2018 ROUGHRID­ERS ARE HOP­ING TO RE­PEAT HIS­TORY

Pre­vi­ous years sug­gest that the team can bounce back hard from play­off let­down

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - ROB VAN­STONE rvan­stone@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/rob­van­stone

The Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers were de­nied a 2017 Grey Cup ap­pear­ance due to a last-minute touch­down by the un­for­get­table ... er, what is his name again? ... Cody Fa­jardo!

Fa­jardo, whom the Toronto Arg­onauts de­ployed as their short-yardage quar­ter­back in last year’s CFL East Di­vi­sion final, scored on a one-yard sneak with 23 sec­onds as his team ral­lied for a 25-21 vic­tory at BMO Field.

Now, Fa­jardo’s name will not go down in Roughrid­ers in­famy like that of Tony Gabriel or the 13th man, but rest as­sured that in­cum­bents with the 2018 edi­tion of the Green and White re­mem­ber the ex-argo (now with the B.C. Lions) all too vividly.

Af­ter all, the Roughrid­ers were so close to a Grey Cup berth that they could taste it.

They were one play away from punch­ing their ticket to the big game, only to have the Ar­gos — with fu­ture Hall of Famer Ricky Ray calling the sig­nals — con­vert a third-and-five sit­u­a­tion. Fa­jardo scored four plays later.

The sight of the Ar­gos at Mo­saic Sta­dium on Fri­day will as­suredly evoke re­minders of the Roughrid­ers’ flir­ta­tion with the league final.

The pain of Nov. 19 can be used con­struc­tively. If the Roughrid­ers need any more fuel for the loom­ing reg­u­lar-sea­son opener, all they need to do is look at the dou­ble blue and re­mem­ber how blue they felt dur­ing the penul­ti­mate week­end of the 2017 sea­son.

Could this be a good omen for the Roughrid­ers?

His­tory demon­strates that the Roughrid­ers have tended to re­bound from play­off dis­ap­point­ment — dev­as­ta­tion, even — in ro­bust fash­ion.

In fact, all four cham­pi­onship teams in fran­chise his­tory en­dured a let­down (or worse) the pre­vi­ous Novem­ber. Let’s re­view:

1965: The Roughrid­ers lost 15-9 to the Win­nipeg Blue Bombers in the Western Con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal. In the wan­ing min­utes, Roughrid­ers tight end Jim Wor­den got be­hind a de­fender in the end zone. CLANG! Ron Lan­caster’s pass hit an upright. “I guess I should have aimed at the upright,” Lan­caster said. “Then I would have missed it.” There was no miss­ing the fol­low­ing year, when Saskatchewan won its first Grey Cup.

1988: Af­ter 11 con­sec­u­tive sea­sons out of the play­offs, the Roughrid­ers fi­nally snapped the pro­tracted drought — only to lose 42-18 to the vis­it­ing Lions in the West semi­fi­nal. “We got taught a les­son that day,” re­mem­bered slot­back James Elling­son, one of many con­trib­u­tors to Saskatchewan’s Grey Cup vic­tory in 1989.

2006: The Roughrid­ers up­set the host Cal­gary Stam­ped­ers 30-21 in the West semi­fi­nal be­fore los­ing 48-15 in Van­cou­ver. The Danny Bar­rett-coached Saskatchewan side was woe­fully un­pre­pared for the noise at B.C. Place. Quar­ter­back Kerry Joseph, in par­tic­u­lar, thirsted for a do-over. The fol­low­ing year, un­der head coach Kent Austin, the Roughrid­ers de­feated the host Lions 26-17 en route to win­ning the Grey Cup one week later. 2012: Dar­ian Du­rant’s fourth touch­down pass of the West semi­fi­nal helped Saskatchewan as­sume a 30-29 lead with 52 sec­onds left in Cal­gary. Thirty-two sec­onds later, Drew Tate found Romby Bryant for a 68-yard TD and Cal­gary won, 36-30. “Go­ing into 2013, we felt like we had it,” Du­rant re­called. “That play­off game in Cal­gary that we lost in 2012, we knew that was a game we should have won.” The Rid­ers made amends the fol­low­ing year.

2017: See: Fa­jardo, Cody. Dur­ing that game, the Roughrid­ers’ de­fi­cien­cies along the of­fen­sive line were ex­posed. As well, un­cer­tainty reigned at quar­ter­back, as head coach Chris Jones made three quar­ter­back­ing switches — twice go­ing from Kevin Glenn to Bran­don Bridge.

Fast for­ward to 2018. As the sea­son opener ap­proaches, Jones has yet to de­clare a start­ing quar­ter­back (bet heav­ily on Col­laros) and no­body is sure that the Roughrid­ers’ pass pro­tec­tion will be re­li­able.

If the Roughrid­ers are to re­peat his­tory by em­u­lat­ing the teams of 1966, 1989, 2007 and 2013, there can­not be a reprise of what led to last year’s demise.

MARK BLINCH/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Arg­onauts QB Cody Fa­jardo runs for the win­ning touch­down dur­ing last year’s CFL East Di­vi­sion final against the vis­it­ing Roughrid­ers.

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