Fresno State Football

Fresno State football: 'Dogs will find QB in games, not practice field

Fresno State returned to the practice field on Monday and quarterback Brian Burrell and Brandon Connette went about their business, doing what they do. Both played in a season-opening loss at USC, both will play on Saturday when the Bulldogs take on the second of three power conference opponents to open the season at Utah, and they could continue on that way for a while.

If one is to gain separation in that competition and emerge as a starter that is where it will happen -- under live fire and not in practice, offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said.

"The mistakes they made weren't based on doing the wrong thing because they didn't get any reps," he said. "It's the little things. It's the little things about knowing exactly where the coverage is going to be or how to hold the linebacker, playing the game-type things.

"It's not that we missed the coverage or missed the one-on-one or those types of things. It's just playing the game and playing faster. There were times where they kind of looked like they weren't quite sure. That doesn't have anything to do with practice reps. It's just trusting that what we're doing, we have an answer for, and that will come I think with playing."

Both quarterbacks had their moments, positive and negative.

Burrell, who threw 12 passes last season as a backup to Derek Carr, completed 11 of 19 throws against the Trojans for 92 yards and one interception. Five of those passes resulted in a first down, but he was only 2 of 5 on third-down plays.

Connette, who has much more experience having played in 39 games at Duke before transferring to Fresno State, hit 7 of 17 passes for 68 yards and was intercepted three times. Three of his completions went for a first down, and he was 0 of 2 on third down.

Burrell had a passing efficiency rating for the game of 88.04 and Connette was at 39.34. Though both had enough passing attempts to qualify, neither cracked the Top 100 in the player rankings, and the Bulldogs' 65.11 rating as a team was ranked 118th of 120 through games played Sunday.

"We were very inconsistent," Schramm said. "There were times, the two drives we had, we went right down the field and scored playing fast and playing our tempo and playing like we want to play. We were 2 out of 12 on third down, and a lot of those were self-inflicted third-and-long yardages. We beat ourselves with those plays and we can't do that either. We had dropped balls -- stuff that can't happen if we're going to be a good football team."

The interceptions obviously are a drag on the efficiency rating, and a reference point for Schramm. Both quarterbacks need to improve when navigating series, string together plays without catastrophic operator error. That isn't likely to happen on the practice field, even if the staff picks one and load him up with practice reps.

"The biggest thing we have to get fixed is the interceptions -- it all starts from there," Schramm said. "We can't turn the ball over. We can't just go whipping it downfield into coverage for no reason. The tipped ball at the end wasn't necessarily a quarterback issue; up front we didn't do our job. But the other ones were just not in our scheme, not what we do, so we have to work to fix them. They're base plays, so give credit to USC. They made some nice plays, but they're easily-made plays so we have to keep working to hammer out some mechanical deals and get those things fixed."

The Bulldogs will continue to work on that through Friday and see what happens on Saturday, when they are under pressure and bodies are flying around them.

They need to make plays, sustain drives. They need to make good decisions with the football, be accurate under pressure, manage the offense and the game, get the football to the playmakers.

"We don't hit our quarterbacks in practice; they're not live because we can't go trade for another one or get one off the waiver wire," Schramm said. "You have to protect them a little bit and with as much blitzing and stuff as our defense does, there are going to be times where someone is going to come free, and we don't want those guys getting blasted.

"The only time they've been live is in the game, so we have to give them the opportunity to show what they can and can't do and see how they handle live bullets and get after it in that regard."