View From the Stands: The Empire Struck First Edition
Published: Wednesday, Oct 30th 2019, 1:10pm
By: Sheldon Jones (@SheldonJones83)
The Saskatchewan Roughriders managed to escape the "City of Champions" (well, not recently) with a rare victory on Saturday night. Commonwealth Stadium has not w kind to visiting Rider teams in the past. It always seems like the Roughriders will be in tough against the Eskimos when they travel to Edmonton. This time the game meant everything to the Riders as they could come closer to clinching 1st place, but meant nothing to the Eskimos as they know their playoff fate and will be heading east in the crossover spot. Surely the Green and White would be fired up for this game. However at the end of the first quarter it looked like history was about to repeat itself.
- For some reason the Saskatchewan Roughriders do not start off games like a normal professional football team. After giving up an early explosion play to Ricky Collins Jr, the Eskimos were on the doorstep but Trevor Harris threw an interception to Nick Marshal in the endzone. The Riders proceeded to turn the ball over on downs after a weird 3rd and 2 gamble near mid field which led to a questionable pass interference call on Ed Gainey in the Riders endzone. Calvin McCarty scored the opening touchdown on a one yard run. Two series later Rider QB Cody Fajardo was sacked and fumbled the ball on his own 1 yard line which led to McCarty second 1 yard TD plunge. It seemed like it was going to be a long day for the Riders and for Rider fans.
- After a slightly longer than normal half-time due to a power outage, the Riders came back in the second half like a new team. Although the circumstances were different, it reminded me of the game at Taylor Field when the Riders were trailing the Eskimos 32 to 27 when the power went out. After a long delay (which of now due to rule changes would have seen the Eskimos declared the winner) the Riders came back to win the game. Obviously the delay was nothing like that this past Saturday, I just had a feeling at the time the Riders would mount the comeback.
- Riders QB Cody Fajardo had another great game considering how much pressure he was under in the pocket. The Roughriders offensive line did not have their best game. According to the Voice of the Riders Derek Taylor, Cody was hit on 19 of his 37 drop backs. The OL has been one of the Riders best units this season, so hopefully this was just an off day for the group and they will rebound going into the final game of the season.
- Fajardo seemed to be locked in to receivers Kyran Moore and Shaq Evans as they accounted for 333 of his 429 passing yards. Moore has been used sparingly in the past few game and Evans went quiet after proclaiming himself as the best receiver in the league.
- I was surprised to hear that Manny Arceneaux was practicing in Jordan Williams - Lambert's spot all week and according to HC Craig Dickenson, JWL just hasn't been able to play to the level that he was looking for. Since coming back to the league after his NFL shot, JWL has been primarily used in the field side WR spot that sees limited targets. I think that it was the right idea to sit him down and baring injury I think that the Riders should just roll with who they have had all year. Let JWL get ready for next season where hopefully we can insert him into the right spot so he can be utilized properly. Plus I think Manny deserves to get the playing time due to how he has become a leader for not only the receivers but the whole team.
- The CFL MOP race definitely heated up on Saturday. The top two favorites in their respective divisions had amazing games as Fajardo went 25 / 35 for 429 yards and 2 TD's and Hamilton's Brandon Banks had 11 receptions for 201 yards and 3 TD's. Both players have been outstanding this season and Banks is probably the frontrunner as of now. However Fajardo is making a strong case for himself as I feel his determination to lead his team to comeback victories, his ability to learn from mistakes and limit turnovers and his accuracy has been outstanding this year especially for a first year starter.
This Saturday the Riders and Eskimos will meet for the second game in their home and home series to finish of the regular season. Edmonton HC Jason Maas has said that he will be resting players as they get ready to head to the Eastern Semifinal in Monreal next weekend. Saskatchewan does not have that luxury as they need to win one more game to solidify their spot at the top of the Western Division and earn a one week bye. This has all the makings for a trap game and unfortunately this year the Riders have been guilty of sometimes playing down to the level of their opponents, only to wake up in the second half. I sincerely hope that they come into the game and put some points on the board early so that they might be able to get some of the back ups in to limit the probability of a star player getting injured. First place is in our sights for only the 4th time in franchise history and the second in my lifetime. It's time to get it done. Let's Go!!