Fresno State has not left a lot of margin for error on the Bulldogs' run to the best start at the school in more than two decades.
No. 16 Fresno State (7-0, 4-0 Mountain West) has gone down to the wire in four of its seven wins this season, providing plenty of excitement for fans but also some anguish for coaches.
''We're cutting it very, very tight,'' coach Tim DeRuyter said. ''Our guys' resolve and confidence in each other and what we do is huge. To have four games go down to the last play speaks highly of this group. Those kinds of wins can galvanize a team. It speaks well to our players to do whatever it takes.''
The Bulldogs hope to have it a little easier on Saturday night when they host Nevada (3-5, 2-3) in front of a rare sellout crowd at Bulldog Stadium.
It would be hard to have a game that provided more nail-biting moments than last week's 35-28 overtime win at San Diego State. Fresno State's high-powered offense was held to seven points until late in the third quarter and the Bulldogs blew a 28-14 lead. The game only got to overtime because Marcel Jensen blocked Seamus McMorrow's 37-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
That follows a pair of one-point wins over Rutgers and Boise State that needed a stopped 2-point conversion in overtime against the Scarlet Knights and a fourth-down stop in the closing seconds of regulation against the Broncos. The Bulldogs also needed a late interception to beat Hawaii 42-37 after nearly blowing a 39-point lead.
''We could easily right now be 3-4, but we have a lot of competitors in our locker room and we love to compete,'' Jensen said.
Here are five things to watch when the Bulldogs host the Wolf Pack:
DRIVING THE CARR: Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr struggled early against the Aztecs before recovering to throw two second-half touchdown passes and leading the game-winning TD drive in overtime. Carr was held under 300 yards for just the second time this season but extended his streak to 128 consecutive passes without an interception. Carr needs 475 yards passing to break Kevin Sweeney's career record at the school of 10,808. ''You're not going to play perfect every game,'' DeRuyter said. ''You have to find a way to win and that's what DC did. When we had to go down in overtime and in the second half and score touchdowns, he made the throws.''
ACCURATE CODY: Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo has played extremely well since returning from a sprained knee even if the team has lost three of four games with him back as starter. Fajardo is completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 336.8 yards per game, seven TDs and one INT the past four weeks. He has also rushed for 171 yards and two scores in that span.
DOWN AT CORNER: The Bulldogs lost their top cover cornerback L.J. Jones to a knee injury against San Diego State. With Jones expected to be sidelined this week, redshirt freshman Jamal Ellis is being counted on to fill that void. Ellis played sparingly before Jones went down against the Aztecs and will have a tough task against Nevada receiver Brandon Wimberly, who is second in the Mountain West with 61 catches.
BIG LEGS: Punter Chase Tenpenny was one of the bright spots for Nevada last week, averaging 54.8 yards on his six punts, including a 68-yarder. Tenpenny's day was the second best by a punter this season, trailing only the 57.6-yard average Trevor Pardula had for Kansas against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 21. Freshman kicker Brent Zuzo is also having a big year for the Wolf Pack, going 10 for 10 on field goals to tie Florida State's Roberto Aguayo for the most makes without a miss this season.
DAZZLING DAVONTE: While much of the attention on Fresno State's offense goes to Carr, his top receiver is having a remarkable year as well. Davonte Adams set the school record for career touchdown catches last week and now has 27 in 20 career games. He has been at his best of late with 36 catches for 493 yards and nine TDs in the past three games. The last player with nine TD catches in three games was West Virginia's Stedman Bailey, who did it last year.
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