It was a sign of desperation. Pure and simple desperation.
Fresno State started its fourth quarterback in six games Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium and played every bit like you’d expect from a team starting its fourth quarterback in six games.
In other words the Bulldogs played horribly – again. For homecoming, no less. Final score: Utah State 56, Fresno State 14.
By the time this fiasco reached the fourth quarter, only a few hundred diehards among an announced crowd of 30,540 remained.
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I’m sure Kilton Anderson was thrilled to make his first college start. It also sure would’ve been nice for the coaching staff to put the redshirt freshman in a position to succeed.
Against a complex Utah State defense with arguably the stiffest front seven in the Mountain West Conference, the coaching staff did not give Anderson that chance. Instead they fed him to the wolves.
Nothing against Anderson. He’s a gritty guy and determined runner but lacks consistent passing accuracy. It took Utah State all of one series to figure that out and make the necessary adjustments.
Placed in an impossible position, Anderson did about as well as could be expected. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 111 yards, a touchdown and and three interceptions (two coming in garbage time) while getting little to no help from his running game. Tailback Marteze Waller was held to 70 yards on 26 carries.
Anderson played every snap, even when the Aggies made it a laugher.
What happened to Zack Greenlee? Apparently the sophomore played so badly – and, at times, scared – in last week’s loss to San Diego State that the coaches decided it was better for him to stand on the sideline wearing a backward baseball cap.
Despite the fact Greenlee is the superior passer and has held (or co-held) the starting spot since the first day of training camp while Anderson was relegated to fourth string.
Defensively, Fresno State played decently until a blocked punt midway through the second quarter gave Utah State a short field and an easy touchdown.
After that, the Aggies did pretty much whatever they wanted and faced little resistance in doing so. For perhaps the first time all season, the lack of effort by the Bulldogs was noticeable.
At 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the Mountain West Conference, the reality for the Bulldogs now becomes this: Will this team win another game in 2015?
The murmurs were, in fact, true: The Kilton Anderson era at Fresno State has begun.
For this week, at least.
Anderson became the Bulldogs’ fourth starting quarterback in six games, but the much-rumored switch couldn’t prevent Utah State from rolling to a 29-7 halftime lead Saturday night before a subdued homecoming crowd at Bulldog Stadium.
The insertion of Anderson failed to awaken Fresno State’s hibernating offense as the Bulldogs managed just 71 yards of total offense on 35 plays.
Anderson finished the first half 7 of 11 for 52 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran eight times for minus 11 yards.
The Bulldogs’ lone scoring drive was set up via turnover when Stratton Brown made a perfectly timed hit on a punt return.
Brandon Hughes made the fumble recovery at the Utah State 35, and four plays later Anderson hit Jamire Jordan over the shoulder for a 21-yard touchdown. It was the first touchdown pass of Anderson’s career.
The Bulldogs played fairly well defensively, at least early, before caving in amid three long pass plays that either led to or resulted in touchdowns.
Fresno State also gave up six points (the PAT failed) following a blocked punt that gave Utah State possession at the 8.
The Aggies scored the final points of the half on short pass from Kent Myers that Devonte Robinson turned into a 44-yard touchdown.
Anderson got off to inauspicious start when offensive coordinator Dave Schramm called a deep pass on their first play from scrimmage and his pass sailed over Jordan’s head and was intercepted at the 2.
Who needs three-and-out when you can go one-and-out instead?
The frustrations felt by Fresno State fans over the Bulldogs’ 1-4 start is shared by former players who attended Saturday’s pregame tailgate outside Bulldog Stadium.
That’s only natural.
But that didn’t prevent many former players from turning out to show their support for the homecoming game against Utah State.
“We could be 0-10 and I’d still come out here looking for positives,” said Stephen Spach, who played seven seasons in the NFL and now works for Thiesen Dueker Financial Consulting. “Looking for young guys who could be a force in the future. Looking for pride. Looking for guys that are still playing with their hair on fire.
“I want to see guys playing like they care whether they’re winning or not.”
For Bulldogs alums, the highlight is being on the field before kickoff and forming a human tunnel at the bottom of the ramp that current players walk through on the way to the field.
“You win a game tonight in front of the home crowd and all the former players, and the entire atmosphere changes,” Spach said.
Kevin Jordan, a former lineman and organizer of the “Bring It Home Weekend,” said the alumni’s backing is unconditional.
“We’re out here showing our support no matter what,” Jordan said. “This is a life lesson for these players. If you don’t know how to fight adversity, how do you develop as a man? It’s something you have to do through.”
Other items of interest:
▪ Who’s behind center?
The Bulldogs woes on offense, largely due to shaky quarterback play, have been well-documented. There were murmurs this week that Kilton Anderson would receive a significant chunk of playing time and perhaps even start.
If so, Anderson would be Fresno State’s fourth starter in six games.
Personally, I can’t see it. So much of the Bulldogs’ offense revolves around the passing game, and Zack Greenlee’s throwing skills remain superior to Anderson’s.
It’s not that I haven’t seen Anderson complete passes. I have. It’s just that his completions are usually followed by misfires. There’s little consistency.
I will say this about Anderson: He’s a tough son of a gun and during scrimmages and practice seems to find ways to gain yardage with his legs.
At this point I can’t see the Bulldogs having success by radically changing their offensive philosophy. But these are desperate times.
▪ Older version of Virgil
Injured Bulldogs quarterback Chason Virgil will be watching a slightly older, more experienced version of himself in Utah State’s Kent Myers.
Myers, a sophomore, is listed at 6 feet and 195 pounds. Virgil, a freshman, is listed at 6-1 and 184. Both are Texas products, growing up and attending high school not far from each other in the suburbs of Dallas.
Most of all, though, they have similar playing styles. It isn’t a perfect comparison. Myers is a more explosive runner, while Virgil is a better pure passer.
Here’s how the Aggies’ media guide describes Myers: “Is extremely competitive and confident ... Has great arm strength and throws the ball well on the run... Can make a lot of plays in the run game with his athletic ability, along with extending pass plays.”
Hmm. Sound familiar?
A broken collarbone put a premature end to Virgil’s season after three games. Myers, on the other hand, started five games as a true freshman and wound up as the Offensive MVP of the New Mexico Bowl.
With senior Chuckie Keeton injured again, Myers stepped in last week and led the Aggies past visiting Colorado State by rushing for 191 yards, passing for 137 and accounting for two touchdowns.
Myers has been at his best on the road. Last season he completed 14 of 15 passes against Hawaii and followed that up by going 13 of 16 against Wyoming. Utah State won both games.