The statistics show it may be time for a quarterback change at Fresno State.
Chason Virgil sports the third worst completion percentage in the nation at 48.6 percent.
His passing efficiency isn’t much better, ranking 103rd among Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks and last in the Mountain West at 112.4.
Even visually, it almost looks as though Virgil is uncomfortable – often rushing out of the pocket, at times unnecessarily, passing off his back foot and launching wobbly throws here and there.
But the big-picture theory suggests it’s probably beneficial for the Bulldogs (1-5, 0-2) to stick with the redshirt freshman, especially since Virgil’s primary backup, Zach Kline, is a senior.
And as this season nears the brink of bowl elimination with two more losses, the Bulldogs might not have much to play for besides getting better for the future.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter has been adamant throughout the season about sticking with Virgil, but this week he didn’t cite the benefits of the future as a reason for that.
Virgil, despite his struggles, remains the best option, DeRuyter said.
“He gives us the best chance,” DeRuyter said. “We see great growth in him. He’s not a finished product yet, but we see the potential.”
Kline got a chance to make an impact during last week’s 27-22 loss at Nevada. In a preplanned strategy, the Bulldogs turned to Kline in the second quarter.
He gives us the best chance. We see great growth in him. He’s not a finished product yet, but we see the potential.
Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on quarterback Chason Virgil
He participated in 11 plays – nine runs – over three drives, with the Bulldogs gaining 83 total yards and no points. To start his second drive, Fresno State had a 75-yard touchdown pass from Kline to Jamire Jordan waved off because of a holding call after Kline lost a fumble at the end of a 9-yard scramble to halt his first drive.
“As coaches, we’ve got to be secure that whomever we send out there will be able to run our offense, take care of the football and lead our team downfield,” DeRuyter said. “When you turn the ball over, there is that bit of a hesitation in the back of your mind.”
Despite the turnover and the limited playing time, Kline did show some characteristics missing at times from Virgil’s game.
Despite committing a turnover, Bulldogs backup quarterback Zach Kline did show some characteristics missing from Virgil’s game at times. His passes zipped quickly out of his hand and sailed as tight spirals. And he looked poised the pocket, not nearly as anxious to bail out of the protection.
Kline’s two pass attempts – one nullified on the holding penalty – zipped out of his hand and sailed as tight spirals into receiver hands. He also looked poised in the pocket.
“He gets the ball out very, very quickly and has a strong arm,” DeRuyter said of Kline. “He’s a guy that does bring a spark when he comes in there. It is a bit of a change-up.
“But clearly, he’s got to protect the football better.”
Kline remained on the bench throughout the second half while Virgil had his most efficient game of the year.
In the first quarter, Virgil was just 3 of 7 for 37 yards. In the second half, he completed 13 of 20 passes (65 percent) for 160 yards and a touchdown .
65 Completion percentage thrown by Fresno State quarterback Chason Virgil during the second half against Nevada (13 of 20 passes for 160 yards, 1 TD)
“He knew going into the game we would play Zach in that second quarter,” DeRuyter said. “I think that kind of helped inspire him during practice because he had a great week of practice.
“One of the things that I was impressed with was (Virgil’s) growth. The week before and the couple of weeks before, he was flushing out of the pocket for no reason. He’d kind of sense there would be pressure and he’d bail out. He only did that once Saturday. He’s making strides. Part of it is getting his feet set.”
The Nevada game ended with Virgil misfiring on four straight passes from the Wolf Pack 4-yard line.
He also missed a 2-point conversion pass with a throw at the receiver’s feet with two players open in the end zone. Had Virgil completed the 2-point conversion, Fresno State could’ve elected to kick a field goal near the end of the game to force overtime.
Despite his backing of Virgil, DeRuyter added Kline might play again Friday against San Diego State.
“We’re going to continue to evaluate,” DeRuyter said. “Whether we do the same thing or not, we’ll find out on Friday night. But I like the fact that we’ve got a veteran guy that can come in and move our offense.”
SAN DIEGO STATE AT FRESNO STATE
- Vitals: 7 p.m. Friday at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs (1-5 overall, 0-2 Mountain West), Aztecs (4-1, 1-0)
- TV: CBSSN
- Radio: KFIG (AM 940)
- Of note: San Diego State won last year’s game 21-7, but Fresno State won three straight from 2012-2014. ... San Diego State QB Christian Chapman ranks 26th in the nation with a 154.1 efficiency while Fresno State QB Chason Virgil ranks 103rd and last in the Mountain West at 112.4.