Fresno State already had three starting quarterbacks this season, the first time that has occurred going back through 1979. On Saturday, in a Mountain West Conference and homecoming game against Utah State, the Bulldogs made it four.
Redshirt freshman Kilton Anderson, who was the first of four quarterbacks to drop out of the competition to start in fall camp, took over for third-year sophomore Zack Greenlee, with freshman Chason Virgil and junior transfer Ford Childress both hurt and out for the year.
It worked some magic for a quarter. After an early interception, Anderson came back to throw a tying 21-yard touchdown pass, but Fresno State was limited to 71 yards of offense in the half and 194 for the game in a 56-14 loss to the Aggies at Bulldog Stadium.
Kent Myers threw for 260 yards for Utah State (3-2, 2-0) and Devante Mays had three TD runs. Anderson (10 of 20, 112 yards, three interceptions) also coughed up two points on a fumble and safety that helped the Aggies build a 29-7 halftime lead.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
The Bulldogs (1-5, 0-3) have lost five straight.
“We were trying to find things that fit his skill set and wanted to add some more as far as designed runs go,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We wanted to slow the ball down a bit and try to control the ball. The Utah State front is difficult to run against and I thought he competed well. There are a lot of things that we have to teach him off of this tape. It being his first time starting, it is very difficult.”
It started inauspiciously for Anderson and Fresno State, with the quarterback’s long, opening pass of the night picked off by Devin Centers and downed inside the Aggies 5. It would be typical of the big plays Utah State delivered all night.
Fresno State’s defense limited Utah State to one first down on the Aggies’ first series, but the Bulldogs gained just 30 yards on a nine-play drive that followed.
Anderson tried to run for a first down on fourth-and-4 from the Utah State 38.
The play gained 2 yards and the Aggies responded with a 64-yard drive across eight plays capped by LaJuan Hunt’s 15-yard touchdown run.
Anderson answered with a 21-yard touchdown pass, the first of his career, as Jamire Jordan made an over-the-shoulder catch. That was set up by Stratton Brown’s perfectly timed collision with Utah State punt returner Hunter Sharp. The Bulldogs recovered the ball at the 35.
But that was it and the game was decided when halftime arrived. Fresno State tried again on fourth down, this time with a yard to go at the Aggies 45. Marteze Waller was thrown for a 1-yard loss and a Meyers-to-Wyatt Houston pass for 34 yards got Utah State to the 6 and two players later Mays was in for the first of his scores.
A blocked punt set up the Aggies at the Bulldogs 8 and Hunt ran in from the 3 two plays later. Myers threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Devonte Robinson just before halftime.
“It’s a great game plan,” Anderson said. “We’ve just gotta trust our coaches, trust each other, and come together as a unit. An offense is like a machine, and all parts have to be running together and it just didn’t happen tonight. We’ll get back together tomorrow and figure it out.”
▪ Anderson and Greenlee split reps with the No. 1 offense during the week in practice, with more toward the end going to Anderson.
▪ Greenlee presided over one of the worst offensive performances in conference history in a 21-7 loss last week at San Diego State, the Bulldogs generating only 89 yards of total offense in 47 plays.
▪ It is not known if this is the first time in school history that the Bulldogs have had four quarterbacks start in a season – school game-by-game records are available only back through 1979. They are the only FBS team in the nation to start four quarterbacks; Louisville and Syracuse have started three.
▪ Anderson played a handful of reps in the Bulldogs’ loss at San Jose State, when Greenlee was suspended following an arrest for public drunkenness and drinking in public just hours after he had thrown three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a loss to Utah. He rushed twice for 20 yards and missed badly on his only pass attempt.
“Each week we are trying to find the guy that gives us the best chance to win the football game that Saturday,” DeRuyter said after the game of his decision to go with Anderson. “That is the bottom line. A week ago, we did not play very well, not just at the quarterback position. We felt we just needed a kickstart and felt Kilton’s energy and athletic ability gave us a chance.”
▪ Greenlee started against Abilene Christian and at Ole Miss, Virgil against Utah and Childress against San Jose State.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada