REGINA — It appears the bye week came at the right time for the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
After a disappointing 37-10 loss to the Calgary Stampeders on July 6, the Riders had Week 6 of the CFL schedule off before beginning preparations for Saturday’s game against the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium.
While some players might prefer quickly returning to the field in an effort to put the loss behind them, many Riders liked the timing of the bye week.
"We were on a short week, we’d played two quick games and guys were a little beat up," said Saskatchewan quarterback Cody Fajardo. "Body wise, I really think we needed that bye. And also mentally, I think it was good for us to get away a little bit, especially after a tough loss like that … Being able to get away, you come back energized.
"Now that loss is buried and that’s a better take. It was a perfect time for us to have a bye."
The Riders struggled in all areas against the Stampeders. Fajardo, filling in for the injured Zach Collaros, was 9-for-15 passing for 89 yards and two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Tre Roberson.
And despite facing backup quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who was making his first career start in place of the injured Bo Levi Mitchell, the Riders defence allowed 402 total yards of offence. Arbuckle shined, completing 19-of-22 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
The Lions are also struggling, entering the game with a 1-4 record and having allowed a league-high 17 sacks of franchise quarterback Mike Reilly. Saturday’s game is the first in a home-and-home series for the teams and a sweep of the set could have major implications going forward.
Yet Solomon Elimimian is adamant the Riders are not in a desperate situation.
"There’s a sense of urgency. We are 1-3 and we are in the West where it’s historically always been challenging but we can’t look too far ahead," said the 32-year-old linebacker, who is in his first season with Saskatchewan after nine seasons with the Lions. "We can’t focus on the home-and-home with B.C. We have to focus on tomorrow night."
Fajardo feels the week of preparation has helped him personally — he admitted he was trying too hard to make things happen against Calgary — and he’s confident the bye week had a positive impact on the Riders.
"I think we’re re-energized for sure," said Fajardo. "There’s been a lot of energy this week, guys having fun, lots of smiling faces. We’re ready to get the bad taste out of our mouths, at least have the opportunity to get the bad taste out of our mouths. Any time you go into a bye week with a loss, especially a bad loss like we had, it really hurts and it sticks into the back of your mind because you know you’ve got two weeks before your next game.
"I think guys are hungry, we’re champing at the bit to go out there and show that just wasn’t us."
B.C. LIONS (1-4) AT SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS (1-3)
Saturday, Mosaic Stadium
RETURN OF THE MANNY SHOW: Receiver Manny Arceneaux will make his debut with the Riders after signing with the team as a free agent in the off-season. The former Lion inked a one-year deal with the Riders, reportedly worth $90,000, with an additional per game bonus for playing 51 per cent or more offensive plays. In eight seasons with the Lions, Arceneaux played 129 games, catching 556 passes for 8,169 yards and 55 touchdowns. When asked how much the 31-year-old Arceneaux will play Saturday, Riders head coach Craig Dickenson said, "We are going to proceed cautiously with him."
BACK TO MOSAIC: Lions wide receiver Duron Carter, who played 25 games over two seasons with the Riders, will make his first appearance in Regina since signing with the Lions as a free agent. Carter, who totalled 1,043 receiving yards for the Riders in 2017, has caught 24 passes for 240 yards in five games this season. Ryan Lankford, another former Rider, will make his debut with the Lions on Saturday. Released after three games this season by the Ottawa RedBlacks, Lankford with serve as a kick returner and a backup receiver.
MORE CHANGES: Defensive back Nick Marshall and slotback/returner Christion Jones return for the Riders after missing the loss to Calgary. Rookie kicker Gabe Ferraro remains in the lineup for a second game, replacing Brett Lauther who is reportedly dealing with a groin injury.