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'Keep doubting me': Argos QB Dukes looks to bounce back against undefeated Alouettes

Toronto Argonauts quarterback Cameron Dukes (11) throws under pressure from Saskatchewan Roughriders' Micah Johnson (4) during the second half of CFL football action in Regina, on Thursday, July 4, 2024. Dukes is used to proving his skeptics wrong. After a couple off games, the Argonauts quarterback is eager to do it again when his team visits the undefeated Montreal Alouettes on Thursday at Molson Stadium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

MONTREAL — Cameron Dukes is used to proving his skeptics wrong.

After a couple subpar outings, the Toronto Argonauts quarterback is eager to do it again when his team visits the undefeated Montreal Alouettes on Thursday at Molson Stadium.

"Hell, I was doubted my whole life,” Dukes said. “Out of high school everybody doubted me, in college everybody doubted me, when I first came in the league everybody doubted me again. Starting the year everybody doubted me.

“So just keep doubting me … I'm worried about who I am, worried about what I can do for this team. I'm not worried about anybody else on the outside."

The Argos (2-2) are in unfamiliar territory, on a losing streak for the first time in almost two years. Meanwhile, the Alouettes will try to go 6-0 and extend their win streak to 14 games dating back to last season.

Dukes, who played college ball for little-known Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., had a strong start to the season as the replacement for suspended QB Chad Kelly, last year’s outstanding player.

The 25-year-old Dukes went an impressive 39-of-48 passing with five touchdowns and no interceptions in his first two games, both wins.

But the American struggled to 41-of-66 passing with zero TDs and five picks in his last two. After Toronto’s 30-20 home loss to Montreal on June 28, Dukes threw four interceptions last Thursday in a 30-23 defeat to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, outduelled by QB Shea Patterson in his first career start.

Argos coach Ryan Dinwiddie is sticking with Dukes as his starter and says the key Thursday is to avoid turnovers.

"I don't want him to be gun shy,” he said. “But we've got to be careful with the football, can't give them added momentum on their side and also give more opportunities to score on offence."

Alouettes QB Cody Fajardo describes himself as a “big fan” of Dukes for stepping into the Argos’ starting role on short notice, but selfishly hopes his slide continues for one more game.

“The older guys around the league have a lot of respect for that,” Fajardo said. “But going against him as a competitor, I hope he has another off night.

“Four interceptions happens to everybody if you play long enough, it's what you do coming back off of that and this Toronto team is going to be hungry. They're going to be extremely fired up for this game, especially at our place, because we got them at their place.”

Fajardo is calling the matchup Montreal’s biggest challenge so far this season.

The Alouettes will have to battle through key injuries and a short week to keep their unbeaten run alive.

"It's our toughest test yet as a team,” Fajardo said. “Given everything circumstance-wise, coming off a short week, a very physical game with Calgary and then a Toronto team that's very familiar with us that has an extra two days to prepare.

“The guys are up for the challenge."

The Alouettes pulled off a 30-26 comeback victory against the Calgary Stampeders at home Saturday, but CFL teams are 0-2 this season coming off a five-day break.

Montreal also has 12 players on the six-game injured list, including starting kicker David Cote after he missed last week as a late scratch with a quad injury. Jose Maltos will start Thursday after going 3-for-3 on field goals against Calgary.

Safety Marc-Antoine Dequoy, last year’s East nominee for outstanding Canadian, and long snapper Louis-Philippe Bourassa are game-time decisions.

Head coach Jason Maas says the injuries aren’t ideal, but he's looking on the bright side.

“Will we be a better team because new guys get an opportunity to play? Absolutely. Why? Because now those guys have experience against other teams," Maas said. “That's when you become you get to a championship-calibre team in my opinion, so I never look at injuries as a negative."

Toronto is down defensive lineman Jake Ceresna and Canadian receiver Tommy Nield. Receiver David Ungerer II also remains out despite practising this week.

It’s early, but the Argos are treating it as a crucial game with the season series on the line.

"You want to play the best team in the league,” Dinwiddie said. “That's why we sign up for professional football, no game's easy. This is for the season series, for it to be this early and you're playing for the season series, this game's important."

TORONTO ARGONAUTS (2-2) AT MONTREAL ALOUETTES (5-0) Thursday, Molson Stadium.

GOING STREAKING: The Alouettes are 5-0 to start a season for the first time since 2006, when they started 7-0. An 8-0 start in 2002 is the best start in franchise history. Montreal’s 14-game unbeaten run dating back to last season is the club’s longest stretch of wins. Its last loss was Sept. 15 against Toronto.

PHILPOT’S HOT START: Als wideout Tyson Philpot wanted to become a 1,000-yard receiver this season. So far, he’s on pace for 2,000. The 23-year-old from Delta, B.C., is second in the CFL with 564 receiving yards and tied for first with four TDs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press

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