Riders bounce back with 30-16 win over Argos
After back-to-back losses to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Saskatchewan’s only defeats of the season, the Riders improved to 4-2 with a 30-16 win over the visiting Toronto Argonauts on Friday.
In their two losses against Winnipeg, Riders quarterback Cody Fajardo had a 60 percent completion rate and threw four interceptions. In the first three outings of the season, the quarterback was passing at a rate of 78 percent and had thrown four touchdowns.
“It was a long two weeks for me. I went to every single person in that locker room and I just thanked them because this was really big for me,” Fajardo, who completed 21 of 31 passes, threw two touchdowns and rushed for one, said. “It was a big win to get my confidence back most importantly.”
Last Saturday in Winnipeg, Fajardo left the game midway through for concussion protocol. During Friday’s game versus Toronto at Mosaic Stadium, the quarterback was sacked twice.
“I got beat up pretty good in this game, but I usually get beat up pretty much in every game. I got some scratches and bruises. That one in the end zone I got hit in the McNuggets, that was probably the worst hit of them all,” Fajardo said.
Canadian Kian Schaffer-Baker had 99 receiving yards and scored his first CFL touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter to give Saskatchewan a 24-9 lead over Toronto.
“The kids a stud, he belongs in this league,” Fajardo said. “He’s a rookie. I told him there’s no need to think you’re a rookie, you’re a veteran as the weeks go on.”
The receiver was selected in the fourth round of the CFL draft in 2020 by the Riders and has been impressive in his rookie season. Schaffer-Baker has caught 21 of 25 balls targeted at him in four games, collecting 256 yards in the process.
“When you throw him a two-yard route and he takes it for a 20-yard touchdown, breaking 30 tackles, it feels pretty good as a quarterback,” Fajardo said. “You want to get him the ball more. I just wish I knew he had 99 yards I would have found a way to get him one more yard.”
Saskatchewan’s defence stopped the Argos offence at a pivotal moment.
At the end of the second quarter, Toronto quarterback Nick Arbuckle had three chances within five yards of the goal line to lead the visitors into the end zone. With second and goal, Riders linebacker Micah Teitz stopped Arbuckle who was attempting a quarterback sneak.
Toronto then called a three-minute timeout. Then with third down and goal, Teitz once again stopped the rush, tackling John White.
“It was a huge stop on the field,” defensive lineman Micah Johnson said. “It’s all about will when it comes to those kinds of plays. It was in our favour, guys had a lot of heart out there tonight and did everything they could to keep them out of the end zone in that play.”
The Riders were without regular defensive starters defensive backs Ed Gainey (toe) and Mike Edem (wrist), as well as defensive lineman Garrett Marino (knee).
Johnson said in the week leading up to the game, the defence stayed unified.
“Super proud. Guys never gave in, kept on fighting. We knew we were going to have adversity coming into the game when you’re down the amount of players you’re down: that’s adversity in itself. All week we were preaching just stay together. Guys did that,” Johnson said.
The Riders had a front-heavy home schedule, playing five of their six first games at Mosaic Stadium. However, only two of their final eight regular-season games will be on the road.
Johnson says capitalizing on home-field advantage wasn’t top of mind for the Riders, but it was a factor.
“It’s more so about protecting your house,” Johnson said. “Any time you have a home game you want to come out and win it. Especially with the fan base we have.”
The Riders will face the B.C Lions, who they beat 33-29 in the season opener, on Sep. 24th in Vancouver, BC.