Independence is doing no favors for an already battle-tested Idaho defense. One just has to look at the list of quarterbacks Idaho has already played: Wyoming’s Brett Smith, Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch and Washington State’s Connor Halliday.
Those three might pale in comparison to the next guy Idaho faces.
Fresno State senior quarterback Derek Carr comes to the Kibbie Dome on Saturday for a match-up of two former Western Athletic Conference football programs.
“Can we play against somebody that’s a true freshman or something?” Idaho coach Paul Petrino joked at his weekly news conference Monday.
Carr is completing 69 percent of his passes, has tossed 14 touchdown passes to only three interceptions and has thrown for 1,445 yards in only four games. Those numbers will challenge a thin and inexperienced Idaho secondary which has allowed opponents to throw for 291 yards per game in the first five games of the season and let opposing passers amass a 147.01 passer rating.
“He’s as good as anybody out there in college football right now,” Petrino said.
That might explain how Fresno State has been able to air it out for 362 yards per game in its first four games, including a 460 passing yard performance in a 41-40 victory over Boise State on Sept. 20.
It will be up to the Idaho offense to try and catch up with the Fresno State defense which has been vulnerable but shown a knack for rushing the passer. Fresno State has given up 38.2 points per game but gets after the passer to a tune of 4.25 sacks per game.
For Idaho, it will again come down to offensive line and the ability to protect quarterback Chad Chalich. That worked out well last Saturday when the line only conceded two sacks, allowing Chalich to go off for 424 total yards and lead Idaho to its second-highest point total of the season in a 26-24 win over Temple.
“They’re a good defense, they have a really good scheme, they got some good players as well. We just got to match it,” center Mike Marboe said. “We have to come out and play our game, play the way we know we can play, more like the way we played on Saturday. And we have to get better all week at doing things and just play a great game.”
The offensive line had conceded 26 sacks in the four games prior to the win over Temple, perhaps showing that it’s starting to come together. The offensive line is also benefitting from competition – true freshman Steven Matlock and junior Spencer Beale started at the guard spots last week. Guard Nick Van Rotz slid out to right tackle, while guard Dallas Sandberg and tackle Jesse Davis sat out with injuries.
Whether or not the two starters get their spots back will depend on what happens during practice.
“There’s always competition, so it’ll be by who practices the best. So that will depend on who comes out there and who has the best days of practice,” Petrino said.
Chalich seemed like he had his best week of practice since being at Idaho last week prior to taking on Temple, and it showed on the football field with a 310 passing-yard performance to go with his 114 rushing yards.
Those are just the types of numbers the Bulldogs defense has relinquished in their first four games – 332.5 passing yards and 155.2 rushing yards per game.
Chalich, coming off a career game, said he’s focused on improving the little things he can do better.
“There’s always areas where our team does really good and I just went up (Monday) night and learned what I can improve on,” Chalich said. “That’s what I’m going to do is keep improving and keep getting better because I have a long way to be a great quarterback here.”
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