Saskatchewan·Analysis

Roughriders' season ends with a clunk

When Fajardo ricocheted his end zone pass off the north end zone crossbar on Sunday night with no time left, it was a cruel ending to a promising year.

Saskatchewan falls short of Grey Cup bid with 20-13 loss to Winnipeg

Quarterback Cody Fajardo wants to erase last season's western final loss as soon as possible which may not easy given the state of the world today. (The Canadian Press)

It was no doubt the sickest sound Cody Fajardo had ever heard in his life.

Ironically, Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterbacks play a little game among themselves in practice.

They make little side bets to see who can hit the crossbar with a football.

But when Fajardo ricocheted his end zone pass off the north end zone crossbar on Sunday night with no time left, it was a cruel ending to a promising year.

"I just remember hitting that thing and the stadium was complete dead silence and I can just hear the echo of the iron." said Fajardo moments after a 20-13 loss to the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL West Division final.

"The crossbar is 80 per cent air, 20 per cent iron and I hit it."

Unfortunately for Fajardo and the Riders, it was not a scene you could imagine from a movie, just reality.

Their season was over.

The Cody Fajardo story, however, would make for a pretty good screenplay.

After the game, Fajardo said, "As an offence, we didn't deserve to win that game. We got down inside the five three times (in the 4th quarter) and couldn't score a touchdown." (The Canadian Press)

A guy considered to be nothing more than a role player back in training camp, to take over as the No. 1 quarterback just a few plays into the season and go on to be nominated as the Western nominee for most outstanding player.

Only one other quarterback in CFL history (David Archer) had more yards in his first season as a starter.

Fajardo tied the league record for most wins in a season for a first year starter and he set a team record for passing efficiency.

He also played Sunday's West Final with two torn oblique muscles which he confirmed after the game was over.

Despite playing with two torn oblique muscles, Fajardo still threw for 366 yards against the Bombers. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Torn oblique muscles can take months to recover from but Fajardo was playing a little more than two weeks after he suffered the injury in practice.

"I thought I did everything I could to play out there, felt like I was effective and didn't hold the team back."

His struggles with the injury were obvious at times, several passes were off and he wasn't as mobile as he normally is, but he was still Saskatchewan's best bet to win.

Never did the head coach consider pulling him out.

"No, we were going to go with Cody the whole way. He's our leader, he's going to play." said Craig Dickenson, sitting beside Fajardo during the post-game media conference.

The same thoughts echoed through the dressing room.

"It's admirable. We knew he wasn't 100 per cent, felt like he did what we needed him do, he just gave us a chance." said linebacker Solomon Elimimian.

The quarterback who started the season as the Riders' starter, Zach Collaros, came back to haunt his former mates, leading the Bombers to victory and a Grey Cup berth. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

But while the Riders clean out their stalls at Mosaic Stadium, the story that will play out in Calgary at Grey Cup this week will be of Zach Collaros.

He was the one who relinquished the reins as Saskatchewan's starting quarterback when he suffered a concussion on the third play in the first game of the season.

While Collaros was recovering, Fajardo was establishing himself as Saskatchewan's golden child, arguably the most popular Roughriders quarterback since Ron Lancaster.

General manager Jeremy O'Day rid himself of a potential problem by trading Collaros mid-season to Toronto, the last-place team in the East Division.

It was a trade that came back to bite him in the butt.

Little did he know, the Argos would ship Collaros off to Winnipeg who quickly became number one there, and didn't you see it coming?

He was the one who would lead the Bombers to victory in the Western Final to beat his former mates in front of his former fans.

Football can be a cruel game.

But not as cruel as a clunk off the cross bar with no time left on the clock.

Season over.

The first Western Final to be played in Saskatchewan in ten years ends in defeat. For the second straight year, the Roughriders' season ends with a home field playoff loss to Winnipeg. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

 And that other clunk you heard was Fajardo's heart.

"My heart just hurts for a lot of those guys. I will never get the opportunity to play with again, guys will be going to different teams. This team will never be the same and that's what hurts most — knowing that's it for us."

But it's only the beginning for Fajardo as he enters 2020 with a new contract.

"It's my first off-season knowing that I've got a home next year and the year after that."

One thing is certain. The Grey Cup game will be played at Mosaic Stadium next November, and the Riders' brass will do everything in their power to make sure they are in it.

As Cody Fajardo said himself to close out Sunday night, the future looks bright for the Roughriders.

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