Is there logic to being disappointed by a win?
The Riders, as expected, defeated the B.C. Lions on Saturday evening. They have 11 wins. They remain tied with the Calgary Stampeders for first place and can finish no worse than second place in the West.
In the last four decades I have covered the Riders, there are far more seasons when Rider fans were grateful for any win than seasons when they are disappointed by the manner of victory.
Late in the back-to-back 2-14 seasons in the late 1970s, there were home games when I could not persuade anyone to come with me to a game even if I offered them a free ride, a free ticket and a free lunch.
On field prosperity has arrived when the quality of a win is an issue. How valid were the disquieting concerns over victory?
The Riders had a slow start to the game. The Riders did not score in the first quarter. The Riders faced major field position issues in that their first two possessions began at their 10 and 14 yard lines. They moved the ball on each possession but not far enough to score. B.C. only managed a field goal during the quarter.
The Rider offence could not score touchdowns after turnovers. The Riders did not get touchdowns after a pair of B.C. fumbles. They did score field goals. B.C. was also held to a field goal after a Rider turnover.
Charleston Hughes is not sacking the quarterback. For yet another game Charleston was unable to get a sack. However, his defensive mates recorded six sacks on the evening. It is hard to tell if he is not as effective or offences are focusing on him. The Riders will win a lot of games with six sacks and the number of pressures they had on B.C. quarterbacks.
Foolish penalties are hurting the team. The Riders had eight penalties to four penalties for B.C. Offensive tackle, Thaddeus Coleman, had a very unnecessary roughing penalty. Oluwaseun Idowu was called for holding on Loucheiz Purifoy’s kickoff return for a touchdown to start the 3rd quarter. The Riders are 2nd in the league in penalties trailing only Edmonton. The Riders do incur too many costly penalties.
The Riders should have William Powell run the ball more. The Riders are third in the league in rushing. Of the individual running backs only Andrew Harris and C.J. Gable have more total rushes. The stats are skewed as Harris was suspended for two games and Gable has also missed games. Over the season Powell has 12 rushes per game. On Saturday he had 15. I do think the Riders could run him more. When Kory Sheets rushed for 1,598 yards in the wondrous 2013 season he averaged 16 carries per game.
Coaching decisions in the last few minutes of the game are a problem. With five minutes to go the Riders are up 15 and at the Lion 43 on second and three after a seven-yard Powell run. Fajardo ran an option right for two yards. The Riders had just run Powell on four consecutive plays gaining at least three yards on every play. I do not believe the Lions could have stopped him. Cal Murphy told me repeatedly that coaches get too caught up in thinking they have to change up what is working to keep the defence off balance rather than having the defence prove they can stop what is working.
The Riders were third and one on the next play and tried a quarterback sneak that was unsuccessful. Much as I would have liked to see them run Powell on the play as they had done earlier in the game at the goal line I am alright with that decision. Fajardo is rarely stopped on short yardage. I would have been equally alright with an attempted field goal. I do believe you must have confidence in your kicker and coverage teams from inside 50 yards.
Fajardo has to have better clock management. Getting a time count penalty in the last three minutes and losing the down is terrible. Fajardo has had a series of time count penalties. Time is pivotal in the final minutes. He has spoken of being too amped up to start games. He is not too amped up in making plays at the end of games. He may be too amped up to watch the clock and make plays. Having experienced the consequences of a late game time count I do expect Fajardo will not have another time count this season.
You do not reach 11 wins without being a very good team.
Bill Selnes, who’s based in Melfort, has written about the Saskatchewan Roughriders since the late 1970s. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, Football Reporters of Canada wing on Nov. 24, 2013.