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Selnes: Strong fourth quarter gives Sask. Roughriders the win

I have seen little commentary on Cody Fajardo finding yet another way to lead the Riders to a win 26-16 with a strong fourth quarter. Everyone wishes he could play the opening three quarters as he plays the fourth but he is at his best when the game is on the line.
Bill Selnes
The Saskatchewan Roughriders found a way to win 26-16 over the Edmonton Elks on June 18 with a strong fourth quarter.

Some observations and musings on the Saskatchewan Roughrider win over the Edmonton Elks on Saturday night.

I have seen little commentary on Cody Fajardo finding yet another way to lead the Riders to a win 26-16 with a strong fourth quarter. Everyone wishes he could play the opening three quarters as he plays the fourth but he is at his best when the game is on the line.

On June 18 he was 8 for 8 in passing during the fourth quarter, leading the Riders to 14 points and victory.

On the other side of the ball Nick Arbuckle was 5 for 9 while personally enduring the trifecta of turnovers during the quarter – a fumble, an interception and a turnover on downs from an incomplete pass.

I thought Arbuckle had the potential to be a great quarterback when he was in Calgary. I spoke to him during the 2018 Grey Cup Week. He impressed me with his knowledge of the game and his personality. Yet he has not been able to deliver upon the field. He was beaten out for the starting position with the Argos last year by McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Two losses to start the 2022 season are not encouraging for Elks fans.

The Rider rushing attack gained 184 yards after running for 75 yards in the first game. Rider Head Coach Chris Jones kept calling three-man fronts during the game, except for the third quarter, when the Riders had only five  offensive plays they effectively ran the ball.

As I noted at the end of last week’s column Edmonton Head Coach Chris Jones was very unhappy with his defence in the opening game against the Lions. On 630 CHED he said after the Rider game that the Elks were a “shade better” against Saskatchewan.

The Riders had 431 yards in offence (184 rushing and 247 passing). Against the Lions the Elks gave up 469 yards (187 rushing and 282 yards passing). A “shade better” sounds about right.

I found the refereeing distracting. Al Bradbury’s crew are way too eager to call penalties. On this night it was the Riders who were called for 14 penalties while the Elks had six penalties. 

Professional football is filled with talk. It often appears a point of pride in who can “trash talk” better. In the games I have seen this year, except this game, talk has rarely drawn a penalty.

I appreciate Derrick Moncrief lost his composure. I cannot recall a player getting three objectionable conduct penalties in a game. (I think the new phrasing of misconduct is confusing in a nation where “misconduct” penalties are hockey infractions. The CFL should have stayed with “objectionable conduct”.) 

Craig Dickenson said after the game on the Rider video that he would be talking to the players that they cannot take penalties. He has been talking for years but the Riders remain among the most, if not most, penalized teams. Consequences for lack of discipline would be a stronger communication to the team.

Despite all the penalties, all the officials missed the late hit on Fajardo by Mak Henry. I thought Dickenson should have used his challenge.

In the end, the confusion on the last play of the night summed up Bradbury’s crew.

Edmonton was called for offside with eight seconds to go and the Riders declined the penalty to keep the clock running. 

The Elks offence lined up and Bradbury blew his whistle to start the play. With three seconds to go the Elks started sending the field goal unit out. Jones had belatedly decided to try to reduce the score differential in case it made a difference for playoff standings but there was no sign he called a timeout and the league play-by-play does not show a timeout called.

At this point I would have expected a too many men call as the play had already started. If that was not applicable then the clock should have run to see if they could get the field goal off within 20 seconds of the start of the play.

Instead, the officials blew their whistles with no time on the clock and start debating. The broadcasters say six seconds will be added to the clock but that could only take place if there was a timeout called at six seconds, which never happened.

Eventually, after discussion which included the command centre Bradbury says something like it was too late to Chris Jones and the Edmonton offence returns to the field and tries the Hail Mary pass that is intercepted by Rider safety Mike Edem.

How Edmonton was not assessed a penalty I do not know.

Beyond no one appearing to know what they were doing the play showed how even experienced head coaches fail to think through last minute decisions. Jones should have decided, even before the offside penalty, that the Eskimos would go for a field goal on the last play of the game. Should the points for and against between the Riders be less than three points in favour of the Riders he will regret not having sent out the field goal unit as soon as the offside penalty was declined.

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.

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