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Riders fall short of Grey Cup, lose West Final 20-13 to Winnipeg
Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Cody Fajardo leaves the field after losing to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL West Division final at Mosaic Stadium in Regina on Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor
REGINA -- The Winnipeg Blue Bombers will play in the 2019 Grey Cup after holding strong against a last-second Riders comeback push, defeating Saskatchewan 20-13 in Regina.
All eyes were on the quarterbacks, with former Rider pivot Zach Collaros coming out on top over the injured Cody Fajardo.
Fajardo started and played the majority of snaps, but did not seem to be able to match his usual productivity. Statistically he still finished with 366 yards through the air but was unable to get into the end zone.
Fajardo told reporters after the game he was playing through two torn oblique muscles in the Western Final game.
“I feel like I did everything I could to play out there and I felt like I was effective and didn’t hold the team back as much as I thought,” said Fajardo.
It was the big plays that mostly hurt the Riders, as Collaros was able to find his receivers for chunk plays when the Bombers needed it.
“I thought Zach played well. He was very accurate. I thought our defence was doing a pretty good job but if the receiver got a little bit of separation, Zach seemed to find him,” said Dickenson.
Collaros hit wide receiver Darvin Adams for 63 yards to get them out of trouble and back into Rider territory late in the first quarter. Shortly after, Collaros found a wide-open Kenny Lawler for a touchdown to give Winnipeg an early lead.
“They’re not afraid to come down and challenge you,” said Collaros. “We had some great plays drawn up… and we knew we would have our opportunities to make plays on the field and our receivers did a great job with that.”
The Riders offence sputtered through the end of the first quarter, with Cody Fajardo missing his receivers several times. Saskatchewan’s play calling was designed to protect their starting quarterback, with quick throws and less designed runs than usual.
But with seven minutes remaining in the half, the Riders got the ball back at their own 8-yard line and Fajardo came alive, orchestrating a masterful 10-play drive, taking the Riders offence all the way down the field to set up a chip shot field goal for Brett Lauther to get Saskatchewan within six.
Two key turnovers from William Powell and Cody Fajardo gave the Bombers easy field position, but neither team was able to muster much on the scoreboard, trading field goals throughout the second half.
The Roughriders were able to move the ball down the field fairly easily in the second half, but they could not capitalize on multiple trips to the red zone.
Winnipeg played stout defence inside their own 20-yard line multiple times throughout the fourth quarter, including goal line stands on a broken Bryan Bennett run play and a third down Fajardo quarterback sneak.
“We had opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on them,” said Bennett. “It comes down to a couple of yards here and there.”
“As an offence we didn’t deserve to win that game, we got down there inside the five and couldn’t score a touchdown so when you play like that you don’t deserve to win,” said Fajardo.
The Bombers held off the surging Riders offence inside of the 20-yard line again, in the dying seconds of the game to secure the win. On the final play of the game, Fajardo missed on his throw nicking the uprights.
“The crossbar is 80 per cent air and 20 per cent iron, and I hit it,” said Fajardo. “It’s a pretty sick feeling in my stomach, just the fact that the play didn’t get to be played out. When you hit the crossbar it’s a dead ball and I felt like we had a guy open.”
The Bombers were able to hold on to win the Western Final 20-13 and will head to Calgary next week to face off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to decide the Grey Cup.
This marks the second year in a row the Saskatchewan Roughriders had their playoff hopes dashed by Winnipeg in front of the green and white crowds at Mosaic Stadium.
“They seem to do just enough to win,” said Dickenson. “They just have a lot of grit and they have a lot of guys that have been there long enough that they know the system and they just play extremely hard and they seem to make enough plays to win.”
“It’s two years in a row to Winnipeg at our crib, and it just hurts that we can’t at least give our fans a Grey Cup or a win at home when we need it the most,” said Riders defensive back Ed Gainey
Finishing off an unexpected season going 13-5, taking over as the starting quarterback after Collaros’ injury week one, Fajardo said it was a tough loss but still emphasized the team’s Cinderella-esque season.
“No one expected us to be where we’re at,” said Fajardo. “My heart just hurts for a lot of those guys that I’ll never get the opportunity to play football with again.”
Fajardo added this is his first offseason in a stable situation where he knows where he will be, come training camp.
“It’s my first offseason knowing that I’ve got a home next year and the year after that,” said Fajardo. “The future looks bright for the Roughriders.