Points to ponder and improvements needed for our next game which will be against the Edmonton Eskimos.
Rob Vanstone: Sustained sloppiness will not suffice for the Saskatchewan Roughriders
The Saskatchewan Roughriders demonstrated the killer instinct of a Labradoodle — a discomforting development for a team that aspires to become the CFL’s top dog.
Sure, the Roughriders posted a 27-19 CFL victory over the host B.C. Lions on Friday night
, but sustained sloppiness could scuttle the Roughriders’ hopes of enjoying an historic season.
Don’t blame the Saskatchewan defence, which performed in robust fashion.
The special teams — aside from a missed convert by Brett Lauther
, along with a holding penalty that negated a 100-yard kickoff-return touchdown by Loucheiz Purifoy — were just fine, thank you.
But that offence …
The statistics were respectable enough, in some areas.
Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo was typically on-target
, completing 21 of 27 passes.
His favourite target, Naaman Roosevelt
, caught seven passes for 106 yards. With 852 yards on the season, Roosevelt now has a solid shot at reaching the 1,000 milestone for the third time in his CFL career.
, meanwhile, is a mortal lock to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the second time this season.
During Friday’s fourth quarter, Powell rushed for seven yards to hit 1,000 on the nose. Congratulations.
On his next carry, however, he was surrounded for a loss of three. He now carries a season total of 997 yards into an Oct. 26 road game against the Edmonton Eskimos.
The play that followed the loss of three typified the Roughriders’ exasperating performance on offence.
With 1:03 remaining and Saskatchewan leading 27-19, the visitors were called for a time-count violation. The result was a loss of down and a stoppage of the clock.
As a consequence, the Roughriders were forced to punt. The Lions scrimmaged the ball on their 20-yard line with 53 seconds left.
Three plays later, the defence settled matters when Elie Bouka intercepted Lions quarterback Danny O’Brien.
But it shouldn’t have come to that.
Time after time, the Roughriders’ offence gassed glorious opportunities — committing errors that would have been fatal against a formidable foe, as opposed to the feckless felines from B.C.
In the first quarter, Saskatchewan advanced to B.C.’s 45-yard line before Powell was tackled for a loss of one. Fajardo was then sacked. For the second consecutive game, a sack took Saskatchewan out of field-goal range. Punt.
Midway through the second quarter, Fajardo hit Shaq Evans
for a 14-yard gain. Evans fumbled, however, and the Lions ended up scrimmaging the ball on the Roughriders’ 36-yard line. The Lions settled for a field goal.
Late in the second stanza, the Riders’ Makana Henry recovered a fumble on the Lions’ 31-yard line. Saskatchewan advanced another 23 yards before settling for a field goal.
In the third frame, a five-yard run by Fajardo moved the ball to the Lions’ 40. One problem: Thaddeus Coleman
, Saskatchewan’s right tackle, was flagged for unnecessary roughness — the latest undisciplined penalty to be assessed to Saskatchewan. Just like that, second-and-five became second-and-20. Paging Jon Ryan …
Saskatchewan advanced to the Lions’ 20-yard line late in the third quarter before throwing back-to-back incompletions. Field goal. Yawn.
Shortly thereafter, Henry recovered another fumble, this time on B.C’s 14-yard line. True to form, the Riders ended up kicking a chip-shot field goal.
With just under four minutes left, and leading 27-12, the Roughriders were in a third-and-one situation on B.C.’s 41-yard line. However, Fajardo was stuffed on a quarterback sneak and the Lions celebrated a turnover on downs. They scored a TD on the ensuing possession and, just like that, the Roughriders’ once-commanding lead had been pared to eight points.
(Saskatchewan could have attempted a field goal on third down, but the risk of a missed field-goal return for a touchdown must have been a deterrent. When the teams met July 27 at B.C. Place, remember, the Lions’ Ryan Lankford had returned a missed three-pointer 118 yards for a TD.)
The aforementioned time-count violation. Oh, Brothers!
The mind rewinds to Sept. 18, 1970, when a gift from then-Lions quarterback Paul Brothers enabled the Roughriders to miraculously register a 23-22 victory at Taylor Field.
A B.C. victory seemed like a certainty. With 44 seconds left, the Lions had the lead (22-20) and the football (on their nine-yard line). All the visitors needed to do was run three plays, without committing a turnover or stopping the clock, to exhaust the time that remains.
Problem: On second down, Brothers failed to call for the snap before time expired on the 20-second clock. The Lions were flagged for a time-count violation, which stopped the clock with 11 seconds left.
Jim Walter fielded the punt on the Lions’ 50-yard line and took off on an 11-yard return. Three seconds remained — just enough time for Jack Abendschan to kick a 47-yard field goal that gave the Roughriders a 23-22 victory.
The Roughriders did not completely implode, unlike the Lions of 589 months earlier, and escaped with a victory on Friday.
While improving their record to 11-5, the Roughriders assumed sole possession of first place in the West Division, gaining two points on the Calgary Stampeders (10-5). Calgary is to play host to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (10-6) on Saturday.
With a little help from Winnipeg, Saskatchewan could regain control of its destiny in the race for first place.
But, as the season winds down, the Roughriders will also have to help themselves by avoiding the maddening miscues that dogged them on Friday night.