‘It wasn’t my best’: Riders quarterback Jake Dolegala reflects on loss in first CFL start

Photo courtesy: Saskatchewan Roughriders

Saskatchewan Roughriders’ third-string quarterback Jake Dolegala did not lead the Green and White to a win in his CFL debut.

The 31-21 loss against the Toronto Argonauts on Sunday was the Riders’ first defeat at home this season.

“It wasn’t my best,” said Dolegala post-game. “I expect to play at a high level and I don’t feel like I did that.”

The 25-year-old American stepped in as the starting quarterback just days before the rescheduled game, due to the COVID outbreak that hit the team after Week 6. In addition to illness, a persisting knee injury has sidelined star quarterback Cody Fajardo.

“I think Jake did a good job, he didn’t have a lot of weapons to throw to,” said head coach Craig Dickenson. “We didn’t do what we needed to do upfront, we gotta do a better job, that o-line is the same o-line we have had all year and for some reason we ran into a brick wall in terms of trying to run the football.”

The six-foot-seven, 242-pound rookie quarterback connected on 13-of-28 passes for 131 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It took some time for the Hamburg, N.Y. native to settle into the game, making his first career completion with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Dolegala was sacked once, but showed he could handle some defensive pressure.

Dolegala was not the only rookie starter on the Riders offence as most of the starting receivers for Sunday’s game were rookies as well. Several veteran receivers were out with injury and star receiver Duke Williams was serving his one-game suspension for throwing a helmet at Shaquille Richardson during warmups of last week’s Touchdown Atlantic game. The empty spots allowed other players to try and make a name for themselves.

That was true for Tevin Jones, who caught Dolegala’s first touchdown pass while also recording his first CFL touchdown. Jones ended the game with five receptions for 67 yards.

Dolegala also connected with rookie receiver Samuel Emilus for a 51-yard pass, his longest throw of the game and Emilus’ longest CFL reception thus far.

The Riders’ leading receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker did not record one catch from Dolegala, however. Schaffer-Baker was the only veteran receiver able to play in Week 7.

“He was trying to make the game as friendly as he could for the quarterback, make it as easy on Jake as he could,” said Dickenson.

“It wasn’t a decision to not involve Schaffer-Baker, but certainly in hindsight we would’ve liked to throw the ball to him more, but I think the Argos did a good job of taking him away and as a result Tevin was open a bit more and I thought he made some nice plays.”

Dickenson said there is a possibility Rider Nation could see Dolegala as the starter again on Friday for the game against the B.C. Lions. If it is not Dolegala, it could also be backup QB Mason Fine if he’s healthy. The club remains unsure of whether or not Fajardo’s knee will allow him to play in Week 8.