For the first time all season and through an entirety of a game, Fresno State quarterback Brian Burrell looked sure of himself.
He checked to the correct plays and identified holes in the New Mexico defense. He took off running when needed.
And after Fresno State secured a 35-24 victory against New Mexico on Friday to start Mountain West Conference play, Burrell smiled alongside offensive coordinator Dave Schramm as the Bulldogs walked off the field at University Stadium -- both of them looking happy after a game perhaps for the first time this year.
Burrell, a junior, had a breakout game with 318 passing yards and three touchdowns, along with 63 rushing yards and another score after beginning this week as Fresno State's starting quarterback, even if coach Tim DeRuyter did not make it official until near kickoff Friday.
"That's just making the right reads and the playmakers making plays -- it's my job to get the ball to them," Burrell said. "It's me gaining more trust in the receivers and trusting myself."
Fresno State (2-3, 1-0) generated 593 total yards and 30 first downs with Burrell playing from start to finish. During Fresno State's 56-16 win against FCS program Southern Utah, the Bulldogs gained 680 total yards and 29 first downs with Burrell getting the most playing time among three quarterbacks.
But Burrell received the majority of the first-team reps at practice throughout the week for just the second time this season -- this time by design.
"I don't know," Burrell said when asked if the extra practice reps helped him prepare for New Mexico. "I try to make every rep count. I don't count my reps. I just go out and play."
Burrell also received most of the first-team reps during the week leading into Fresno State's 55-19 loss to then-No. 21 Nebraska, after Brandon Connette suffered a hand injury. In that game, Burrell completed 30 of 59 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown.
But with Connette still not looking fully recovered from the injury against Southern Utah and Burrell performing decent during stretches in the first four games, DeRuyter and Scrhamm turned to the Bakersfield native to try to establish some stability at quarterback for conference play.
Burrell didn't exactly answer the bell immediately Friday, considering the offense remained scoreless during first-quarter play this season.
But the halted drives also weren't because of Burrell. The Bulldogs, in fact, were moving the ball well when slot receiver LeKendrick Williams fumbled at the end of an end-around at the New Mexico 13.
Fresno State's second drive was stopped at the New Mexico 17 after running back Marteze Waller and the offensive line failed to push forward on a fourth-and-1 run up the middle.
But less than a minute into the second quarter, Fresno State finally got on the scoreboard with Burrell connecting with Josh Harper for a 23-yard touchdown -- a drive aided by 32-yard pass to Aaron Peck.
Burrell finished with six explosive passes of at least 20 yards.
"They were blitzing a lot and we caught them at perfect times," said Peck, who finished with six catches for 83 yards in his first game since moving from outside to inside receiver. "It was great playcalling by Coach Schramm, and Brian gave us a chance to make plays.
"I'm really excited, I'm really fired up (about Burrell). Brian played a great game. ... I'm excited for this team. We have the rest of our Mountain West schedule ahead of us, trying to go 1-0 every weekend. And I think we can."
Burrell also broke loose for a 45-yard run off a keeper late in the third quarter that set up Fresno State's go-ahead touchdown.
"It was a zone read; they crashed on the back so I just ran up the middle," Burrell said. "I was hoping I'd score there, but I got caught.
"I like to help out however I can."
The main knocks on Burrell's night was a batted pass near the line of scrimmage that led to an interception and three sacks. At least one of the sacks, though, was a result of the Bulldogs' left side of the line missing contact on pair of attempted blocks.
DeRuyter left impressed by Burrell's outing.
"I thought there was obviously things he has to continue to work on like every one of our players," DeRuyter said. "But I thought he worked very efficiently today.
"Our guys just executed. I was happy with the way we played. I anticipate that we'll play better next week."