Balanced attack helps Riders topple Lions 38-25 for second win
The Roughriders put forth a balanced attack on both sides of the ball to beat the Lions 38-25, claiming their second win of the season.
The Roughriders put forth a balanced attack on both sides of the ball to beat the Lions 38-25, claiming their second win of the season at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday night.
“We knew we had to play well,” Coach Craig Dickenson told reporters after the game. “We came in at the half and really did a good job of making a few adjustments and challenging the guys to go out and play better in the second half, and we did. It was a big win and we needed it.”
After a dismal showing two weeks ago against the Stampeders, quarterback Cody Fajardo bounced back throwing for 278 yards and two touchdowns and added another on the ground. Fajardo also had two interceptions on the stat sheet, with one coming on a failed two point conversionand another on a bobbled pass. He also led the team in rushing yards with some successful scrambles and designed quarterback runs.
“I think it played into our strengths, especially with how they run their defence to have some actual designed run plays. It’s just hard for defences to account for all 12 guys on the field when the quarterback is able to run,” Fajardo said.
The Riders’ wide receivers dismantled the Lions defence on short and deep routes throughout the night at Mosaic Stadium.
Receiver Shaq Evans was one of the beneficiaries of the offence’s aerial assault notching five receptions for 158 yards through the air, including an athletic diving catch for 50 yards deep in Lions territory in the fourth quarter.
Evans said the team needs to remain focused as they head into the second half of their home-and-home series with the Lions next week.
“We come in with the same focus,” said Evans “You win a game in practice, you don’t win a game on game day, you win a game during the week, and I felt like we got that message this week.”
Fajardo said the offence took what the Lions gave them on Saturday night, taking advantage of some soft coverage on underneath routes. Receiver Kyran Moore added 21 yards for the Rider’s first touchdown of the night, diving into the end zone after blowing by a couple of Lions players.
“We were watching film during the week and we just noticed the way they played their defence, and one thing [Fajardo] said was that we’re going to have to take the underneath routes,” said Moore. “It just so happened that during the game that’s exactly what they came out there and played.”
A tight game through most of the first half, the momentum shifted towards the Riders after a 100 yard kickoff return touchdown from Marcus Thigpen gave Saskatchewan a one point lead at the end of the second quarter.
The Saskatchewan defence held the Lions in check even with 346 yards and a touchdown through the air from quarterback Mike Reilly. The Riders were able to sack Reilly four times on the night, including three from defensive end Charleston Hughes.
Dickenson said keeping Reilly on his toes was key for the green and white to get back on track at home.
“When he’s comfortable he’s very good and even when he’s uncomfortable he’s good,” said Dickenson. “We just felt like, he’s the leader of that team, we need to make him uncomfortable, make him move from his spot, because if he can just stay in one spot all day he can hurt you.”
Linebacker Solomon Elimimian also sacked Reilly in his first game against his former team. He said the dominance of the defensive line allowed the defense to succeed as a whole on Saturday night.
“We only go as far as our defensive line takes us,” said Elimimian. “As a linebacker when they’re causing havoc it makes it easier for us.”
The Riders and the Lions will meet back up next Saturday in Vancouver, as the 2-3 Riders look to get back to a .500 record.