Riders 24 – Ti-Cats 19
Many words have been used to describe the Riders’ win on Thursday: gritty, gut check, statement win, etc… One word that has not been used is pretty. That game was a whole lot of ugly. Back in the day I would have commented that it was as pretty as a Hamilton Cheerleader, but clearly I’m above such immature commentary (pause for reader laughter). I’ll just say that more attractive things reside in a Regina strip club… you know, so I’ve been told.
I’ve summarized the game this way: the first half was decent football, the 3rd quarter was among the worst football I’ve witnessed in a while (at least until I got home and watched highlights of the Bombers’ collapse in Toronto) but the team managed to dig deep in the 4th quarter and will themselves to a much needed win. While I would have preferred a less stressful, less curse word inducing, more visually appealing victory, all that matters is we got the win… our first win over a non-BC or Toronto team.
Offense was really weird to watch. They played really well in the first half. Our first few plays were outstanding play calling and execution. But the problem was that although we were controlling and moving the ball we managed to get very little to show for it on the scoreboard. We did enough to put us in the lead but should have done a lot more. Then the offense just shut er down and took a nap through the 3rd quarter and into the 4th. As per Rob Vanstone, the Riders had 1 first down and 37 yards in the 3rd quarter. That left our depleted defense exhausted and mostly useless and saw our lead evaporate. But you all know how it ended. Fajardo led a 40 yard drive for a FG to put us in striking distance then came back with a gutsy QB run for a TD to secure the game with 24 seconds left and give us all Fajardons. Shaq Evans had another huge day. Those crossers to him were open all day and Fajardo was deadly accurate in those tosses. Honestly probably could have exploited that more. O-line turned in another decent performance against a strong Hamilton front 4. After that game winning TD, Cody Fajardo reached legendary status in Saskatchewan. He could legitimately show up at any door and ask to be intimate with anyone's significant other and no one would object. I just hope he enjoys the love-in because this is Saskatchewan and he is one bad series away from being run out of town.
Defense started the game strong. Picked off Evan’s first pass (clearly he had committed to a deep shot first play and didn’t bother reading the coverage because that receiver was never open and Purifoy had it the whole way). They allowed just 2 FGs in the first half. That’s where things go downhill. The combination of a short week, injuries to Zach and Micah and absolutely zero offensive support led to an embarrassing 3rd quarter. Evans picked the D apart. 102 of the 279 yards we allowed came in that 3rd quarter. But I give that unit credit because they dug deep in the 4th when it mattered. I really noticed the Ti-Cats making a point of picking on Judge in pass coverage. They ran numerous plays where he ended up in pass coverage and they took advantage. Hopefully both Zach and Micah aren’t out long term because that would a huge hit to a unit that is starting to hit its stride.
Special teams was yet again a mixed bag. We got some big returns (like Moore in the 4th quarter). Cover teams did a good job of containing the dangerous Ti-Cat returners (provided you ignore that one play where one Hamilton blocker knocked 2 Riders on their ass… that was a bit embarrassing). Ferraro made all his kicks. This brings me to Jon Ryan. The good news was that he had is usual one great punt. The bad news is he seems oblivious to the concept of directional punting. I don’t know if he’s incapable of kicking outside the numbers or if our coaches are telling him to do it but every kick goes to the middle of the field. There’s barely even an attempt to direct it within an area code of the sideline. I don’t get it.
Part way through the 3rd quarter I was pretty much resigned to the fact that short weeks and back-up QBs were our kryptonite. Fortunately the Riders managed to grit out a hard fought comeback win. Good teams find ways to win when they aren’t playing their best and now that we’ve knocked of a legitimate team (I get it was without Masoli and Banks but that D is very good) we’re back in the conversation of good teams. Hell thanks to Winnipeg doing Winnipeg things we are 2 points out of first all of the sudden. I will be interesting to see what shape we are in health wise when practice resumes this week. We may need all 8 days to get rested for Montreal.
Other random thoughts:
· I love how they’ve given up on the 13th Man Flag unveiling working.
· The cheer team sucks. I miss the old ones that did flips and shit and would be perfectly OK if the current cheer team was replaced by that dance crew.
· Definitely some coaching errors by Dickenson in that game. Lots was made of him not using his timeout at the end of the first half. As cool as it was to see Fajardo execute a quick kick, why in the hell would you not let Ryan do that? Kicking it too far for rouges is his thing. Lastly, I did not like the call to punt out of our endzone into the wind.
· Weekly reminder that the Rider Stomp is not a thing
· If you want to show your love for Cody head on over to the Rider Prophet Store and get your “I’ve Got A Fajardon” Shirt. Now available with #SprinkleOfJesus