B.C. Lions' Ben Hladik, left, and Jordan Williams, back right, tackle Saskatchewan Roughriders' Kian Schaffer-Baker during the first half of CFL football game action in Vancouver on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Fajardo bounces back as Roughriders roll past Lions 23-16

The Riders improve to 6-5 for the season, while the Lions fall to 8-2

The Saskatchewan Roughriders closed out their CFL season series with a 23-16 road win over the injury-stricken B.C. Lions on Friday night at BC Place Stadium.

Kian Schaffer-Baker and Tevin Jones had touchdowns for Saskatchewan, while Brett Lauther connected on all three of his field-goal attempts and added a convert. Jacob Scarfone caught a touchdown pass for B.C., while Sean Whyte went 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts.

Coming into the game, the spotlight was on the quarterback position for both teams. After being pulled before halftime in the Roughriders’ 28-10 home loss to the Lions last week, Cody Fajardo responded well, finishing with 314 yards in the air off 18-of-23 passing, as well as 38 yards rushing.

In his first CFL start following last week’s injury to B.C.’s Nathan Rourke, Michael O’Connor went 6-for-15 for 94 yards. He was replaced by Antonio Pipkin with 8:21 left to play in the second quarter. Pipkin went 9-for-17 in the air for 112 yards, and also ran for 26 yards.

On the Lions’ opening drive, O’Connor moved the ball efficiently into scoring position. Following a 17-yard kickoff return by Loucheiz Purifoy, the 26-year-old connected with Bryan Burnham and Lucky Whitehead as part of a 46-yard drive that led to a Whyte field goal, just 2:29 into the game.

There was no further scoring in the first quarter.

Saskatchewan posted its first points of the game with 8:35 left to play in the first half, when Brett Lauther connected on a 20-yard field goal after Fajardo hit Schaffer-Baker with a 49-yard dart that took the Riders down to the B.C. 13-yard line.

On the Lions’ next possession, Antonio Pipkin took over at quarterback, after O’Connor suffered a reported groin injury on a hard hit from Saskatchewan’s Darnell Sankey on the previous drive, which resulted in a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer.

The Riders quickly got the ball back, then scored the first major of the game with 3:57 left before halftime, when Fajardo connected with a wide-open Schaffer-Baker for an 89-yard scoring play.

The Lions’ T.J. Lee was able to walk off the field after suffering a hamstring injury as he gave chase, but was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Trailing for the first time in the game, Pipkin efficiently moved the ball downfield. But a pass attempt to Rhymes in the end zone failed, leading to a third field goal for Whyte.

Taking over with 1:17 remaining before halftime, the Riders quickly moved into field-goal position. Lauther hit his second of the game to give the visitors a 13-9 lead as they headed into the locker room.

Lauther added another field goal midway through the third quarter. With 1:01 remaining, Fajardo finished off a strong sequence of passes with a 26-yarder to Jones, pushing the lead to 23-9.

In the fourth, Pipkin put together a strong passing drive then, from the seven-yard-line, scrambled out of the pocket to hit Scarfone in the end zone, cutting the lead to a single possession with 5:59 left to play. But they couldn’t get any closer.

The Riders improve to 6-5 for the season, while the Lions fall to 8-2.

YARDSTICKS: Rourke had surgery on Friday to repair the Lisfranc sprain in his right foot … B.C.’s Lucky Whitehead left the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury … Bryan Burnham’s first-quarter catch extended his personal reception streak to 102 straight games … Saskatchewan will host the West Division-leading Winnipeg Blue Bombers next Sunday at Mosaic Stadium, while B.C. has its final bye week.

– Carol Schram, The Canadian Press