It was a case of two CFL football teams going all out with both playing desperate football.
Saturday night the, 1-3 Saskatchewan Roughriders hosted the 1-4 BC Lions. The Riders didn’t want to start the season 1-4, the Lions were facing 1-5.
There was urgency in the air and it felt like an early playoff game.
The Roughriders played with the passion and desire required, on both sides of the ball, as the jolly green giants took over the fourth quarter to win the back and forth affair 38-25.
The Roughrider defense bent, giving up 468 total yards, but they seldom broke, holding the Lions to field goals numerous times within the shadows of their own goal posts.
Not giving up touchdowns after long BC drives was the main reason Saskatchewan won this ball game.
Rider defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy helped seal the deal with a tremendous 4th quarter interception and return that drove the final nail into BC’s coffin.
The Rider offense was led by QB Cody Fajardo and receiver Shaq Evans. Cody ran for 53 very tough physical yards, with the game on the line, while Shaq made some sensational snags and ball adjustments on 5 receptions, good for 158 yards and a touchdown.
Fajardo has now played well in three of four starts and he continues to look more comfortable as his starting experience becomes normal routine.
Cody is a smart guy.
Hats off to the battered offensive line that got the job done.
Veteran guard Philip Blake went down early in the contest, so Blake’s injury, coupled with Brendon LaBatte, Takoby Cofield and Dariusz Bladek all being on the 6 game injury list, meant the organizational O-Line depth is severely being tested. Rookie guard Dakoda Shepley is improving with each start.
The Roughriders kept a lot of offensive linemen coming out of training camp. Now we know why - against the Lions it saved the day.
Back to defense, there is no question that defensive end Charleston Hughes enjoyed his best game ever as a Roughrider. Charleston is absolutely destroying the commonly held assumption that you can’t play a high level of professional football at 35.
Against BC Hughes had 10 tackles, one that saved a touchdown, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles. He was flying all around the football like a man possessed.
Plain and simple, the Roughriders would not have won this football game without Charleston Hughes. To say Hughes earned every penny of his game cheque is an understatement.
Linebacker Derrick Moncrief continues to show he is one of the best defensive players in the CFL.
Middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian shook off the rust from his first game and enjoyed a solid performance, making some important tackles (seven) and delivering his signature big hits.
In the second half defensive tackle Micah Johnson went down and I was immediately concerned. Thankfully Micah was OK. Do not underestimate how valuable Johnson is to this football team.
The Riders had one of the best trick plays on special teams I’ve seen in a long time - too bad some mistaken paperwork cost them that play as Jon Ryan completed a pass to Kienan LaFrance.
Shaq Evans and Kienan had the best 2 catches of the tilt.
So what did we learn from Saturday nights Rider victory?
It’s very simple.
The difference in intensity between the Calgary and BC game was palpable.
In order to win, the Roughriders have to play with passion, never give up desire, and dogged determination. They have to fight like a junkyard dog. Eye of the tiger stuff. They need the resilience they just showed against the Lions. It’s the only way you can win a game of professional football.
It’s the only way Saskatchewan can win in Vancouver this upcoming Saturday. If they do, the Lions could be in the rearview mirror.
During the off season, many fans wanted Rider GM Jeremy O’Day to sign Jonathon Jennings as a free agent QB.
In 2019 Jennings did not make Ottawa as a starter. In this first start this past weekend in Winnipeg, he threw for a grand total of 45 yards and suffered a pick six.
Don Hewitt started covering the Saskatchewan Roughriders for CKCK-TV in 1979.