LEWISTON, Idaho — At some point, Fresno State's habit of waiting until crunch time to close out games could burn the Bulldogs.
Will it be Saturday at Idaho? Or later this month? Or will No. 23 Fresno State (4-0) keep its unbeaten season going?
Idaho (1-4) has noticed the Bulldogs' struggles to finish off opponents despite building large leads, and the Vandals are feeling confident heading into Saturday's nonconference football game at the Kibbie Dome.
Idaho is thriving off the momentum from last week's first win under new coach Paul Petrino, 26-24 against Temple.
"We know Fresno is a good team," Idaho receiver Dezmon Epps said. "We know they're probably better than us on both sides (of the football). But we're going in ready to fight. We're feeling good about ourselves. And we'll see who's standing in the end."
Of course, Idaho is a 271/2-point underdog while Fresno State enters having allowed 34 unanswered points during last week's 42-37 escape at Hawaii.
As he has throughout the week, Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter on Friday reminded his team to "stop looking at the scoreboard" and instead focus on playing a complete game. If the Bulldogs can, the results will take care of itself, he said.
"It's a situation where I know we've got the capability," DeRuyter said from the team's hotel lobby. "It's a case of we've got to stop looking at the scoreboard. When guys notch it down just a little bit intensity-wise, you turn the ball over and you give up big plays to a team with momentum.
"Stop looking at the scoreboard. Yeah, it's telling the truth. But it lies to your brain that you can ease up, the game's over. Don't listen to it. That was our charge to the team this week."
Idaho has spent its week trying to further establish its identity, particularly on offense.
Using a no-huddle, uptempo similar to Fresno State, Idaho looks to strike fast and catch defenses misaligned but with more of a run-oriented attack under Petrino.
Vandals redshirt freshman quarterback Chad Chalich is averaging 40.4 rushing yards per game. In addition, Chalich has shown nice poise and completed 98 of 150 passes for 1,111 yards and four touchdowns without an interception for a passing efficiency rating of 136.3. By comparison, Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr has a 145.8 pass efficiency.
Epps compared Idaho's offense as a developing version to Oregon's fast-paced, run-based spread attack.
"We were kind of slow with the option at first," Epps said, "but we're starting to get it down."
The Vandals have showed a variety of formations during their first five games. Last week's victory against Temple might have helped Idaho figure out what to settle on.
"They were definitely different last week and they had a lot of success," DeRuyter said. "I think they might've settled in on a quarterback. They've been playing two. (I) was really impressed with their freshman quarterback — he did a great job running their offense, and when they can get the quarterback run game and go uptempo, the play-action pass game opens up.
"So obviously, they had success last week. And we plan on seeing a bunch of what they showed last week.
"But you've got to prepare for everything. They do some things formation-wise, with unbalanced sets. We've got to make sure we're sound in all of our adjustments."
BULLDOGS AT IDAHO
Saturday: 2 p.m.
Records: Bulldogs 4-0, Vandals 1-3
Radio: KFIG-AM 940; KGST-AM 1600
Online: Follow the game live at www.fresnobee.com/dogslive
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