Fresno State faces former Western Athletic Conference rival Idaho, its last nonconference opponent this season, Saturday on the road.
The Vandals, 1-4 under first-year coach Paul Petrino, feature an uptempo offense quarterbacked by redshirt freshman Chad Chalich, who threw for 314 yards and ran for 114 in Idaho’s 26-24 win over Temple last week.
The Bulldogs (4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference) are coming off a 42-37 win over Hawaii.
Fresno State is the only undefeated Mountain West team remaining and will have a bye this next week.
Part of Chalich’s success was due to an improved performance by the Vandals’ offensive line, said Sean Kramer, a beat writer for The Argonaut, Idaho’s student newspaper.
Here is more of what Kramer said about the Vandals’ season and Saturday’s matchup:
THE COLLEGIAN: The Vandals grabbed their first win of the season against Temple … What were some things to take away from that win?
THE ARGONAUT: Chad Chalich is a good quarterback. That’s the main thing we took away. Even going back to the game at Washington State, Chalich was very effective. It’s just a matter of if those around him are capable of also stepping up and supporting him, and that’s what happened against Temple.
The offensive line stepped up, only giving up two sacks last Saturday after conceding 26 in the four games prior.
That could be thanks to true freshman Steven Matlock stepping up at the right guard spot, along with junior Spencer Beale stepping in at left guard in place of the injured Dallas Sandberg.
Defensively, we learned that the defensive line can put it together and get after the quarterback. But we also learned that the secondary has holes.
Temple receivers were getting open down the field. Connor Reilly was just incapable of hitting them.
Derek Carr won’t miss those throws.
Chad Chalich seems to have dual-threat capabilities at quarterback, leading the Vandals in rushing yards and carries. Were there any major tweaks that coach Petrino made to the offense to fit Chalich’s talents?
The offense has been molded to fit Chalich’s style of play, as well as that of backup Josh McCain who could see some time on Saturday depending on how he practiced this week.
It’s hard to say if there were any major tweaks made, too, but I imagine the offense he ran last year with Taylor Wilson at Arkansas was much more different.
What have coach Paul Petrino and the team said about this year’s schedule (Idaho faces No. 24 Ole Miss and No. 8 Florida State on the road, as well)?
Petrino is kind of a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy.
He’s said in so many words that the schedule in the Sun Belt will not be as tough as the schedule he has this year, but he’s not complaining about it.
He’s maintaining a “this will make us better” type of attitude.
Which, what else can you do?
He will never come out and say it publicly, but I think a 3-9 season will be a relative success to him.
It sure will be for the fan base and those who really understand the situation around this football program.
Defensively, who stands out this year for Idaho?
The big dog right now is defensive end Maxx Forde. The junior is counted on heavily to not only rush the passer, but also work rush contain and stop the run.
He’s a very smart kid who puts in a lot of effort on the field, but he might not have the elite athleticism that a lot of top defensive ends around the country possess.
Also keep an eye on Marc Millan who defensive coordinator Ronnie Lee will use a lot to rush from the linebacker position.
We would also say defensive end Quinton Bradley, Idaho’s best pass rusher, but he is likely out with a shoulder injury.
What are some keys to victory for Idaho against the Bulldogs?
Protect. Protect. Protect.
Fresno State has shown vulnerabilities in pass defense and letting up points, but the Bulldogs also get after the passer a lot, too.
Idaho doesn’t possess the talent to keep up with Fresno State if it’s committing mistakes on offense that stall too many drives. Chalich has to stay upright, and Idaho has to convert red zone possessions into touchdowns.
If the offensive line can fend off the Bulldogs, then Idaho may be able to make it enough of a shootout to pull of its biggest upset, well, ever.