Forget about revenge.
No reason to get worked up about a rivalry.
Fresno State understands it has bigger issues to deal with -- much of it internal -- after losing a third straight game.
Before longtime rival San Jose State (3-5, 2-2) comes to town Saturday for a Mountain West game, Fresno State (3-6, 2-3) must figure out a bunch of basics.
Like how to tackle, plug a hole and cover downfield. And though the Bulldogs have only three regular-season games remaining, they still are trying to identify and develop a starting quarterback after Zack Greenlee’s debut last week resulted in a 45-17 loss to Wyoming at Bulldog Stadium.
“It’s a big rivalry -- we’ve got a long history playing San Jose State,” coach Tim DeRuyter said Monday. “Beyond that, this is a big game for us because we’ve got to start playing like we’re capable of playing.
“Obviously last week, we didn’t get it done. ... We pored through that tape. With a few exceptions, there was good effort. It wasn’t very smart effort. ... We’ve got to be strong mentally. And as a coaching staff, we’ve got to develop that in our players. Because right now, clearly they don’t have the confidence, at least not enough of our guys, to handle that adversity and be able to go on.”
The coaching staff has re-opened the starting competitions and just about every position in search of smart players who can execute assignments.
Junior quarterback Brian Burrell, who started the first eight games before getting benched the first three quarters last week, is back in the mix as starter and will receive a dosage of first-team reps this week with redshirt freshman Greenlee.
Neither impressed against Wyoming. Greenlee spent most of the game handing off, completing 7 of 16 passes for 55 yards -- and 35 came on one throw. He did not throw a touchdown or an interception, was sacked once, and rushed for 40 yards on seven carries.
“We had some plays called against the exact defense we practiced during the week, and multiple times, we weren’t executing the offense and not going through the reads and not trusting his protection,” DeRuyter said. “We just saw a look in his eye that he wasn’t seeing it.”
Burrell relieved Greenlee early in the fourth quarter with Fresno State down 28-10. Burrell took a sack on his first snap then competed a 32-yard pass before throwing five straight incompletions, including back-to-back interceptions. He finished 7 of 13 for 94 yards with one touchdown and the two picks.
“Got to be better throwing the football -- we have got to get better,” Bulldogs offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said. “We had a lot of opportunities in the second half (against Wyoming) to take control of that game, and we didn’t do it basically because of our lack of ability in the pass game. There’s only one way to fix it, and that’s to keep working.
“We’re going to play the guy who gives us the best chance to win every single week. That’s our job. I think that’s right. It’s right for our seniors. It’s right for our guys on defense. It’s right for everybody at every position.”
The coaches established no timetable when a starter would be named.
Schramm and DeRuyter dismissed the idea of transforming the Bulldogs into more of a run-oriented offense centered around running back Marteze Waller. The 5-foot-11, 209-pound junior from Georgia has rushed for 941 yards and eight touchdowns on 142 carries. His average carry of 6.63 yards ranks ninth in the nation among players with 100-plus carries.
Schramm cited the lack of personnel on the team to play in such a fashion, which requires an aggressive fullback who can provide a lead block, as well as physical tight ends with good blocking technique. DeRuyter pointed to the fact that the Bulldogs have found themselves often trailing, which has forced them to pass more.
San Jose State leads the nation in pass defense, allowing just 114.1 yards per game. They’ve also had the fewest number of passes attempted against them in the nation, 160.
The Bulldogs, though, are just worried about themselves. Even if they’re facing the program that prevented them from reaching a BCS bowl after the Spartans won 62-52 in last year’s regular-season finale.
“We’re just trying to get out of this slump first and foremost,” senior Tyeler Davison said. “Getting them back for last year, that’s not really on our minds. We’ve got a lot more to think about and fix.”