If the plan was to knock Fresno State quarterback Zack Greenlee around, hit him often and enough to get him frazzled into mistake after mistake, it certainly wouldn’t have been an outlandish idea.
But one way or the other, the five roughing-the-passer penalties and one personal foul that Hawaii absorbed Saturday against the Bulldogs definitely had a role in an epic turnaround by the third-year sophomore quarterback, who threw six touchdowns in a 42-14 victory.
Greenlee admitted as much Monday, as the Bulldogs started preparation for a nonconference game at BYU. It ticked off him, and his teammates, a bit.
“It was different – I had never seen anything like that before,” he said. “But it definitely brought something out in us. Any time you get some shots like that, it gets the competitive juices going.
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“I was fired up. I think we all were. We put a few drives together right there and it helped us the rest of the game. We just kept going.”
The Rainbow Warriors were penalized three times for roughing on the Bulldogs’ first scoring drive, including two on third-and-9 plays. They went 91 yards, with 45 though penalties. The fourth roughing penalty came in the second quarter on a second-and-10 and the fifth was a dead ball personal foul on third-and-11 on that same drive – the play was blown dead when the Bulldogs had a false start. The sixth penalty came in the third quarter on another second-and-10.
Fresno State scored on the first two of those drives, which left coach Tim DeRuyter to joke that they would now go live in pregame warmups to get the quarterback tuned up before games.
Greenlee, who has lost the starting job twice this season, went into the game completing just 50 percent of his passes, averaging just 92.1 passing yards per game and with an efficiency rating of 119.25. But he kept his cool when the Rainbow Warriors applied pressure and continued to hit him during and after plays.
“I tried to keep a cool head on everybody,” he said. “We didn’t fall into turning it onto a penalty match, going back and forth. I just tried to keep everybody level-headed and focused on our goal and that was winning the game.”
Tight end tussle – Fresno State lost tight end Chad Olsen in the second half, then backup Kyle Riddering only minutes later. So that left it to David Tangipa, who found himself in an interesting matchup with 285-pound Rainbow Warriors defensive end Kennedy Tulimasealii.
In the fourth quarter, with the Bulldogs running the ball to burn the clock, they called the same play three times in a row. Tangipa, assigned to take on the defensive end on the back side of the play, leveled Tulimasealii on the first one.
On the second, Tulimasealii was ready.
“Oh, yeah, he was most definitely ready for it,” Tangipa said. “He came back and knocked me down a little bit.”
The third was more of a draw, but Tangipa carried out his assignment.
“We were talking about it after the game and expressed to each other that we were just going after each other,” Tangipa said. “It was a little inside rivalry we built up in a matter of seconds.”
Fresno State on that last drive ran 18 plays in a row, moving 82 yards from its 1 and taking 10:19 off the clock.
“I knew (offensive coordinator Dave Schramm) wanted to milk the clock and run the ball. They called my name and we were supposed to do our job. We took it from 13 minutes all of the way down to 2,” Tangipa said. “I think I did my job. I did what the coaches wanted me to do.”
Olsen and Riddering, who suffered shoulder injuries, took part in a brief practice Monday and are expected to be back this week against BYU.
If one or both is unable to go, Tangipa said he is ready for more.
Et cetera – BYU has played two Mountain West teams this season and will end its season against what will be a fourth in Utah State. The Cougars beat Boise State 35-24 on Sept. 12 and won at San Jose State 17-16 on Nov. 6.
▪ Fresno State has struggled to stop the run this season, but in BYU it will be facing a team that has not rushed the ball well the past two weeks. They gained 36 yards on 25 plays (1.4 ypp) in a win at San Jose State and 46 yards on 15 plays (3.1) last week in a 20-16 loss at Missouri. “I have a theory that we were short-handed against San Jose State, and that might have had some influence,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said at his weekly news conference. “Then we got our players back fresh and Missouri is good up front, so that could be a factor. Our execution and our completing assignments and our play isn’t as sharp as it was early and we need it to be. One of our main priorities as we finish the season is improving that.”
▪ The Cougars rank eighth in the county in sacks with 31, but DeRuyter is hoping Greenlee will ride the momentum he generated in the victory at Hawaii. “I would like to think there is some carryover as far as schematically, where he’ll feel comfortable about seeing what he sees and knowing the right reads,” he said. “We thought he made some big progress that way last week and if there’s some comfort zone there, hopefully it’ll help him this week. They’re both odd front teams, but they’re a lot bigger up front. They’re a team that for most games have done a great job limiting run and forcing you into throw situations. They’re going to have some exotic blitzes and try to pressure you. But they’re massive size-wise and it’s hard to get movement on them.”
▪ With the victory at Hawaii, the Bulldogs are 10-3 in the month of November under DeRuyter, including road wins at Nevada in 2012, at Wyoming in 2013, at Nevada in 2014 and at Hawaii this season. The only road loss in there was a big one, at San Jose State in 2013 that ended a run at an undefeated season after 10 wins.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada