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Utah vs. Fresno State recap: Bulldogs fall flat in 45-24 loss to Utes

There's questions after this one, of course, but there's promise, too.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I'd like to be able to tell you that the worst is over, but the Fresno State Bulldogs still have a perilous number of questions to answer as the opening salvos of the 2015 campaign come to a close. Yes, losing by only three scores to a Top 25 team, rather than by fifty, represents improvement. Are we any closer, though, to divining what kind of team this will be as conference play looms?

No. Yes? I don't know.

For one, the quarterback situation still has no resolution to speak of. The numbers attached to Chason Virgil and Zack Greenlee may look very different, but both showed plenty of promise. Virgil started the game and finished 11-of-25 for 97 yards, but he showed a willingness to hang tough in the pocket and make throws. He knew when to throw the ball away and even made a couple of plays with his legs (3 carries for 28 yards), but when he left the game early in the fourth quarter Greenlee, too, looked like a different quarterback than the one who fizzled out against Ole Miss.

This time, the sophomore got a chance to air it out a little. Greenlee finished 6-of-10 for 144 yards and three scores, but for the life of me I can't figure out why offensive coordinator Dave Schramm seems to be giving these guys different offenses to work with each week. Virgil had to resort to short throws more than a few times, which was especially galling when it felt like he had to settle for seven-yard slants on third-and-10 time and again; Greenlee's night was epitomized by Jamire Jordan's electric 82-yard catch-and-run touchdown: A little high, but nonetheless a clear shot past the first down marker with which the redshirt freshman could make a move and reach paydirt.

If the depth chart reads "Greenlee OR Virgil" or "Virgil OR Greenlee" again, it may be tempting to read it as "¯\_(ツ)_/¯ OR (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻" instead. The upside, if you choose to call it that, is that every other quarterback situation in the West division is also experiencing some degree of malaise.

If only the situation under center were the only problem to give me pause.

Utah beat the 'Dogs repeatedly at the point of attack, much to the delight of star running back Devontae Booker (need we remind you again he was once a Bulldogs recruit?), who put the Utes on his back early and often, to the tune of over 200 yards of total offense and two scores. Racking up 13 third-down conversions in 19 attempts doesn't happen by accident, though, and neither does an additional pair of successful fourth-down tries. The time of possession disparity was even more lopsided than last week's blowout: Utah had a 19-play scoring drive and a 16-play scoring drive in the first half which chewed up nearly 17 minutes of game clock between them, and it sucked the life out of the stadium.

Both teams were equally mistake-prone, as well, which let Fresno back into the game, however briefly, and took them right back out of it. Kendal Thompson didn't light the world of fire tonight (19-25-159-1-1), his two turnovers were cookies for Tyquann Glass (the INT) and Claudelle Louis (the fumble recovery), but he didn't need to do so. Fresno did score 10 points off of Utah those turnovers, but Utah scored once on defense -- a dicey fumble by Virgil -- and twice on special teams.

You watched Greenlee take four goal-to-go plays to get the Bulldogs into the end zone for the first time, and then you saw Cory Butler-Byrd return the ensuing kick 98 yards to the house and probably said, "It figures." You saw Britain Covey return the ensuing punt 77 yards and probably headed for the exits.

On the other hand, Da'Mari Scott encapsulates what I'm certain most Bulldogs fans feel about the team to this point. He forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, made the catch of this young season for Fresno's last touchdown, coughed up a controversial fumble that was only confirmed after a lengthy review. There's a lot of promise on this roster, but whether the coaching staff can bring it out is still an open question.

And, rightly or wrongly, this is what it all wrought:

It's not a good look but, three weeks in, the MWC is as wide open as it may ever be. Maybe this all feels startlingly familiar, but we might all be well-served to remember that the road to the conference title game still runs through Bulldog Stadium until further notice. Tim DeRuyter's young guns may flail, but maybe they grow up before our eyes. I may be a little less optimistic than most, but I'm starting to think I wouldn't be surprised by any outcome at this point.