REGINA — I cannot recall the last time I left Mosaic Stadium feeling somewhat disappointed after a Saskatchewan Roughrider win. I was not alone.
Head coach Craig Dickenson said the 28-13 victory on July 8 over the Ottawa Redblacks was “tainted” by Garrett Marino’s late low hit on Jeremiah Masoli and his antics after the hit. For this column I want to write about the game. For next week I expect to write a column on the play and its aftermath. By the end of the week Marino’s additional punishment will have been imposed by the CFL.
For the second week in a row an explosive quarter led the Riders to victory. A week ago it was 21 points against the Alouettes in the third quarter. This past weekend it was 19 points in the second quarter. Neither Dickenson nor Fajardo could offer direct reasons.
Fajardo spoke of staying in the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield and going through his second and third progressions. I could not see those actions being a real difference from what he was doing in the other three quarters.
I think Dickenson helped get the momentum rolling with a couple of decisions.
The Rider drive that spanned the end of the first quarter and extended into the second was stopped by an incompletion near midfield but Dickenson successfully challenged for defensive pass interference. It is rare Dickenson challenges that early in the game and even more rarely on a play that was not a big play. He said he could see the play and saw the defender get there early. The replay confirmed what he saw and he figured he would succeed.
Three plays later the Riders were third and two at the Ottawa 41. Dickenson kept the offence on the field rather than going for the field goal. The decision was right as Jamal Morrow powered around right end for 19 yards.
Fajardo aided the momentum by throwing a short “slide” pass to Duke Williams. After not getting a catch the previous week and missing a deep catch earlier in the drive Fajardo wanted to get Duke going.
While the Riders settled for a field goal after 11 plays they were rolling.
When they got the ball back Duke had a 28 yard completion on a post route to start the possession and a 19 yard reception for a touchdown to finish the drive.
On the touchdown Duke went across the field. He said there was man coverage and he sidestepped. When Duke saw his defender lock his hips he broke off across the field and was comfortably open for the reception.
Duke was very cognizant he had no catches a week ago. In his own style he said the “dog” never left. It was just in the cage but it is out now and not going back.
With just under three minutes to go in the half the Riders started a drive with a designed run for Fajardo for seven yards, a play they have not been calling this season.
On the second down Frankie Hickson made one of the great runs of the season going 63 yards for his first touchdown. He was aided by offensive guard Na’Ty Rodgers pushing the defensive tackle back and then chipping the middle linebacker (everyone noted after the game he did not have a penalty against Ottawa).
Hickson said he knew he had a chance to go for the touchdown when he got through the front seven and hopped to the left and the two defensive backs diving at him were unable to grab his legs.
Going down the sideline another defender looked to have the angle on him but Hickson raced to the end zone. He declined to give his time in the 40 yard dash but said he was game speed fast. He said he had been training hard for the last 900 days to improve his speed.
As he neared the end zone he said he looked at the Jumbotron and saw no one was closing on him.
The Riders got yet another drive and Fajardo, as he does so often late in a half or the fourth quarter, was at his best. After Ottawa was called for another pass interference he completed five consecutive passes to set up a field goal to end the second quarter.
Through the quarter the defence had been brilliant. On four possessions Ottawa ran 10 plays.
The Riders are looking forward to their trip to Atlantic Canada to play the Argonauts. Fajardo said he is a big lobster guy and expects Brett Lauther, who is from Truro, N.S., to be taking care of the team.
Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the late 1970s. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Football Reporters of Canada wing on Nov. 24, 2013.