GAMEWEEK: Idaho hosts Fresno State

THIS SATURDAY THE VANDALS WELCOME NATIONALLY RANKED FRESNO STATE to the Kibbie Dome in a matchup of former conference foes. The Bulldogs (4-0, 2-0 MWC) enter as a Top 25 team (No.21 USA Today, No 23 AP) and a heavy favorite. The Vandals (1-4) are coming off their first victory of the season, a 26-24 win over Temple University. Inside is a quick Q&A with Bulldog Playbook writer Neil Coppola.

With senior defensive lineman Quayshawne Buckley and the rest of the Idaho football team putting the finishing touches on their game plan for this Saturday's matchup with Fresno State (2pm PST kickoff), caught up with Bulldog Playbook writer Neil Coppola to get the inside scoop on this week's opponent.

1) Do dual-threat quarterbacks pose much of a challenge to the Bulldog defense? Idaho has two in redshirt freshman Chad Chalich and JC transfer Joshua McCain.
If I am taking a look at this season, I would say nearly every type of QB has been challenging to Fresno State. Aside the Hawaii and Cal Poly starters, the Bulldogs have struggled to stop every other QB they have faced. Joe Southwick (Boise State) and Gary Nova (Rutgers) had outstanding games against Fresno State. The Cal Poly backup, as well as the Hawaii backup, found success against the Bulldog defense (although Cal Poly's QB did it against our second team which is a huge step down from our first team.) Fresno State's defense does a good job of clogging up the run. At the same time the Bulldogs have been able to get to the QB often as they rank tenth in the nation in sacks. Where the Bulldogs have struggled the most is in the secondary, as they have allowed large chunks of yards in every game. Hawaii was held in check for two and a half quarters, and then went off throwing deep ball after deep ball on our secondary.

If you really want to be successful against Fresno State, start one QB and then take him out at halftime. Second team QB's have had field days against the Bulldogs defense. I am not sure why this happens but it seems like it's been the formula for success up to this point in the season.

2) What happened in the last game that allowed Hawaii to get back into it, and is this a concern for Saturday's game at Idaho?
Really, the comeback Hawaii was able to make comes down to one aspect of college football: turnovers. Fresno State took a 42-3 lead because they played the game well, forced the Hawaii offense into punting situations, and moved the ball up and down the field as if they were practicing with no one else there. Once the Bulldogs took such a large lead the only way Hawaii was going to make a comeback was if the Bulldogs turned the ball over, and that is exactly what they did. Derek Carr threw two interceptions and Greg Watson and Marteze Waller fumbled on consecutive possessions in the second half. Hawaii ran an up tempo offense in the game which made it that much harder on the Bulldogs in the second half. The defense was tired and running for their lives. Not to mention the Bulldogs offense gave Hawaii's offense five extra possessions. Turnovers are always a concern regardless of who the Bulldogs play. Heading into the Idaho game I can see the same thing taking place if the Bulldogs do not take care of the ball.

3) What is going to have to happen for Idaho to win this game? Conversely, as a huge favorite, what does Fresno State have to do to win Saturday?
There are a couple of factors that could lead Idaho to an upset in this game. First, they have to keep the ball away from the Bulldog's offense. Fresno State scored 42 points last week in 2 and 1/2 quarters. The ability to score on nearly every drive is there for the Bulldogs because of the offensive weapons they have. At the same time Idaho will have to force turnovers. If this game is played straight up and neither team turns the ball over, the Bulldogs will win the game. The Bulldogs have a better overall team and will have to make mistakes to allow Idaho into the game.

On Fresno State's side they have to take care of the ball and allow Derek Carr to do what he does best every week: control the offense and lead his team to a win. Fresno State's game-plan will be to get out quickly, but unlike the Hawaii game I am sure you will see a bit more clock used in the second half if the Bulldogs do get a big lead. With that being said, Coach Deruyter made the statement that the team needs to stop watching the scoreboard and has to play every down like the game is tied. If the Bulldogs do that there are two possibilities: The Bulldogs will score a large amount of points in which Idaho won't be able to catch them, or the Bulldogs will turn the ball over and keep the Vandals in the game.

4) Who do you expect to have a big afternoon this Saturday for the Bulldogs?
Derek Carr. I feel like all other players have big games based on what Carr does. If Carr is having a huge game then Josh Harper, Isaiah Burse, and Davante Adams are having great games as well. If Carr is able to run the offense in the manner that he prefers (up tempo with a great deal of passing) then guys like Josh Quezada and Marteze Waller will also have lanes to run through. The Bulldogs offense starts and stops with Carr. The Bulldogs are 4-0 right now because of Derek Carr. With any other QB this team is 1-3. But Carr is a difference maker and has shown that in the first four games of the season.

5) How does Derek Carr rank among the best QBs in Fresno State history?
In my humble opinion Derek Carr is the best QB the Bulldogs have ever had. Don't get me wrong, guys like David Carr, Trent Dilfer, and Kevin Sweeney were all great during their time in Fresno. Derek is something special. He is quick, makes quick reads, can make literally every throw possible, and runs the offense as if there is no one else out there on the field with him. Derek has a fire that I have not seen in a Fresno QB in a long time. He has the drive to win every possession the Bulldogs have. I believe Carr is such a talent that it literally irks me when the Bulldogs run the ball twice in three plays. If Fresno State were to use intermediate routes all day with how well the offensive line blocks and how quickly Carr reads the defense I am not sure there would be many teams who would hold him under 400 yards. We definitely are fortunate to have such a great QB play here in the central valley.

Many thanks once again to Neil Coppola and Bulldog Playbook for taking the time to give us quick glimpse at the Bulldog team headed to Moscow this weekend.

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