Fresno State has a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Zack Greenlee, who was elevated into a starting role with four games remaining and just about everything at stake.
But the Bulldogs' pursuit of a third consecutive Mountain West Conference championship and a bowl game, which in all likelihood will require a perfect finish, could come down to the players who line up to the left and right of Greenlee finding a degree of consistency as much as the quarterback.
Fresno State's outside receivers know that.
"We're past the growing-up stage," said Josh Harper, who is the only senior in the outside receivers group and leads the Bulldogs in receptions — by 30.
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"Some series we're doing it. We're doing everything right and we're moving the ball. … And there are some series where it's just like, 'What are these guys doing?' We have to put it all together. Like I've said a couple times, it's all about consistency. If we can be more consistent, we can win all of these games."
The receivers, outside and inside, need to read coverage and run the correct routes at the right depths — and most of all catch the football. That, too, has been a problem since the start of the season in a loss at USC, when seven passes that shouldn't have hit the ground did.
And the production of a group that lacks experience, as Harper said, has been inconsistent game to game. The senior wideout has 51 receptions for 694 yards and four touchdowns, but the Bulldogs' second-leading receiver is a running back: Marteze Waller, with 21 receptions.
Junior Aaron Peck moved inside in the Bulldogs' victory at New Mexico and caught a career-high six passes for 83 yards, but has only two in three games since. Redshirt freshman Delvon Hardaway had 10 catches over a three-game stretch, then was shut out in the next two games before making two nice grabs in the loss at Boise State. Sophomore Da'Mari Scott has not caught a pass in the past two games. Junior Dillon Root has three receptions over the past four games.
Putting all of those pieces together will be important to the Bulldogs' chances down the stretch — and for Greenlee, who has attempted only seven passes in his career.
"I think that's a big thing," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "It's always easier to throw when you know where the guy is going to be on a consistent basis and guys can understand coverages, where we need to break routes off and how you can avoid jams and those kinds of things. And when it's not happening consistently, it makes it a lot harder on quarterbacks.
"We're getting better there, which you would expect at this time of year. But we've got some work to do there still, and hopefully our guys will put it together this week against Wyoming because having a brand new starting quarterback, he's going to need that."
And, with the Bulldogs 3-5 overall and 2-2 in conference play, this is the time to do it.
"The young-guy tag and all that in these last four, it's gone," said Ron Antoine, who coaches the outside receivers group. "You've played enough that now you know. You've made good plays, you've made some mistakes and you have to learn from those mistakes.
"You've made some good catches and you've had some drops along the way. But now, at this point in the season, the young-guy tag is definitely off and you have to know what you're doing and go out there and execute."
On top of that, all the pieces need to come together.
"It's going to be a combination of how well we run our routes and recognize coverage and how well Zack puts the ball on the money," DeRuyter said.
"I think he can do it, but it will be a lot easier for him if he can anticipate where those guys are going to be because they're running their routes consistently."
There have been promising signs the past two days on the practice field from Scott and Hardaway. In a 1-on-1 period Tuesday, Harper somehow made a one-handed catch on a ball that was behind him.
"It is on us, as a whole team," Harper said. "We're capable of beating everybody on our schedule, but it's not going to be easy. We have to execute. We have to do everything right. We have to be consistent. We have to move the ball. We have to help out the new quarterback. He's young, but he's also talented, so we have to do our part in helping Zack. It's big.
"If we can encourage him throughout the game and stay positive with him, it'll boost his confidence. … We just have to keep his confidence level up (by) running the right routes, caching the ball for him and making plays after we catch the ball. If we do that, his confidence will stay up there and we'll be great."
BACK AT HOME: FRESNO STATE VS. WYOMING
Vitals: 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Stadium
Records: Bulldogs 3-5, 2-2 MW; Cowboys 3-5, 1-3 MW
Radio: KFIG (AM 940); KGST (AM 1600)