VANCOUVER — Cody Fajardo‘s 279 passing yards and last-minute, come-from-behind quarterback sneak propelled the Saskatchewan Roughriders over the BC Lions 31-24.
The Michael Reilly–Lucky Whitehead connection continued to result in points for the Lions’ offence as the two connected for a pair of touchdowns as part of Reilly’s 259-yard passing night.
On defence, both teams brought their best, making life hard for each offence’s running backs to establish their run game. The Lions’ secondary would continue to improve on their impressive takeaway resume as they recorded an interception for the seventh-straight game.
Brett Lauther was a crucial part of the Riders’ offence, as his four field goals on the night kept the Green and White on the Lions’ tails all night and sealed the game with his final point-after-attempt.
It was a sight to see Friday night in Vancouver as a sea of Lions fans draped in orange as part of the team’s “Orange Shirt Day Game” gathered to see their team take on the Riders in a battle for second in the West Division.
Following an opening drive that ended in a Lions’ punt, the Fajardo-led Riders went to work. Handing off the ball to William Powell, the Riders’ offensive line generated enough room for him and Fajardo to march their way down the field.
After a sneaky, underhand completion on third-down from Fajardo to Brayden Lenius, the Riders would get all the way down to the BC 30-yard line before Lauther would be called upon. He hit from 38 yards out to put the Riders in front.
In a similar fashion to last week, it took the Lions no time at all to answer.
After dropping a sure-first down during the Lions’ first drive, Reilly and Whitehead would give the fans something to cheer about. It started with the feet of Bryan Burnham, whose 28-yard reception gave the Lions’ offence some momentum. Reilly and Whitehead would attack the sidelines a single play later on a bubble screen and as Whitehead blazed past the entire Riders’ secondary en route to a 47-yard touchdown, giving the Lions their first lead of the game
The Riders would find themselves successful on their second-consecutive drive as a booming Lauther kick from near mid-field was good, bringing the Riders within a point of the Lions’ lead
Following a stalled-out Lions drive that would see them forced to punt, the Riders’ offence would be faced with a long field.
Starting on their own 21-yard line, Craig Dickenson would call on the talents of his quarterback to guide them down the field. After a false start penalty called on Ricardo Louis forced the Riders back five yards, Fajardo found Mitchell Picton before calling his own number twice. After racking up 11 yards on the ground, Fajardo would connect with Lenius for a big gain in the Lions’ territory. Neither Powell nor Fajardo would garner a first down, which saw the Riders call on Lauther to take the field. After being good on his third attempt of the game, the Lions’ were on the opposite end of the score as the Riders led 9-7.
The Lions clawed back and reclaimed the lead on the heels of Reilly, whose seven-straight completions had the Lions positioned in the Riders’ red zone with less than 30 seconds left in the half. After a blindside hit forced a pass intended for Burnham in the end zone to fall incomplete, Reilly found Whitehead for their second touchdown connection of the game.
After the Riders’ offence flipped the field off back-to-back completions by Fajardo, a textbook pass breakup in the end zone by Edwards-Cooper would force the Riders to kick again. Lauther would then hit his fourth field goal attempt, this one from 30-yards out to bring the Riders within striking distance of the lead.
Jimmy Camacho would steal the Lions’ lead right back on their next possession as his first field goal attempt of the night was good from 32 yards out.
The night’s first turnover would come off a Jon Ryan punt that was bobbled by Whitehead and recovered by Blace Brown. This would prove costly for the Lions, as Fajardo found Louis in stride battling single coverage for a 23-yard touchdown, putting them out front by a single point.
The Lions then capitalized on a pass interference call on Ed Gainey, as Shaquille Cooper collected the handoff from Reilly and crossed the goal line to swing the score back in the Lions’ favour.
With under a minute to go, a short punt by the Lions set the stage for the dramatics.
With the ball on the Lions’ 54-yard line, Fajardo and the Riders’ offence came out firing. Fajardo made three quick passes, working their way down to the five-yard line. After being sacked for a loss of four, Fajardo linked up with Kyran Moore near the goal line before lining up under centre and scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
The Riders padded their lead on the final kickoff of the game, as another Whitehead fumble was scooped up and returned for a touchdown by Demarquis Gates.
Next up for the Lions is a date with the West-Division leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers on Friday night at 10:oo p.m. ET at BC Place. Saskatchewan will travel to Calgary to tangle with the Stampeders next Saturday at 7:00 p.m. ET.