injuries in the game that held them out of the lineup for a month.

Saskatchewan was hit by COVID-19 two weeks later and lost to the Toronto Argonauts at Mosaic Stadium with a number of star players out of the lineup. Dickenson also believes the team’s confidence was hurt after losing the Labour Day Classic against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Sept. 4, saying the team felt they should have won that game.

“Was it one specific thing? I don’t know, but you can point to those three games where we really felt like we had a shot and it just didn’t work out,” he told the media in Regina.

Dickenson has a 28-22 record since taking over as the head coach of the Riders in 2019, though the team’s win total has decreased in each of his three seasons at the helm. He has another year on his contract, though he isn’t naive to the possibility that the front office could make a coaching change this off-season.

“As a coach, you’re judged on wins and losses and whether it’s fair or not, it’s reality. I accept that,” he said. “I’ll be meeting with (general manager) Jeremy (O’Day) and (president and CEO) Craig (Reynolds) [on Sunday] and we’ll probably meet in the morning [on Monday] and try to figure out where it went wrong — I think we have a pretty good idea — and how we can fix it so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Dickenson said he isn’t concerned about meeting with the club’s upper brass, suggesting these meetings would be productive regardless of whether or not the team was losing. He seemed confident that he worked to the best of his abilities this season under trying circumstances, even if the results on the field weren’t always positive.

“I think those meetings are good. I think you’ve gotta have them even when you’re winning, so I think it’s just kind of a state of the union, so to speak. How’s this team? Where can we get better? Where can we work to improve? What went well and what didn’t? And at the end of the day, I say this to the players all the time, as long as you do your best and you know that you’ve given the very best you can give, you can sleep well at night knowing you did all you could.”

The Riders finished the season on a seven-game losing streak and missed the postseason for the first time since 2016. Mosaic Stadium is set to host the 109th Grey Cup on Sunday, Nov. 20 with kickoff slated for 6:00 p.m. ET.