‘Mason did enough’: Craig Dickenson dismisses Riders’ QB controversy after Fine pulled for Jake Dolegala

Graphic: 3DownNation (Photos: Ted Pritchard/Rattleboxmultimedia.ca)

The Saskatchewan Roughriders pulled Mason Fine in the fourth quarter of their Touchdown Atlantic loss to the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday, but head coach Craig Dickenson insists that doesn’t mean his team is facing a quarterback controversy.

“No, it doesn’t. We’re gonna look at the film and we’re gonna work hard and try to get better across the board,” Dickenson told the media post-game. “I felt like Mason did enough, played well enough to continue to start.”

Fine was making his second start of the season after taking over for injured veteran Trevor Harris, who suffered a tibial plateau fracture in Week 6. The 26-year-old completed 32-of-41 passes for 284 yards and two interceptions in last week’s loss to the B.C. Lions, failing to generate a touchdown.

Facing the undefeated Argonauts in Halifax, Fine couldn’t find the endzone yet again. He finished 27-of-39 for 302 yards and two interceptions in just over three quarters of action, with his respectable yardage totals doing little to distract from the team’s lack of points.

“You can have all the yards in the world but you’ve got to finish when you’re down in the red zone and you’ve got to move the chains once you’re in the fringe area,” Fine said. “So the yards, yeah, they’re great, it shows a little bit that you’re on the verge. But you’ve got to look at the scoreboard at the end of the day and see if you won or lost, and see if you put points up.”

Dickenson told reporters earlier in the week that Fine would have a “long leash” as a young starter but appeared to change his mind in-game, replacing him with backup Jake Dolegala in the fourth quarter. The Riders still fell 31-13 on the East Coast but the six-foot-seven passer provided a late spark, completing four of his five pass attempts for 100 yards and a touchdown to receiver Shawn Bane.

“I just wanted to see Jake. Jake’s played a lot of football and worked really hard and I felt like Jake deserved some reps,” Dickenson explained. “It wasn’t that Mason wasn’t moving the football, I was happy with the way he was playing in that last quarter. But I just wanted to see Jake get some reps and I felt like the game was, in theory, a little bit out of reach at that point.”

Despite the coach’s assertion that the quarterback hierarchy remains unaltered, Dolegala’s presence appeared to inspire a change in the Riders’ offence. The 26-year-old former NFL journeyman made one start for the team last season, completing 45.7 percent of his passes for 154 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions in a loss to Toronto, but reportedly impressed during his second training camp in Saskatchewan.

Though he exhibited some discomfort after a late hit, Fine insisted that he was “100 percent healthy” at the time of his removal from the game. He appeared to take the benching in stride, focusing on his obligation to assist the team regardless of which signal-caller is asked to take the field.

“I’m gonna be a teammate to Jake and help him any way I can. He came over to the sideline, we went over the plays, and he did a good job, threw a good ball on the corner ball and made the right decisions,” Fine said.

“No matter what, you’re a professional at the end of the day. You’re playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders on the front of that jersey, so we are a team. Whatever the coach’s decision is, wherever they want to go, I’ll be there to support them and be the best teammate I can, be the best player I can be for this team no matter what situation I’m in.”

In 25 career games, Fine has thrown for 1,462 yards, five touchdowns, and seven interceptions. The third-year pro now has four CFL starts under his belt, but has yet to win a game at the helm of the Riders.

“I’ve gotta play better. I’ve gotta make the throws, I’ve gotta get through my reads, notice the pressure and maybe put us in some better looks here and there,” he acknowledged. “I’m not happy with the way I performed. I know I can play better and I’ve got to. You’ve got to win football games at this level. Any time you don’t win, you’re not doing your job.”

Saskatchewan (3-4) now has a week to fix their offensive issues before they host the Ottawa Redblacks (3-4) on Sunday, August 6.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.