Moscow, ID (SportsNetwork.com) - The 23rd-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs have hopefully learned their lesson about taking their foot off the gas as they prepare to meet up with the Idaho Vandals in non-conference action at the Kibbie Dome on Saturday.
Last weekend the Bulldogs, then ranked 25th in the Associated Press Poll, figured to have an easy road against Hawaii in Honolulu, and that appeared to be the case in the third quarter after the visitors built a massive 42-3 lead in the third quarter. However, FSU turned the ball over four times in the second half and went cold on offense as they had to hold on for the 42-37 triumph at Aloha Stadium.
"We're 1-0 this week, that's our ultimate goal and we'll take ugly wins as long as they are wins," head coach Tim DeRuyter explained. "Sometimes you got to win ugly. You look all over the country, teams that are favored don't win. We found a way to win and that's how we'll take it."
The Bulldogs are off to their first 4-0 start since 2001.
As for the Vandals, they had started the season with four consecutive defeats, pushing their overall losing streak to 10 straight games, but the team responded over the weekend when Temple came to town. Against an unknown foe, Idaho grinded out a 26-24 win in Moscow, providing first-year head coach Paul Petrino with his first victory with the Vandals.
"They stepped forward. They held on. They were tough," coach Petrino said. "They came to work every day ... they grinded every single day. They've been doing a great job."
Former foes in the Western Athletic Conference, Fresno State crushed the Vandals in the most recent meeting two years ago, 48-24, which means the all- time series now stands at 10-4 in favor of the Bulldogs.
Quarterback Derek Carr completed 33-of-47 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns, although he was also picked off twice by the Hawaii defense as the Rainbow Warriors nearly came back to shock the Bulldogs. Carr, who also scored once on the ground, has now thrown at least one TD pass in 24 straight games, the longest active streak in the FBS.
Josh Harper logged nine receptions for 123 yards and two TDs, while Marteze Waller gave the team a boost on the ground with 95 yards and two scores on 22 rushing attempts.
The Rainbow Warriors were driving late and had a chance to upset FSU, but L.J. Jones, who earlier in the meeting returned an interception 56 yards for a score, picked off another pass at the three-yard line to end the contest.
"Anything can happen, so we just know that as long as we keep playing as 11 on defense and we play as one unit, anything is possible and we can come up with anything," Jones said of the defense in crunch time.
As much as Jones would like to believe he and the FSU defense can make the big play when needed, what is more concerning for the group is the fact that they are currently 115th in the nation with 487.8 ypg allowed. At some point an opponent is not going to fall into such a deep hole, will stick around for all 60 minutes and take care of the Bulldogs when it matters the most if Fresno State doesn't put more effort into the full extent of games.
Then again, having Carr to lean on certainly doesn't hurt. The Bulldogs are sixth in the country in passing offense with 362.0 ypg and Carr is the main reason why, with his 69.2 percent accuracy and 14 TD passes, against just three interceptions. Spreading the wealth, Carr has four receivers all with at least 20 catches through four games, the quartet accounting for all but two of his passing scores as well.
Richard Montgomery scored on a 64-yard pass from Chad Chalich and also crossed the goal line on a five-yard run in the first half to give Idaho some breathing room. Chalich finished the day 26-of-43 for 310 yards, and also recorded a game-high 114 yards on 14 rushing attempts. Kicker Austin Rehkow knocked through four of his five field goal attempts to secure the triumph.
Chalich, who became the first Idaho signal caller to rush for more than 100 yards since Doug Nussmeier turned the trick close to 20 years ago, has experienced a season's worth of ups and downs already as the offense struggles to come up with even 15.4 ppg, ranking the group 117th in the nation. The problem is, not only is Chalich being asked to take care of the aerial attack, he is also first on the team in rushing with 202 net yards and that's a lot to ask of any player these days who is just getting a feel for the college game.
The overall defense for the Vandals has not been very good at all to this point, allowing close to 500 ypg, 117th in the country heading into the month of October. The pass defense is responsible for giving up 290.6 ypg which is something Carr will clearly exploit in a controlled environment like the Kibbie Dome.