When Zack Greenlee replaced Brian Burrell as Fresno State quarterback,the redshirt freshman was expected to finish the season as the Bulldogs’ starter. But that has changed after Greenlee failed to generate much with an inconsistent offense in a 45-17 loss Saturday night to Wyoming that dropped the Bulldogs to 3-6 and 2-3 in the Mountain West Conference.
Coach Tim DeRuyter said Sunday that Greenlee and Burrell will compete on the practice field before it is determined who will take the first snaps this week against San Jose State.
“We’re going to see who gives us our best chance to beat San Jose State,” DeRuyter said. “We know what Brian can do. Zack had an opportunity. We have to see how he reacts this week in practice. Going through the tape with him, hopefully he’ll see where there were plays he could have made, where he has to make those plays and just see how he progresses from here.”
Greenlee, making his first career start, completed 7 of 16 passes for 55 yards against Wyoming and produced two scores in eight possessions. The first came on an 8-yard touchdown run by Marteze Waller, after Derron Smith returned a punt to the Cowboys’ 8-yard line. The second came on a 28-yard field goal by Kody Kroening just before halftime, capping a drive that consumed 86 yards and 12 plays.
With Greenlee in the game, the Bulldogs generated 226 yards on 47 plays (4.8 yards per play) and punted six times including three three-and-out series.
There were some highlights for Greenlee — notably a shot to Josh Harper for 15 yards on third-and-7 in the second quarter, and a 35-yarder to Delvon Hardaway on third-and-9 from the Bulldogs’ 3 — but not enough to make a second start automatic.
“We anticipated him playing a little bit better,” DeRuyter said. “We wanted to play the guy that we thought gives us the best chance going into Wyoming. We thought that was Zack. But he’s got to make progress this week for that to continue.
“We knew going into the game that with a freshman starting there would be some bumps in the road. He did some good things, but clearly he wasn’t as effective as we needed him to be. One of the biggest things he needs to do is keep his eyes down the field and go through his progressions. He threw a couple of deep balls well, made some plays with his feet. But too many times he broke down on a play without going through his progressions.”
Greenlee played into the fourth quarter with the Bulldogs within two scores at 21-10, and was replaced by Burrell after the Cowboys went up 28-10 with 12:14 remaining.
Burrell moved the Bulldogs from their 23-yard line to the Wyoming 49 on his first series, but that drive ended with a punt. His next two passes were intercepted by Tyran Finley. Both turnovers led to scores — a 48-yard touchdown run and a 22-yard field goal.
In nine games and eight starts, Burrell has completed 56.3% of his passes (148 of 263) for 1,562 yards with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His passing efficiency rating is 115.63, which ranks seventh among nine qualifiers in the Mountain West Conference and 95th of 100 in the nation.