Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter stated the obvious Monday. But the statement spoke even more truth this week with Fresno State (3-4, 2-1) and Boise State (4-2, 2-1) preparing for a critical Mountain West matchup.
The play of Fresno State quarterback Brian Burrell and Boise State quarterback Grant Hedrick could likely determine the winner of Friday's game.
Will Burrell snap the Bulldogs out of their season-long first-quarter funk, which festered into an entire half last week, and get Fresno State on a faster track that can help grow team confidence from the start? Can Hedrick avoid the sloppy mistakes and the cluster of turnovers he's committed during both of Boise State's losses.
Though each team is led by a power running game, the Bulldogs and Broncos are also turning to their quarterback for big plays and turnover-free performances.
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"When Hedrick plays well like he did against Nevada and Colorado State, they play well," DeRuyter said Monday. "Just like when Brian plays well, we play well. More and more, especially with these style offenses, if your quarterback plays well, you're going to have a chance. If he doesn't, it's going to be a struggle."
Burrell and the Bulldogs also face somewhat of a disadvantage with the Broncos coming off a bye and given two weeks to prepare for Fresno State. Then there's also the case of playing in Boise and on the Smurf Turf. The Bulldogs are 1-6 all-time in Boise with their victory coming back in 1984 -- when the field still was green and not the signature blue turf, which was initially installed in 1986.
Statistically, Burrell is coming off his second-best game after passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns of 56.8% passing. But he also was intercepted twice and threw a lateral that was fumbled. The Bulldogs were held scoreless throughout the first half and Fresno State eventually lost 30-27 in overtime at UNLV.
DeRuyter said there likely would not be a change of starting quarterbacks, despite the Bulldogs continuing their early struggles and the offense getting held scoreless during the first quarter for the sixth time in seven games.
Burrell said he understands the importance of him playing well, limiting the turnovers and not forcing big plays.
"I considered myself a team guy and I pretty much base how I play off the wins and losses," the junior said. "We lost last week so that means I'm not where I need to be. The week before that against San Diego State, I wouldn't say I played my best game by any means. But we won so I was happy.
"We just need to be more consistent. ... It's tough for an offense to play well when the quarterback is not playing well, unless the run game is just killing it. It's something that I'm working on. But if I go and try to do that (have a big game), it's going to end with me trying to do too much. Really, I just got to do my role every single day, go through my progressions and play smart."
Boise State also has had some ups and downs with the senior Hedrick running first-year coach Bryan Harsin's offense that features multiple shifts and motions before the snap. Though Hedrick has completed 72.1% of his passes and averaged 273.5 passing yards per game, he also is tied for the sixth-most interceptions in the nation with 10 picks.
Hedrick threw four interceptions in a 35-13 loss at Ole Miss to open the season, then fired off four more late last month during a 28-14 loss at Air Force in which the Broncos committed seven turnovers in all. In fact, Boise State ranks No. 119 in the nation with 16 turnovers.
"We've had turnovers, some have come from (quarterback)," Harsin said. "I don't think it's anything in particular. We're playing some good teams. And we've had some self-inflicted turnovers, don't get me wrong. But I think there's been some plays by some of the defenses with good plays. But it's obviously something we don't want to have happen. It's a focus for us. And we've got to keep getting better at it."
Harsin added he believes Hedrick is progressing. In Boise State's most recent game, the Broncos quarterback completed 26 of 31 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns to one interception during a 51-46 victory against Nevada.
"He's just trying to get better from the last game to the next game, and every week there's plenty to improve upon," Harsin said. "He's just been 'How did I do? What do I need to get better at? What's the plan this week? Let's figure out how to beat the next opponent and not get too far ahead of ourselves and just worry about those things.' "