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'We left some plays out there': Missed opportunities haunting Riders following Western Final loss
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Roughriders cleaned out their lockers on Monday morning, after a close loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Western Final.
Just one game away from heading to Calgary for the Grey Cup, the Riders left empty handed on Sunday night, losing 20-13 in front of a sold out Mosaic Stadium crowd.
After a 0-2 start, the Roughriders were quickly written off in 2019, and few expected the team to be so close to the Grey Cup.
“There’s a sense of accomplishment and really a sense of pride with the group. It didn’t end the way we wanted it, and there’s a lot of things you look back and say ‘if we’d done this differently or that differently, maybe the outcome is different,'” head coach Craig Dickenson told the media the morning after the loss.
The Roughriders had several opportunities to take the lead at Mosaic, and less than 24 hours later many of the players shared that sentiment, thinking about the plays that were not made.
Riders’ running back William Powell was on the field for the final play of the game, where a last second attempt to even the score from the Riders was blown dead, after a Cody Fajardo throw hit the uprights.
“It was kind of devastating. I feel like we had a chance if it didn’t hit the cross bar,” said Powell. “We could have executed a little better. We had some things that were there, some things that we wanted and I feel like we left some plays out there.”
Powell rushed the ball a mere eight times for 48 yards in the loss, but defended his offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo the morning after.
“Calling plays is a tough job, you have to go with the flow of the game. I always want the ball a lot and I always feel like I can be the big spark,” said Powell. “I can’t be selfish and want the ball all the time and ask for the ball all the time because we have a lot of great players across the board.”
The only touchdown of the game was scored by Winnipeg late in the first quarter, with wide receiver Kenny Lawler getting behind Loucheiz Purifoy for the score.
“I gave up the only touchdown of the game,” said Purifoy. “You look back at it and it’s like ‘What could I have done more to win that game?’”
The Roughriders red zone woes were the story of the night, as the team was inside the 20-yard line three times in the fourth quarter, but were unable to get into the end zone. The struggles were most apparent on stuffed short yardage runs from Cody Fajardo and Bryan Bennett on two separate drives.
The Riders were not able to win the battles in the trenches when it mattered most, trying to complete the comeback.
“It certainly sucks, we didn’t expect to have to clean out our lockers today,” said rookie offensive lineman Dakoda Shepley. “It’s a roller coaster of emotions and you have to take the bad with the good, and right now it’s the bad.”
Canadian offensive lineman Dan Clark said the loss definitely hurts, but looking back on the season he came a long way since a car accident had him considering retirement.
“To say that I played all 18 [games] was something that I definitely wanted to do. I wanted to prove that I was still a reliable person that can still be able to play this game, and coming off this car accident it was one of those ones that was even tougher to prove, and I’m just glad I could make it through,” said Clark.
Some spectacular plays helped the Riders get back into Blue Bombers territory at the end of the game, but the team’s luck eventually ran out, as the clock hit zeroes.
“We won a lot of close games off of talent, and I just think that was the man’s way of showing us ‘hey at some point you’re going to have to play as a team and rely on the guy beside you,’” said receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux.
“We should have made them earn it, we pretty much gave them everything, and that’s something that kind of came and kicked us in the tail all season, but sometimes talent only takes you so far.”
The Riders have several impact players hitting Free Agency this offseason, and many players are still uncertain about where they will be playing next year, but the one thing they do know is that the team will not look the same when training camp 2020 begins.
With files from CTV News Regina's Claire Hanna