Fresno State's toughest stretch of the schedule appeared to be over after victories against Rutgers and Boise State among the first three games.
But as Saturday's late night scare at Hawaii showed, the Bulldogs' latest wave of challenges is just beginning.
As No. 23 Fresno State (4-0) strives to keep its dream season intact, opponents are more motivated than ever to deliver the Bulldogs' first loss. After building a 39-point lead last weekend, Fresno State had to fend off Hawaii's second-half surge until the very end to escape with a 42-37 victory.
This week, Idaho (1-4) will look to rise to the occasion with Fresno State — 4-0 for the first time since 2001 — visiting the Kibbie Dome.
"We want people to give us their best punch," Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said Monday. "Let's go. Bring your best players. Let's get tested by the best of them. That's how I want our guys to play. We're not hoping their best players get hurt. We're not hoping they play down. Let's go.
"I think we play better against the tougher, tested competition. I've got to do a better job, when we get up of having our guys not look at the damn scoreboard. I think our guys play different when they look at that."
There are other obstacles that could loom larger that come from beyond the field — such as national rankings and individual national attention.
Last week, it was Fresno State's official push to get quarterback Derek Carr included in the Heisman Trophy race. Overnight Sunday, it was rumors linking DeRuyter, and nearly every other college coach, to the vacancy at USC following Lane Kiffin's firing.
DeRuyter would not specifically comment on the USC coaching search, other than to say: "It's tough when coaches get fired early in the year like this. As a coach, you feel for those guys."
USC's opening, however, is just the beginning of the annual coaching carousel. And if Fresno State keeps winning, DeRuyter and his staff members could be mentioned in others as well.
"I'm not going to comment on any other coaching search," DeRuyter said. "Our only concern is our game this week. ... It's like the Derek (Heisman) talk or the Top 25 talk. There are things outside of our program that are going to be said or things outside of our control that are going to happen that have nothing to do with us winning.
"What we do have control over is how we prepare and how we execute on Saturdays. That's all we worry about. And that's why I give our guys ear plugs. It's symbolically, but don't listen to that crap. It has nothing to do with us winning. It can only have us distracted, which helps prevent us from winning."
Though Fresno State didn't complete the blowout victory at Hawaii — instead winning a third game decided by five or fewer points — wide receiver Josh Harper said the narrow margins are helping the players maintain focus.
"The close games are just a testament to our closeness together," Harper said. "We all love each other, and you've got to be close to win these close games."
The Bulldogs are aware they could be 1-3 if not for late defensive stands, but DeRuyter pointed out that many of the mistakes are correctable and the personnel and talent already are in place to make improvements.
"I think our team has been tested a few times now and showed resolve," DeRuyter said. "Obviously, there are things that we've got to get cleaned up. We've got to stop looking at the scoreboard. The scoreboard is a liar. Our mentality has got to be ... up 30 or down 30, it doesn't matter. Let's just play."
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