REGINA — Dealing with a nightmare defeat isn’t easy, but Cody Fajardo believes the Saskatchewan Roughriders are up to the task.
The Riders, coming off a short week, were trounced 37-13 by the Montreal Alouettes on June 23. It was a game that started badly for the Riders — Montreal’s Chandler Worthy took the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown — and didn’t improve as the game progressed.
Fajardo admitted Riders, who will host the Als on Saturday in Regina, were a little overwhelmed by the start and couldn’t find a way to turn back the tide.
“They run back the opening kickoff and the self-doubt starts to creep in,” said Fajardo. “You're already down seven points. Then on our first play the game we had some miscommunication and a missed assignment that almost was a pick six. And then the next was a throw to Shaq (Evans) and he was probably a half of an inch out of bounds so we go two and out.
"Then they get a field goal and you’re looking at an early 10-0 deficit and we’d only had two plays. As an offence, it's hard to overcome that."
The offensive woes were compounded by an impressive performance by the Montreal defence, which recorded eight sacks and three interceptions.
It was the first game for the Riders without starting centre Dan Clark, who suffered a broken fibula on June 18 in a 26-16 victory over the Edmonton Elks. With Clark sidelined, rookie Logan Bandy stepped into the lineup against the Alouettes with just one practice to prepare for his first CFL start.
Bandy’s inexperience, combined with the lack of practice time and the strength of the Montreal defence, resulted in a long evening for the Riders.
Riders head coach Craig Dickenson feels the offensive line shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame for the eight sacks.
“I think our offensive line played better than what the eight sacks would indicate,” said Dickenson. “I thought they competed hard and I thought for the most part stayed in front of the defensive linemen but that's a good defensive front.
"They did a good job of disguising some things and forcing us to hang on to the ball a little longer than we want it to. And yes, Bandy made a couple of mistakes so it just kind of was a perfect storm but it wasn't all on the line. It wasn't all on the quarterback. And it wasn't all on the backs, they shared responsibility.
“Now we’ve had proper time to prepare things, get things cleaned up and we're expecting to be a much better team and to play a lot better than we did.”
After not allowing a sack in Week 1, the Riders have given up 11 sacks in the last two games. That is the largest two-game total for the Riders since October 2016, when they gave up 12 sacks to B.C. and Montreal.
The Riders may have it a little easier on Saturday as Montreal will be without defensive lineman Almondo Sewell, who is unavailable due to a personal issue. The 35-year-old veteran is one of the top defensive players in the league and recorded two sacks in last week’s victory.
In addition to Clark’s injury, the Riders offence is also dealing with the absence of Evans who suffered a fractured ankle in the first quarter of last week’s loss. This is the second straight season that Evans has been sidelined by a serious injury after he missed seven games in 2021 with a broken leg.
Evans is expected to miss six to eight weeks with the ankle injury and will be replaced this week by Regina product Mitch Picton.
MONTREAL ALOUETTES (1-2) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (2-1)
Saturday, Mosaic Stadium
ALS BY THE NUMBERS: Heading into Week 4, Montreal had the leading rusher, receiver and scorer. Jeshrun Antwi has 172 rushing yards, Eugene Lewis has 307 receiving yards and kicker David Cote has 40 points.
SACK ATTACK: Riders defensive end Pete Robertson leads the CFL with five sacks and has recorded a sack in all three games this season. In 11 games last season as a rookie, Robertson collected five sacks in a backup role.
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST: The Riders have scored 69 points in three games this season with 39 of those points coming in the fourth quarter. They have scored 30 points in the other three quarters combined.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 1, 2022.
Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press