Before the season started, Fresno State coach Pat Hill thought quarterback Ryan Colburn was in for a pretty special senior season.
He has been right through the first three games. In fact, Colburn has been more important than ever to the Bulldogs' offense because injuries have taken a big toll at receiver and running back.
Colburn has been consistent throughout, throwing for nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. He is 65-of-89 for 786 yards and is completing 73 percent of his passes, a career high. If you compare the start to his senior season with some of the other great quarterbacks to come through Fresno State, Colburn is right there with them.
In fact, he is off to a better start than David Carr in 2001 and Billy Volek in 1991.
“He’s playing really well,” Hill said. “Ryan’s done an outstanding job as a leader for us and is playing very efficiently. I’m very happy with his performance.”
With the departure of Ryan Mathews, who led the NCAA in rushing last season, Fresno State knew it would have to rely more on Colburn. That became especially true when injuries hit the backfield. Running back Robbie Rouse, who went into the season as the starter, missed one game with shoulder and ankle injuries. He played last week against Ole Miss but was still hobbled with a bad ankle, rushing just seven times for 22 yards.
A.J. Ellis, who replaced Rouse in the starting lineup, has a sprained toe and is most likely out for Saturday’s game against Cal Poly. Hill said he was concerned with Ellis’ foot. The injuries have taken a toll on production. Fresno State, so good a year ago with Mathews, ranks No. 104 in the country in rushing averaging 103 yards a game.
The passing offense, meanwhile, ranks 30th in the country. Colburn ranks ninth in the country in passing efficiency and has a better completion percentage than Ryan Mallett, Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore.
Even more impressive: Colburn is putting up good numbers despite a depleted wide receiving corps. The injury bug has hit there, too, with Rashad Evans (hamstring) and Devon Wylie (foot surgery) missing time. Leading receiver Jamel Hamler hurt his shoulder against Ole Miss and his status is up in the air for Saturday.
Also, All-WAC offensive guard Andrew Jackson (ankle) has been hurt, too.
“It’s been a funny deal with injuries this year,” Hill said. “They haven’t been from big hits. It’s just the nature of the game.”
Fresno State lost to Ole Miss last week to drop to 2-1, but as long as Colburn stays healthy, the Bulldogs have a shot to be in every game.