Sunday’s game was a Labour Day Classic of a roller coaster for the Riders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It produced an ending with Cody Fajardo’s finest moments as a Rider. At the same time it was a day when almost every player could point to good and bad plays.
The Sept. 1 game against the Blue Bombers saw the Riders win 19-17.
On defence Derrick Moncrief led the roller coaster with an interception, an epic sack, a surrendered touchdown and a key pass interference penalty.
He cut under Drew Wolitarsky running an out to provide the Riders with their second game in a row intercepting a pass on the opposition’s opening series. He said he read the eyes of Bomber quarterback, Chris Streveler, taking him to the outside.
A short time later he delivered a massive hit on Streveler as he was untouched on a blitz. I was startled Streveler popped up. Echoing several Rider defenders Moncrief said Streveler is a strong guy.
What amazed me was that Moncrief said he was not supposed to blitz on the play. He made a mistake on his assignment for the play by blitzing.
Still in the first half, he appeared to get caught looking too much at Streveler as Kenny Lawler went by him into the end zone and Streveler was able to loft the ball over Moncrief to Lawler for a touchdown.
Later in the game Moncrief let the Bombers escape from deep in their territory when he ran into Nick Demski 33 yards downfield for a pass interference penalty. He said he got there too early. Chasing Demski it was more accurate to say he got there too late.
After the game, head coach Craig Dickenson was circumspect in discussing Moncrief’s game. He said he would have to watch the film. Most often such comments are used by coaches to avoid giving negative comment.
For Fajardo there were good drives, a nice touchdown pass and a brilliant last drive. He also spun into sacks, threw a pair of interceptions and completed but four passes in the second half until the final drive.
On his first interception he was running left and tried to squeeze a throw into Kyran Moore. He said he’s got to run that one out of bounds rather than forcing the throw which Adam Bighill caught after the ball was tipped. Later in the game Fajardo did run out of bounds when faced with that situation.
On the second interception he said they needed to take some shots deep. Throwing for Naaman Roosevelt, Fajardo described it as a 50/50 play. Unlike most deep passes he has missed on Sunday, his pass was underthrown rather than overthrown.
Great quarterbacks are remembered for what they do on the final drive when a score is needed to win the game.
Fajardo and the Rider offence were not dismayed to be starting that last possession at the Rider five-yard line with just over three minutes. He said there was dead quiet in the huddle.
As they started moving the ball he said there was a sense of calmness. He added that it felt like practice. Roosevelt said they practiced hard to prepare for the fourth quarter and knew they could play better than they had played that half.
Fajardo was so poised during the drive, completing five consecutive passes.
Having had a timecount penalty at the end of the first half he did cause some anxiety by how close he ran down the clock on some plays.
After the first couple of Rider first downs, I felt the Riders could not be stopped on the drive. It was the feeling I had in too many games watching Anthony Calvillo lead the Alouettes to last drive victories.
Dickenson said Fajardo showed grit and that he is a bit of a natural leader.
Ever the realist, Dickenson concluded his remarks by saying the Riders would not win the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg next weekend if they played like they did on Labour Day.
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.