Good things come in threes for Jake Dolegala.
On Friday, he became the second quarterback in Saskatchewan Roughriders history to twice throw three or more touchdown passes over his first five starts with the CFL team.
Dolegala’s latest hat trick, in a 36-27 loss to the visiting Edmonton Elks, was his second in four starts this season. He also threw for three scores in a 34-29 victory over the B.C. Lions at Mosaic Stadium on Aug. 20. That was his second CFL start and his first of 2023.
In 2000, Henry Burris struck for three majors in the regular-season opener and five more scores in a 52-52, Week 4 tie with the visiting Calgary Stampeders. In the latter game, Burris connected for three TDs in regulation time and another two in overtime. He was blanked the following week, in the Roughriders’ fifth game of 2000.
What message is sent by the frequency of three-TD games at such an early juncture in Dolegala’s CFL career?
“It says there’s talent there,” Roughriders Offensive Co-ordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Kelly Jeffrey said on Monday. “It says that he can be accurate when he needs to be.”
Jeffrey pointed to Dolegala’s first TD toss on Friday — a 13-yard laser to Shawn Bane Jr., who caught the pass deep in Mosaic Stadium’s north end zone.
“The route was altered a little bit and (Dolegala) was able to pick up the line from Bane and put it right on the money with good velocity,” Jeffrey said.
“There are still things that he’s going to learn every day. He’s continuing to grow. There’s a few plays that I know he wants back that maybe could have shifted the game but, at the same time, there’s a lot of good stuff there, for sure.”
Dolegala took over as the Roughriders’ No. 1 quarterback after Trevor Harris (knee) and Mason Fine (hamstring) were sidelined by injuries.
Over the past four games, Dolegala has completed 75 of 123 passes — a 61-per-cent accuracy rate — with six TDs and just one interception.
“The ball security is key,” Jeffrey said. “We’ve gotten lucky on a couple as well, but he’s taking care of the ball and he’s putting it in a spot where just the receiver can get it a lot of times.
“He has had a couple of good throw-aways, too, and they don’t always show up in the stats. He won’t force it when a lot of guys would, and that’s really valuable.”
The force with which Dolegala throws the football allows him to attempt (and complete) passes that would be beyond the capabilities of a quarterback of lesser arm strength.
“He’s really getting the ball out on time and getting it to receivers before the defence can break on it,” Jeffrey noted.
“There have been some throws he has had this year where it just surprised the defensive back with how fast the ball got there.
“In the Labour Day Classic, when we had that big gain to Tevin (Jones), the DB jumped it and was in a good position, but I think the velocity and how fast he got it out just stunned (the Bombers’ defender). He couldn’t get into his jump and the ball was by him and to Tevin (for a 64-yard gain).
“Along with the velocity, he gets the ball out really quickly, and that has helped the protection a lot.”
The receivers also benefit from the quick deliveries in that they often allow for more time and space in which to run after the catch.
Impressive, yes, but Dolegala is far from satisfied with his performance.
“It feels solid, but there’s always room for improvement,” he said, “and that’s what I plan on doing.”
UPON FURTHER REVIEW …
Jason Shivers was blunt in his appraisal of the defence’s performance against Edmonton, especially with respect to repelling the run game.
“It was ugly,” the Roughriders’ Defensive Co-ordinator said on Monday. “We just weren’t physical on the outside edges. You’ve got to call a spade a spade.”
Edmonton rushed for 265 yards — two more than Winnipeg had amassed six days earlier against the visiting Roughriders.
The Elks’ Kevin Brown took off for 175 yards on 19 carries. Edmonton quarterback Tre Ford added 70 yards on eight carries.
“I thought we did have some good plays in there where we did stop the run to get them in second-and-long,” Shivers said. “Ford did a good job of scrambling around. He made a couple of plays, which we all knew that he could do.
“But, overall, I just thought on the edges and the perimeter, we didn’t show up to play.”
The Roughriders were matching the Elks score for score until the visitors put up all 16 fourth-quarter points.
“You get in a firefight sometimes and things happen,” Shivers said. “Offences are getting better. They’re starting to pick up now. It’s towards the end of the season, so they’re starting to execute at a higher level.
“Defensively, we’ve just got to up our game.”
That will be the objective on Friday against the host Ottawa REDBLACKS (5 p.m., TSN, CKRM).
Saskatchewan, which is third in the West Division, carries a 6-7 record into a matchup with the 3-10 REDBLACKS.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of bouncing back from adversity,” Head Coach Craig Dickenson said. “I just feel like this is a tough group mentally. It’s an optimistic and a positive group and I think they enjoy coming to work.
“I feel like this group is a good group and I’m excited to see what we do on game day.”