Saskatchewan

Loss to Blue Bombers still stings a day later as Riders clean out lockers

"I feel like we could have executed a little better," said running back William Powell. Meanwhile, free agency could dramatically change the look of next year's team.

Free agency could dramatically change the look of next year's team

The Roughriders offence will be built around quarterback Cody Fajardo. (The Canadian Press)

The heart-breaking loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers still stung a day later as Saskatchewan Roughrider players cleaned out their lockers at Mosaic Stadium.

"Just the fact that we left them we left some plays out there," said running back William Powell.

"I feel like we could have executed a little better."

The Riders failed to score on two late drives in the 20-13 loss.

Back-up quarterback Brian Bennett was brought in at the goal line in one series that fizzled and then starter Cody Fajardo's last-second pass into the endzone hit the crossbar to end the game.

"It was kind of devastating," Powell said. "I feel like we had a chance if it didn't hit the crossbar."

Riders head coach Craig Dickenson had a restless night after Sunday's loss. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

Head coach Craig Dickenson said he didn't sleep well Sunday night, but wasn't going to dwell on trying to second-guess the play calling decisions late in the game.

"I thought about a couple of plays," he said, adding he thought they were going to tie the game on a trick punt return play.

"I mean the reality is when you coach long enough you're gonna be on the losing end of games like that once in a while and you're gonna be on the winning end. So we try not to beat ourselves up too much."

Powell said he wasn't going to second-guess the coaches.

"You have to go with the flow of the game," he said.

"You feel like you have certain plays and you know that's just what it comes down to."

Saskatchewan Roughriders running back William Powell is expected to be back with the team next season. (The Canadian Press)

Linebacker Cameron Judge said the loss still hurts.

"I mean just all the months of work and you want to be able to see it pay off and just not being able to get it done stings."

"They just made more plays than we did when they needed them I guess," said Judge.

Judge is the Western nominee for the Top Canadian award but an individual prize pales in comparison to playing in the Grey Cup.

"I'll cherish that and take it for what it is," he said.

Dickenson said despite the loss, he is proud of the team.

"There is a sense of accomplishment and really a sense of pride with the group," he said. "It didn't end the way we wanted it. And there's a lot of things you look back and say we've could have done this differently or that definitely and maybe the outcome is different. 

"I think the guys are just still a little shell-shocked but I think they're enjoying each other's company.

Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Cameron Judge will become a free agent. (CBC News)

Dickenson defended the play-calling in the last minutes of the game, saying they tried to give the offence the best plays to succeed.

"[Winnipeg] does a great job of clogging up the middle with their guys," Dickenson said. "So when you do try to run inside they make it tough. 

"You know the one play with Bennett was a run play to Powell and we just didn't get it handed off. You know that was the one that really bothered me," Dickenson said.

"Did we execute as well as we wanted to? No. Do we wish we had maybe another crack at it and done it differently, probably."

"It's just two good teams and it came down to one play here, one play there that made the difference."

Saskatchewan Roughriders offensive lineman Dan Clark was happy just to be able to play this season after being involved in a car accident. (CBC)

Free agency

Judge is one of a number of free agents on the Riders. He's not sure what is going to happen.

"I wasn't expecting to be thinking about that now," Judge said.

Dickenson said he and general manager Jeremy O'Day will evaluate everyone in the coming month, but Judge is definitely one player they want back in the fold.

"He's a good player and we're going to do everything we can to get him back," Dickenson said.

"We want to try to keep this team together. But the reality is that we won't be able to keep everybody. So we'll do the best we can and that's something we'll talk about next week."

Dickenson said a lot of factors come into play including salaries, age, and how the team wants to structure their Canadian ratio.

Veteran receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux is a free agent, but he's more concerned with seeing his young son right now.

He said it's no secret what he brings to a team on and off the field.

"So if it's any organization that seek those needs I'm not a hard guy to find."

Offensive lineman Dan Clark is another free agent.

"I think I've been through this process enough times that you kind of roll with it. I still plan on continuing to be a good member in the community and do as much as I can with the Red Cross and whatever the club needs me to do and just kind of go from there."

It has been nearly 19 months since the Riders' last game. A 20-13 loss to Winnipeg in the West Final at Mosaic Stadium. (The Canadian Press)

Clark said he was just happy to be able to come back and play after being in a car accident in May.

"[The loss] hurts. It's one of those ones you're not going to say that it doesn't hurt," Clark said. "But I shouldn't even be here … and that's a blessing in itself to say that I played all 18 [games]."

While they won't get everyone back, Dickenson said they will have a solid core to work with starting with Fajardo.

"At least you know you got the guy you can try to build your offence around," Dickenson said. "I've always felt, and Jeremy shares that, you need to have a good quarterback and then you need to be good upfront on both lines. So we feel like we're in good shape at quarterback [and] now we'll start looking at our lines and we'll go out from there."

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