Fresno State quarterback Brandon Connette was back in practice Tuesday, taking part in individual drills, throwing in 7-on-7 periods and — most importantly — taking reps in team periods as the Bulldogs worked their game plan for Saturday's game against Southern Utah.
Connette and Brian Burrell split the reps, each taking turns running the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses and hoping to make enough of an impression on coach Tim DeRuyter and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm to start against the Thunderbirds and perhaps on into Mountain West Conference play.
"I feel really comfortable," said Connette, who did not play in the loss last week to Nebraska after missing too many team reps during the week because of a right hand injury. "Obviously, I get more and more comfortable every day. That's one thing I've learned: You can never know 100% of a playbook. You can always get better, more comfortable at it."
DeRuyter, who in the first two games had the quarterbacks splitting time quarter before Burrell took all of the snaps against the Cornhuskers, was giving no hints who would start. Both quarterbacks, he said, again will play, though the number of reps they will get in the game remains a question.
"Both guys are doing well," DeRuyter said. "We're about two months into the season, or at least six weeks in, and we have to continue to be more and more efficient — and I think our guys are getting there. We're going to be using a little bit more multiple personnel groups this week, and I think our guys were handling it (Tuesday). We realize that we have got to get better as an offense, as a defense and (on) special teams. No matter who we play, this game is about us."
Operator error no doubt remains a question for both quarterbacks. Fresno State has completed only 53.3% of its passes (Burrell has hit 52.1% and Connette 56.1%), ranking 11th of 12 teams in the conference. The Bulldogs also are 11th in scoring offense, averaging 19.7 points per game, and last in third-down conversions, turning only 25.5% of their plays (13 of 51) into first downs.
Scoring in the conference is down from a year ago through three weeks . But Fresno State, which opens Mountain West play on a short work week Sept. 26 at New Mexico, needs to see those numbers improve if it is to contend for a third consecutive championship.
On Tuesday, both quarterbacks were efficient in running the offense against scouts, replicating what they will see from Southern Utah on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium. On Wednesday, it will be more of the same, and on Thursday they will work situations and their third-down and red-zone installs for the game.
It is expected that both quarterbacks will continue to get reps with the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses now that Connette is healthy and vying with Burrell.
Connette, the graduate-transfer from Duke, made one poor throw that led to an interception, but otherwise spun the ball very well throughout the practice.
"I feel good," he said. "Bumps and bruises are things I'm used to. Some bruises take a little longer to get over than others. But I've had my fair share of bruises Duke. I've learned how to get over them and play through injuries. It felt good to be out there again."