The 2019 West Division final might feel like a lifetime ago, but the heartache from that game is still fresh in Cody Fajardo’s mind.
“Pretty much every day I wake up I think about it,” the Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback said Saturday.
“Listen, I don’t know if I’ll ever forget about the way the 2019 season ended.”
To be fair, it’s almost impossible to forget a game ending with a pass bouncing off the goalpost. Fajardo’s misfire on the final play gave the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers a 20-13 victory and a spot in the Grey Cup.
The good news for Fajardo is that today, 749 days later, he has a chance to get revenge. The Riders go head-to-head with the heavily favoured Bombers Sunday at IG Field with a trip to next week’s Grey Cup in Hamilton on the line.
It’s exactly how Fajardo wanted it.
“We have some guys that have carried over from the 2019 team but we also have a lot of new faces on our roster that weren’t in that game. I think the guys who have carried over, it means a lot to us. The guys that are new faces, they know how our season ended in 2019 and they’re going to push just as hard as we are,” Fajardo said.
“To have this opportunity at your hand, the following year after everything looked so dark and bleak, for me, to be in this situation and have this opportunity, I don’t know what’s going to happen (Sunday), but to tell you this truth, I’m just happy that I have an opportunity to right my wrongs.”
Unlike 2019, the Riders find themselves as massive underdogs. It’s hard to argue with that considering they lost to the Bombers twice this year and didn’t score a single touchdown. But head coach Craig Dickenson isn’t looking at the underdog role as a negative thing.
“The one thing is, everybody says it and I think it’s true, you don’t have as much pressure on yourself. People aren’t sure if you’re expected to win and maybe they don’t expect you to be close in the ball game. So, I think being the underdog is kind of a role that you can embrace and run with, but the reality is, you still have to play good enough to win,” Dickenson said.
“… Our guys know they’re heavily favoured, but our guys are a confident bunch and feel like we can compete with them and beat them.”
One thing that could help Saskatchewan pull off the upset is the weather. With freezing temperatures, snow, and wind gusts of more than 60 km/h, Fajardo’s ability to tuck the ball and run will be vital. Fajardo ran 10 times for 89 yards and a score in last week’s 33-30 overtime victory over the Calgary Stampeders in the West semi-final.
“I think you got to have a mobile quarterback in games like this. Absolutely. I think the more mobile your quarterback is and the worse the weather is, the bigger advantage you have,” Dickenson said.
INJURY BUG IN RIDERVILLE
The Roughriders are crossing their fingers that star slotback Duke Williams will be able to play on Sunday.
After spending some time with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, Williams returned to the CFL this year and played four games for Saskatchewan where he made 17 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown. Williams was limited in practice this week with turf toe and is a game-time decision. If he can’t go, he’ll be replaced by Rashard Davis — a CFL newcomer with one catch in four games this season.
“He’s a big one for us. No doubt… It’ll be a thing where we go out in pregame and move around a little bit and ask him how he feels,” Dickenson said.
Defensive end A.C. Leonard, the CFL’s leader in sacks, injured his hip in practice this week but Dickenson said he’s good to play. The same can’t be said for weak-side linebacker Micah Teitz (foot) and strong-side linebacker Jay Dearborn (shoulder) who suffered injuries last week against Calgary.
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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