One guy is completing 70 percent of his passes, the other 57.8 percent. One guy is averaging 7.8 yards per pass attempt, the other 6.3 . One guy has yet to throw an interception, the other has thrown two. One guy has put points on the scoreboard on 54.5 percent of his drives, the other 35.7 percent. One guy has had one three-and-out drive, the other has had six.
Marcus McMaryion is one guy.
Chason Virgil is the other.
But for Fresno State, making a quarterback call isn’t as easy as those numbers might suggest and after a 48-16 loss at No. 6 Washington And after all that went on in the Mountain West Conference over the weekend, it appears to be a season-defining decision for coach Jeff Tedford.
We’ll talk about that this week. We’ll evaluate things and go through a week of practice in the bye week and make a decision on that later.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford, on the Bulldogs’ quarterback competition
The Bulldogs have a chance to win a lot of football games in conference play and qualify to play in a bowl game, and coming off a 1-11 season that would be a solid start for Tedford in righting the football program at his alma mater.
Back in August, Fresno State was the longest shot on the board to win the MW this season.
After Saturday’s loss, in which Virgil started and McMaryion played in the second half, Tedford said he wanted to get McMaryion more snaps and it is difficult to stand against.
“I felt like we missed a few throws early and we wanted to give him a chance to get him more game time and get him some game experience,” he said. “As he progresses through the playbook and game planning and things like that, I felt like he had a handle on what we were doing and wanted to see what he could do.”
Do they pick one, pump up the practice reps and go?
Do they continue to play both, anticipating one will separate?
“We’ll talk about that this week,” Tedford said. “We’ll evaluate things and go through a week of practice in the bye week and make a decision on that later.”
At 1-2 through its first three games, Fresno State is where it was expected to be and may be showing potential. The offensive line has held up and against the Huskies generated more consistency in the run game than it had against Incarnate Word and Alabama. The backs and receivers have proven ability to make plays if the quarterback, whoever it might be, can deliver the football on time and accurately.
What they lack is credible and consistent quarterback play, and while both Virgil and McMaryion are capable, neither has inspired much confidence.
Delving more deeply into the numbers reinforces that.
In 2013 Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr had a passing efficiency rating of 156.29, ranking 15th in the nation. In the 40 games the Bulldogs have played since Carr graduated, their quarterbacks have a rating of 111.23. They ranked 104th in 2014, 116th in ‘15, 120th in ‘16 and are 67th through three games this season.
Virgil has started all three games for the Bulldogs, taking the majority of his snaps against No. 1 defenses, including two in Alabama (tie, 16th) and Washington (tie, 13th) that are ranked in the Top 20 in the nation in scoring defense.
Against those two teams, Virgil has completed 59.3 percent of his passes, averaging 5.1 yards per pass play and with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His efficiency rating is 107.31, down slightly from the 110.38 he had against FBS teams last season.
McMaryion has played the majority of his snaps when the Bulldogs have trailed by 15 points or more, playing against backups, and that clouds mild productivity.
In those two games, he has hit on 65.2 percent of his passes, averaging 5.7 yards per attempt with no touchdowns and no interceptions. His rating is 113.43, higher than Virgil’s, but still a bland number that would rank 97th in the nation if it met the NCAA qualifiers; for a quarterback to be ranked he must play in 75 percent of his team’s games and average at least 15.0 attempts per game played.
Virgil has nine explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards to five for McMaryion, but he should have more given the number of passes.
McMaryion has completed 66.7 percent of his passes on third down, but only 33.3 percent have his six attempts have resulted in a first down. Virgil has hit on 54.2 percent of his third-down passes and 33.3 percent of his 24 attempts has gained a first down.
Virgil also is 5 of 7 for 33 yards and with two touchdowns in the red zone, while McMaryion is 3 of 6 for one yard.
I felt like we missed a few throws early and we wanted to give (McMaryion) a chance to get him more game time and get him some game experience.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
If it was McMaryion playing against the ones and Virgil playing against the backups, would any of those numbers be appreciably different?
Before answering, throw this into the equation: Against FBS teams with winning records, McMaryion in his career, including games at Oregon State, is completing 48.9 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and six interceptions.
He is averaging 6.5 yards per pass, but his efficiency rating is only 106.37.
Tedford and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer need to find who best can lead and operate the offense because the Bulldogs are have a chance the rest of the way.
They could be in a situation where there is no right answer and there is no wrong answer, but that only makes what they come up with during the bye week before the Bulldogs open conference play very intriguing.
On the 41 – Washington scored a touchdown on its first five possessions on the way to a 41-7 lead at halftime, the most points Fresno State has allowed in a half since San Jose State put up 42 in the first half of its 62-52 victory over the Bulldogs in 2013.
The worst five in that time ...
42 – San Jose State, first half, in 2013
41 – Washington, first half, in 2017
38 – Ole Miss, second half, in 2015
35 – Ole Miss, first half, in 2015
34 – Hawaii, second half, in 2013
The Bulldogs have played 43 games since that loss to the Spartans and have allowed 41 or more points in 17 of them, 39.5 percent.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
NEVADA AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday, Sept. 30: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.
- Records: Bulldogs 1-2, Wolf Pack 0-3
- TV/radio: AT&T, ROOT/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Nevada lost 30-28 to Idaho State on Saturday, a championship subdivision program. … The Wolf Pack, while Fresno State is on a bye, visit Washington State on Sept. 23.