Fresno State football’s Brian Burrell has the upper hand in QB competition

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FRESNO, Calif. — Fresno State came out of a blowout victory against Southern Utah with a No. 1, a No. 2 and a No. 3 quarterback, and while coach Tim DeRuyter didn’t want to put Brian Burrell, Brandon Connette or Zack Greenlee in any particular order with the Bulldogs’ Mountain West opener at New Mexico on Friday, there isn’t a ton of mystery remaining in that competition.

“I think people will probably figure it out, but we’ll see come Friday,” DeRuyter said, before a brief walk-through practice on Sunday night.

“We’ve come to some conclusions on where we need to go in the future. We have a better feel for what all three guys can do and we’re going to focus it down to one quarterback and one backup and a third guy will play as the reps play out.”

Coming out of the Bulldogs’ 56-16 victory against the Thunderbirds, Burrell would have to be that No. 1.

Burrell, a 6-foot-4 junior, started for a fourth consecutive game and while the offense again got off to a slow start, Burrell ended up completing 13 of 20 passes for 145 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, that pick coming on his third and final series in the opening quarter.

Cary Edmondson | USA TODAY Sports Images
DeRuyter hasn’t officially named Friday’s starter.

He re-entered the game late in the first half, with the Bulldogs running a two-minute offense, and took them 65 yards in eight plays in just 1:15 to put Fresno State up 21-7.

Burrell started the third quarter and after the Bulldogs had to punt away the ball on their first possession, they ended up taking advantage of field position stemming from a blocked punt and a fumble recovery to get into the end zone on their next two possessions, and went 76 yards in 10 plays for another touchdown on their third.

Marteze Waller scored on a 2-yard run after the blocked punt, Juice Quezada bulled his way into the end zone from 1-yard out after the fumble recovery and Burrell hit Delvon Hardaway from seven yards out for the third touchdown when Hardaway made a quick move on a slant to get wide open.

In five drives, the Bulldogs scored four touchdowns.

“We have to get [Burrell] started earlier, but it wasn’t all just him,” DeRuyter said. “We’ve got guys not running the right routes, not blocking. We get some explosive plays and we’re not able to capitalize.

“The thing that has been impressive to me is even if he didn’t start out well, when we do bring him back in, he has learned from his mistakes. He can communicate on the sideline and he goes out and corrects those things and leads us up and down the field.”

Burrell, who has completed 62 of 114 passes (54.4%) for 584 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, said his comfort level in the offense and in games was improving.

“A month ago, I would have liked to think we would have more than one win right now,” Burrell said, “but that being said, I do feel a lot more comfortable out there. I feel like I’m getting better every week. I still have a lot of room for improvement, but overall I feel like I’m getting better.”

With Burrell the likely starter at New Mexico on Friday, the backups would be Greenlee and Connette, who is not yet 100 percent coming back from a right hand injury suffered at Utah in the second game of the season.

Connette had difficulty with some throws after coming into the Southern Utah game late in the first quarter, completing 5 of 11 for 51 yards and a touchdown to wideout Josh Harper. Connette had four drives — the Bulldogs lost possession on downs, failing to pick up a fourth-and-1 at the Southern Utah 32-yard line, had a three-and-out, then the touchdown to Harper and another punt.

Greenlee, in his first college game, hit 4 of 7 throws for 109 yards, including a perfect shot on a deep ball to Da’Mari Scott that went for an 81-yard touchdown.

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