EDMONTON — The playoff-bound Saskatchewan Roughriders have won five of their last seven games, and the team is peaking at the right time with three straight victories on the road.
The surging 8-4 Riders are consistently finding ways to get it done, and head coach Craig Dickenson said he expects the team to continue making strides before the playoffs kick off later this month.
“I feel like we’re getting better. I think the goal is to be playing your best football at the end of the year,” Dickenson said. “We’ve got two more weeks until we get to the playoffs. I think we’re going to play better next week than we did this week, and hopefully we play better in the last week as well. I think we’re getting there.”
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Cody Fajardo posted his highest passing total since Week 9 and also used his legs to sustain scoring drives in Friday night’s win over the Edmonton Elks. Fajardo leads all quarterbacks with 446 rushing yards this season.
“We find a way to win, and good football teams seem to do that,” Fajardo said. “It’s another win and another notch on our goal.”
With leading receiver Kyran Moore out for the season with a knee injury, the Riders are counting on other players to step up and fill the void.
Former Edmonton playmaker Duke Williams had his best performance since signing with Saskatchewan last month, and Canadian Kian Schaffer-Baker led the team in receiving yards with his best game since Week 9.
Williams came down with a 38-yard jump ball in front of Aaron Grymes to set up Saskatchewan’s only major of the game, while Schaffer-Baker finished with a game-high seven catches — including three key second down conversions.
Fajardo said he was happy to see the offence finally starting to find success with the deep ball after earlier struggles.
“He (Williams) got us going today with a big play down the field,” Fajardo said. “Hopefully it opens up the floodgates for us. Everyone knows our deep ball inconsistencies, so a huge play by him.”
Williams also recovered a late onside kick to help seal the win on Friday night, his third in as many games.
“Another onside kick where he finds a way to make a huge play for us. He’s balling out and I’m just happy to have him on our team because he’s helping us win football games,” Fajardo said.
The kicking game has also been a major factor in the Riders’ recent success, as Brett Lauther is now second in the league with 37 field goals after nailing his last eight attempts. Lauther accounted for 12 of Saskatchewan’s 19 points on Friday night.
“Best game I think we played all year on the kicking game,” Dickenson said.
But Dickenson still sees some areas that need cleaning up on both sides of the ball if the team is going to make a strong run in the post-season. The defence put together three dominant quarters against the Elks before giving up 14 points in the fourth, while the offence only managed to generate three points in the final quarter.
“I feel like we got a little tired on defence, we’ll have to work on our conditioning a little bit,” Dickenson said. “And I feel like offensively we’re that close; I feel like we’re really close to putting it together.”
The Riders will face off against Edmonton again in Week 15 when they host the Elks next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET in their first game at Mosaic Stadium since Oct. 9. Saskatchewan has a road matchup against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to close out their regular season on Nov. 20.
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