The Winnipeg Blue Bombers look to advance to their 11th Grey Cup, the first since 1990, in Sunday’s Canadian Football League Western Conference Final. But to get there, they will have to neutralize the CFL’s leading passer, Saskatchewan Rough Riders signal-caller Cody Fajardo, who threw for 4,302 yards in his first year with the Roughriders, leading the team to a first-place finish in the West, according to a National Post report.
The former University of Nevada quarterback also rushed for another 611 yards, second only to the Blue Bombers quarterback Chris Streveler, who rushed for 726. Streveler was used as a rushing specialist, and ran for 82 yards in last weekend’s conference semifinal against the Calgary Stampeders.
The Blue Bombers are again expected to switch off between Streveler and Zach Collaros, who tossed for 193 yards — including a touchdown — in the semifinal clash, as Winnipeg denied Calgary a fourth consecutive trip to the Grey Cup.
“Both guys, having them lead our team at the quarterback position is a big asset for us,” Winnipeg rushing back Andrew Harris told TSN.
Fajardo may not play the entire game for Saskatchewan, either. An oblique muscle injury sidelined him for the team’s regular season finale, and has made the former Oakland Raider questionable for Sunday’s conference final. However, Coach Craig Dickenson said that Fajardo would get the start.
“He’s going to have some soreness and some stiffness, but he’s shown that he can execute and run the offence the way we need him to,” Dickenson told TSN. “It hasn’t affected his mobility at all.”
Oddsmakers see Saskatchewan, who finished the regular season at 13-5, as 3.5-point favorites, according to USA Today’s Sportsbook Wire. The Roughriders were 12-5-1 against the point spread this season — but 5-3-1 when playing at Mosaic Stadium.
The home field advantage appears to be significant, with the home team winning every game in the three-game regular season series between the two teams. That gave the Roughriders a 2-1 edge in the regular season.
While Saskatchewan has the CFL’s leading passer, Winnipeg boasts the league-leading rusher in Harris, who accumulated 1,380 yards while playing 16 games.
Fajardo said that he expected “adrenaline” to take over once the game begins, freeing him up to throw a variety of passes. At a practice session on Friday, the 27-year-old attempted only short-yardage passes. But the quarterback told TSN that he felt better than he had since suffering the oblique injury.
But Fajardo said that he would not hesitate to remove himself from the game if “I can’t get certain things done.”