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Fajardo ends touchdown drought for Riders in 30-16 win over Argos

REGINA — Ending a frustrating touchdown drought on Friday was a huge relief for Cody Fajardo and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

REGINA — Ending a frustrating touchdown drought on Friday was a huge relief for Cody Fajardo and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

A 30-16 victory over the Toronto Argonauts, which featured three offensive touchdowns by the Riders, put the offence back on track.

The Riders entered the game having not scored a touchdown since the third quarter of a 23-10 victory over the Ottawa RedBlacks on Aug. 21. The streak, which included back-to-back defeats against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, ended when Fajardo scored on a quarterback sneak on Saskatchewan’s first possession of the game.

“Toronto’s a great defence and I think people overlook that. That’s a tough defence to put 30 points on,” said Fajardo. “I’m very proud of the offensive group and the way it responded to not scoring lately. We responded with touchdowns. It felt good to hear the roar of the crowd after a touchdown rather than a field goal.”

The victory improves the Riders to 4-2 while the Argos fell to 3-3.

As important as the touchdowns were, head coach Craig Dickenson was pleased to see the Riders bounce back from the two-game losing skid.

“We needed to play well. We needed a win, no doubt,” said Dickenson. “We made mistakes still but the guys played hard. It feels good to get back into the win column.”

The Riders defence came up with three turnovers in the first half. Elie Bouka and Deon Lacey both forced fumbles that Saskatchewan recovered. The Riders also had a goal-line stand late in the second quarter, stopping Toronto quarterback Nick Arbuckle on a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line and running back John White on the following play.

Rookie receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker had a breakout game for the Riders, catching nine passes for 99 yards. He scored his first CFL touchdown in the fourth quarter, catching a short pass and breaking several tackles en route to a 24-yard score. Fajardo connected with Mitchell Picton on a two-point convert attempt to increase the Riders lead to 26-9.

Fajardo couldn’t say enough about Schaffer-Baker’s contribution to the offence.

“The kid is a stud, he belongs in this league and he’s a rookie,” said Fajardo. “I told him there’s no need to think he’s a rookie, he’s a veteran as the weeks go on. I’m excited about Kian. I mean, I throw a two-yard route and he takes it for a 20-yard touchdown while breaking 30 tackles.

“I just wish I had of known he had 99 yards because I would’ve found a way to get him one more yard.”

Dickenson also praised Schaffer-Baker but cautioned fans about expecting the 6-foot-4, 195-pound rookie to perform at this level every game.

“I’m going to tell you straight up, he’s going to have some highs and some lows, that’s what rookies do,” said Dickenson. “Tonight was a high for him. We hope that there won’t be too much of a dip. You have to be patient with first-year players.”

Receiver Brayden Lenius increased Saskatchewan’s lead to 15-3 early in the second quarter when he hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Fajardo. Tailback William Powell set up the touchdown with a 33-yard run.

Toronto trimmed Saskatchewan's lead to 18-9 with a six-play, 66-yard scoring drive to open the second half. Receiver DaVaris Daniels played a big role in the drive, catching three passes for 60 yards including a 21-yard touchdown reception.

Arbuckle tossed his second touchdown pass of the game four minutes into the fourth quarter, connecting with Eric Rogers on an 18-yard play. The major narrowed the Riders lead to 27-16.

Powell finished with 122 rushing yards on 21 carries. He had an impressive first half, gaining 86 yards on 13 carries.

Fajardo completed 21-of-31 passes for 212 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also had 58 yards rushing on eight carries.

Riders kicker Brett Lauther was 2 for 4 on field-goal attempts, connecting from 23 and 24 yards while missing from 46 and 41 yards.

Micah Johnson, Deon Lacey, Keion Adams and Jonathan Woodard recorded sacks for the Riders while Nick Marshall had an interception.

Charleston Hughes and Dewayne Hendrix had sacks for the Argos, while Crezdon Butler had an interception.

Arbuckle finished with 309 yards passing, connecting on 22-of-33 attempts. He had two touchdown passes and one interception.

Argos linebacker Cameron Judge was hurt six minutes into the game, suffering an apparent leg injury.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 17, 2021.

Jeff DeDekker, The Canadian Press