Cody Fajardo and Saskatchewan Roughriders failed to make it to the leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Western Division for the Labor Day classic 2022 on Sunday.
“Same story, today looks different every time we play with these players,” Fajardo explained to the media after Sunday’s game. “Just annoying, great final drive at the end there and then picking a side to close, it’s just frustrating and when we’re in goal range that’s bad.”
The 20-18 loss was the Raiders’ fourth loss in a row against Winnipeg dating back to the start of the 2021 season. The two teams’ last game was the 2021 West Final at IG Stadium in Winnipeg where the Raiders lost 21-17.
“Obviously they are the gray champions for a reason, but when you lose like this at home we should be able to stay together,” Fajardo said. “Sometimes those losses are a little harder for our team than if you were to blow it up, right? So we just have to stay together.”
The six-foot-tall, 223-pound quarterback threw for 292 yards and lunged for nine yards. The 30-year-old earned the team’s only relegation, which came upon his first game possession.
“You know that was a good feeling to go down and score, but we knew one hit wasn’t going to win the game,” Fajardo said, also referring to how the team needed to keep scoring instead of field goals.
The team had 12 penalties for 99 yards, which Fajardo and coach Craig Dickinson believe was a contributing factor to the loss.
The disapproving conduct penalty called up for receiver Duke Williams was particularly annoying to the team. Williams was not dressed for the match due to injury, but was on the sidelines with the team when the penalty kick occurred.
“I can say a lot going forward, there will be no players on the bench not playing or fully involved in training because that was very disappointing, and it hurts us badly,” Dickinson said. “It was a stupid penalty and I think Duke feels bad about it, as he should. I hope he expressed that to his teammates.”
Dickinson noticed how team penalties came at the worst of times, as he looked for every player to take some “ownership” and clean up their play after the whistle.
“It’s only unfortunate when it’s a penalty kick from someone who’s not on the field, isn’t it?” Fajardo said. “You get hold calls or just penalty kicks that go into the game, but when it’s objectionable behavior or something out of play, those things are a little bit more painful especially when we were second and third.”
Looking ahead to next week, Dickinson said the team will be working hard to prepare for the rematch in Winnipeg. The Raiders coach will rely heavily on leadership in the locker room as he believes the best teams are “self-motivated”.
Dickinson is confident the team is “in good shape” to succeed, but admits there is “extra pressure” to beat the Bombers.
“It’s the norm,” Dickinson said. “If you can’t beat Winnipeg you won’t win. So you have to find a way to build your team so you can compete and hopefully beat Winnipeg because they will be there at the end. They will be there this year just as they were last year.”