Fresno State quarterback Brandon Connette, who sat out the loss to Nebraska due to a right hand injury that limited the number of team reps he got during the week, expects to be in practice Tuesday, restarting what has been a tepid competition to win the starting job.
"I feel good, threw the ball well and didn't have to hold back at all," Connette said after practice Monday. "I was able to throw it just as far as I usually do, so I feel good."
The graduate transfer from Duke has been competing with junior Brian Burrell since the start of fall camp and neither has been able to gain much separation in games.
Fresno State, playing up at USC, at Utah and against Nebraska, has managed only 333.7 yards per game in total offense and 19.7 points a game. The Bulldogs rank in a tie for 108th and 111th of 128 in the football bowl subdivision in those categories and are 120th in passing efficiency.
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Burrell has started all three games, completing 49 of 94 passes for 439 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Connette has hit 23 of 41 passes for 245 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, and appeared to give the offense a bit of a spark coming off the bench and leading a touchdown drive on his first series in the season-opening loss at USC and a second quarter-touchdown in the loss at Utah.
With Connette out, Burrell took every snap against Nebraska. He hit 30 of 59 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown and ran 66 yards for a score off a zone-read play.
Fresno State had been hoping a starter would emerge by the time Mountain West play started -- the Bulldogs open defense of their conference championship Sept. 26 at New Mexico. And with only a nonconference game against Southern Utah on Saturday between here and there, a consideration could be made to pick one, bump up the practice reps and go start to finish against the Thunderbirds. But coach Tim DeRuyter said it still was a competitive situation and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said the job will not be given -- it remains to be won on the football field.
If Connette emerges from the week of practice healthy, both will play against Southern Utah.
"You'd like to do that, but that guy has to earn it," Schramm said. "We've cut the package back so much, not just because of the quarterbacks but because of all the new guys involved, that I don't necessarily worry about them not getting enough reps to run the stuff in games that they haven't practiced. I'm not worried about that part of it, I want to do what's right for the team and the right thing is to play the guy that gives us the best chance to win.
"They can both play at a high level and they have to do that. The competition is still on. They both want to play. They both grind at watching the film and doing those types of things, so we'll just keep going like we're going. The bottom line is we have to win a game. If we weren't winning games because of the quarterback play, then we'd make a decision there. But we've done a nice job taking care of the football -- the USC game we did not, but the last two games we have."
On Monday, the Bulldogs went through a light practice, introducing what they will see and what they will run against Southern Utah, a championship subdivision program. Today, the quarterbacks will begin working the game plan and the Bulldogs will proceed from there.
Connette last week was in practice and able to throw in 1-on-1 and 7-on-7 periods, but Burrell took the majority of the team reps. The missed time, Connette said, shouldn't have an impact.
"I don't think it does," he said. "The one thing that I think I did a good job of is even when you're out with an injury or you're not getting reps at all for whatever reason it may be, is to just stay in it. What I tried to do is just stand behind Brian for every single rep, just so I get the mental reps over and over and over again so I'm not behind mentally. I feel I'm right where I should be."