Looking for clarity, or even just an inkling where the competition to be the backup to quarterback Derek Carr might be headed, Fresno State football coach Tim DeRuyter got only clouds.
The offense on Monday scuffled through the first scrimmage of the spring, which was muddled by an injury to backup center Patrick Kim in an individual drill before the scrimmage went live, some poor line play and a lack of competitiveness that impacted the Bulldogs’ play throughout.
“I just thought mentality-wise, our defense came to play, especially up front, and our offense didn’t, by and large,” DeRuyter said. “That’s not everybody, but clearly there were too many guys on the offensive side that didn’t come out and compete.”
The quarterbacks were part and a party to that, the first two scoring drives amounting to single plays. On the first, backup running back Daryl Cash picked up a snap from center Travis Harvey that rolled into the backfield and sprinted 60 yards for a touchdown. On the second, quarterback Brian Burrell hit Davante Adams in the left flat and the wide out put a wicked stiff arm on the cornerback and raced 35 yards down the sideline and into the end zone.
Running back T.J. Thomas later scored on a short run to cap a seven-play drive led by quarterback Marcus McDade, but the Bulldogs have a few issues to sort out.
The offense gave up eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss, and McDade hit 6 of 11 throws for 37 yards and one interception, Myles Carr was 6 of 11 for 15 yards with an interception and Burrell was 3 of 11 for 71 yards, most of it coming on the touchdown catch and run by Adams.
“It was popcorn — one or two plays here and there, but there was nothing consistent done by any of the quarterbacks,” DeRuyter said. “It’s a concern.”
The loss of Kim didn’t help — he suffered a stinger and had to be removed from the field in an ambulance. Travis Harvey had to move up to the No. 2 line, until back-to-back snaps went awry, one low and one high, and he spent the rest of the scrimmage on the sidelines doing some up-downs. Guard Mike Saenz moved over to center with the No. 3 unit.
Kim update (8:30 p.m.): Kim was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after complaining of pain in his neck from the stinger. He was discharged after passing all of the tests. He’ll be evaluated by the team physician Tuesday and is not yet cleared to return to practice.
Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm said he would expect the quarterbacks to be a little farther along, after nine of 15 spring practices.
“I would,” he said, “especially with the guys that have been here for a year. I think when you’re not playing you have a tendency not to study as much as you should or not pay as close attention as you should because it’s not your job. But you never know when your number is called and you have to go.
“That stuff has to start improving, but we won’t have a definitive answer on who the backup is going to be until after spring ball; it’ll be sometime in fall camp. But we’re making some progress in the other areas — I really like what Josh Quezada has done in camp so far to this point, (Malique Micenheimer) has done some nice things but he’s got to be more consistent, T.J. has done a nice job when he’s been called upon.
“There’s progress being made, so we’ll see. We just have to keep going.”
McDade was sidelined briefly after he took a hit and fumbled away the ball on his first sets of reps, which came with the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense.
Outside linebacker Eijiro Ederaine hit him, forcing the ball loose, and it was recovered by end Nikko Motta.
Ederaine moved up because Donovan Lewis was held out of the scrimmage after tweaking a hamstring in practice Saturday. Nose guard Maurice Poyadue (ankle), cornerback Sean Alston (stinger) and running back Marteze Waller (quad) also were held out.
There were not a lot of huge hits in the scrimmage, but the best combo of hit and play might have come from outside linebacker Nat Harrison. He came flying in from the left and crushed Cash just after he took a handoff from Burrell.
The interceptions — Myles Carr had a pass into coverage tipped into the air by Ederaine and picked off by Jonathan Norton and McDade threw a poor pass in two-minute that was low and behind Anthony Riggins that linebacker Brock Carmen made a nice play to, first, get to, and then catch.
Cash led the running backs with 92 yards and the touchdown on 10 plays. Thomas had 52 yards on seven plays and Micenheimer had 10 yards on three plays.
The lack of oomph from the offense was a bit surprising, given the start the unit had. Before the scrimmage, DeRuyter had them run a Bulldog Drill and the offensive player won just about every matchup.
The defense, obviously, had a nice day. One blip — the No. 1 offense was able to get a first down in a planned series they were starting from its own 1-yard line.
The key play there was a 9-yard run by Cash.
“That was frustrating,” defensive coordinator Nick Toth said. “We misfit that, too. We should have stopped that. That’s the stuff that loses you games. You talk about the rest of the scrimmage, that situation is one where if you can keep them in there you’re giving points to your offense. Our offense’s percentage when they started on this side of the 50 this year was like 90-some percent.
“You have to feel that if you can get that stop, whatever it takes to get that stop, you’re getting a touchdown back. I was frustrated about that.
“I did like our guy’s effort today. I thought our physicality was decent. Missed a couple of tackles that cost us points again, though, and that’s one of the things we’ve been emphasizing all spring. That wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be today, so there’s stuff we can get better at.”
One of those scoring plays was the one made by Adams, the freshman All-American and first-team All-Mountain West Conference receiver a year ago.
Toth was having none of it.
“Got to down him, man. Nobody wants excuses on Saturday afternoon, especially me,” he said. “You get a one-on-one situation, we have to believe our guy is good enough to win that.”
With Lewis out, Toth did some mixing with the linebackers. His take at this point: “Inside, I really liked what Kyrie (Wilson) and Karl (Mickelsen) are giving up. (Jeremiah) Toma is too inconsistent right now. But I think it’s a good group. The outside guys, Nat Harrison got a lot better today. He showed some physicality that we asked him to do and he showed up and got physical. And Brandon Hughes has gotten better about every day. He’s catching back up with the playbook.
“I feel good about that group right now. We need some more depth outside — we still have to work on that, have to find ways to manufacture some depth. We get better when we go nickel like we did at the end, we get some depth there. But we have to be able to play base defense, so we’ll see if we can get one of these young guys that are coming in the summertime to get us some depth.
“But I liked the way our linebackers played today, and our offense gave us some stuff that we had to adapt to on the run, so it was good.”