Zack Greenlee can spin it well, but Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter and offensive coordinator Dave Schramm knew that last week before elevating the redshirt freshman to start the Bulldogs' final four games of the regular season with both a chance to win a third consecutive Mountain West Conference championship and likely needing to win out to secure a spot in a bowl.
The other things that go into running the Bulldogs' offense, though, remain a question.
Greenlee has played in one game, a 56-16 blowout over Southern Utah in which he hit 4 of 7 passes for 109 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown. That is a bit different than what he will face against Wyoming on Saturday night in his first career start. So, too, is what happens on the practice field.
But Greenlee handled all of it well on Monday in the Bulldogs' first practice since he was officially installed as the starting quarterback in place of Brian Burrell. Of particular interest was a blitz pick-up period, where he had to set and change protections getting different looks from the scout defense.
"It's good to see him come out and have command of getting the protections set going through blitz pick-up," DeRuyter said. "You get concerned any time when a freshman is doing it for the first time, but I know he knows it. He's got to assert himself just like any freshman would, and I think as the week goes on and the weeks go on he'll get better and better at it."
The Cowboys have not been all that successful getting to opposing quarterbacks -- Wyoming has only eight sacks this season and at 1.0 per game ranks 11th of the 12 teams in the Mountain West Conference and tied for 120th in the football bowl subdivision. But that is something Greenlee will have to have down in order to help the Bulldogs' offense gain some consistency going forward. Fresno State through eight games is ranked sixth in the conference and 66th in the nation in passing offense at 234.5 yards per game and fifth and a tie for 77th in scoring at 28.5 points per game.
"He obviously has to take command of the offense, but he did a good job," Schramm said. "He's a lot better than he was last year at this time and, so, we'll see. If you have a crystal ball I can borrow I'd like to see it to see how he's going to do on Saturday. But we're not going to know. It's quite a bit different in practice here when you're going against scout teams and you're not getting hit. But he had a good day, checked the protections well and did a nice job with going to the right place with his progressions.
"I thought he was good. I think a lot of it is just knowing that he can play and feeling comfortable and confident in his ability. But he knows we have confidence in him. I think he had a good day."
Wyoming's numbers show holes
Of the seven FBS teams Wyoming has played, three are ranked 89th or lower in passing offense and the Cowboys' eighth game this season was against Montana, which is 69th in the FCS.
Still, a lack of sacks is not their only problem defending the pass.
Wyoming ranks 10th of 12 in the Mountain West in passing defense, allowing 255.9 yards per game. It also has allowed opponents to complete 66.4% of their passes (11th), compiling an passing efficiency rating of 156.53 (11th), has allowed 8.1 yards per pass attempt (10th) and is the only team in the conference and nation that has yet to intercept a pass.
Around practice ...
• Linebacker Jaamal Rose, who had surgery following a season-ending knee injury in the Bulldogs' loss at Utah, is in a rehab mode. "I'll tell you what, it's amazing now what doctors can do," DeRuyter said. "He's encouraged that he's getting a chance to do rehab. I talked to him (Monday) when he was on his way to rehab. It's tough any time you have two knee surgeries. It's really difficult to come back -- most people don't. But he's going to give it every shot."
• The Bulldogs have played in 25 bowl games, including in 13 of the past 15 seasons. At 3-5, if they reach a bowl this season they will have made the best turnaround in school history in getting there. The worst record any of those bowl teams had after eight games was 3-3-2 in 1945 when they played Drake in the Raisin Bowl. In 1992, 2002 and '03, the Bulldogs were 4-4 after eight games before securing a bowl berth.
• The first College Football Playoff weekly rankings will be released on Tuesday and they will be of interest to Fresno State and the rest of the Mountain West going forward. The Bulldogs obviously won't be in the Top 25, but it could be a gauge for future scheduling. Colorado State at 6-1 has been mentioned as a contender to earn a spot in one of the the contract New Year's Day bowl games guaranteed to the highest ranked champion from a Group of Five conference along with Boise State (6-2), Marshall (7-0) and East Carolina (6-1). Marshall is undefeated at this point, but has not played a Power Five opponent. Colorado State is 2-0 against Power Five teams and East Carolina is 2-1.
• The Cowboys have lost four games in a row, three on the road. The game at Fresno State will be their fourth on the road in the past five.