CFL Pass

Riders thumped 37-1 by Stampeders

CALGARY — There was more smoke than fire to the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 37-1 pre-season loss to the host Calgary Stampeders.

The game was delayed for 30 minutes by smoke and a poor air quality due the wildfires in northern Alberta. Once the game started, the Riders weren’t up to the level of the defending Grey Cup champions. Calgary jumped into a 10-0 first-quarter lead and never looked back.

The one thing the Riders can take from the lop-sided loss is it was a pre-season game and that they had left most of their regulars in Regina.

Having said that, the focus of Friday’s game was the performance of the quarterbacks and which of the four that dressed would take steps towards becoming the backup to starter Zach Collaros.

“You want separation, but you also have to let it play out,” said Riders head coach Craig Dickenson. “If it’s still close, we’ll go into the last pre-season game (on Thursday against the visiting Winnipeg Blue Bombers) and let them battle it out again. This next one, we need to get Zach some work.”

On Friday, Fajardo started and was followed by David Watford, Isaac Harker and Ty Gangi.

Fajardo took the biggest strides towards being second on the depth chart. The 27-year-old completed 10-of-12 passes for 73 yards and looked poised in the pocket. He also rushed a team-high six times for 30 yards.

“It’s not my call to make,” Fajardo said when asked if he had helped his cause to be the backup to Collaros. “I thought I played pretty decent. My whole goal was to move the ball and I did that.”

Fajardo moved the ball with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that stalled at Calgary’s one-yard line. Considering Fajardo has primarily been a short-yardage quarterback in his three CFL seasons, scoring from the one-yard line should be in his wheelhouse.

“I really wish that I had finished with a touchdown at the end because short yardage is my thing,” Fajardo said. “That won’t happen in the season, but it was a little different because I was in the game and then I go into short yardage. It’s a little different than coming off the sideline fresh.”

Watford’s got off to an inauspicious start when he was sacked during his first play at quarterback. He recovered and completed eight of 12 passes for 65 yards and one interception.

“I didn’t think I had to match Cody because that’s Cody’s game and it’s different from mine,” Watford said. “I felt like he was doing a lot of positive things and I wanted to keep the energy up on the offence. I wanted to continue to build drives and put us in position to score.”

Harker was five-for-10 for 54 yards and Gangi missed on his only pass attempt late in the game and was intercepted.

Head coach Craig Dickenson was pleased how Fajardo moved the team. Dickenson, however, wasn’t willing to anoint Fajardo second on the depth chart.

“I don’t want to say for sure until we see the film,” Dickenson said. “I sensed again that the offence was in a rhythm when he was out there.”

The Riders are off Saturday and are scheduled to return to practice on Sunday at Saskatoon’s Griffiths Stadium.