Preseason hype seldom is matched when real live action is played on the gridiron. However, the hype surrounding Fresno State Bulldog quarterback Derek Carr appears real after his team won a shootout in the San Joaquin Valley with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers Thursday night – and into Friday morning – 52-51 (source: Fresno Bee). Carr tore the Mountain West Conference record book up with a mind-boggling 53 completions out of 74 pass attempts, totaling 470 yards and five touchdowns. Whoever the other Heisman Trophy hopefuls are, at least for one week, Carr must be leading the pack.
In a game that started off with a white-out – usually Fresno State is in all red as are the fans – the game was a slugfest with each team exchanging the lead for a total of 10 times. An example of how the game turned tides back and forth, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter but less than halfway through the second quarter, Rutgers roared back and had what seemed to be commanding 20-7 lead. Yet, by halftime, Fresno State led 21-20. Neither side led by more than a touchdown the rest of the way.
As far as Carr is concerned, he isn’t a new name on the national scene as he helped the Bulldogs to nine wins last season while tying for the conference title. Nationally, Carr ranked fourth in touchdowns, sixth in completions, eighth in total yards passing and yards per game. Still, he had a solid running game to back him up last year. However, as it stands right now, Fresno State doesn’t appear to need a running game – at least not against Rutgers.
All of this from a quarterback who has had an incredibly trying and poignant month dealing with his infant son in intensive care for three weeks. At game’s end, Carr was found on the ground sobbing after the emotionally draining gridiron battle. Those emotions might become powerful once again if Carr should get a trip at season's end to New York City at the Heisman front row.
Defense - what defense?
Fresno State is favored to win the West Division of the Mountain West and in some circles is considered a potential BCS buster, as are several teams in the Mountain West. This game figured to be a tone-setter and insofar as Carr is concerned, that tone has been set big-time. Sure, Rutgers came into the game with holes in the defense, especially in the secondary but Carr made them look like Swiss cheese.
Not that the Bulldogs defense was any better allowing many big plays throughout the game and in fact, Fresno State technically gave up more total yards (543), than they earned (537). Carr’s opposite was Scarlet Knights quarterback Gary Nova who also threw for five touchdowns in the game. No, defense wasn’t visible Thursday night.
Derek Carr had a mammoth game that should vault him into Heisman Trophy contention. Whether every game will see 50 plus completions is obviously dubious, but the Bulldogs and Carr will be hard to stop on offense no matter who they compete against. Of the tougher games left on the schedule, they play at Colorado in a couple weeks and follow that up with a Friday night affair at home versus the league favorite Boise State. A rivalry game at Hawaii is next after that and then in late October, they play at their toughest competition in the West Division, San Diego State. Another tough divisional game sees them at season’s end at San Jose State who won’t be a pushover.
However, with a Heisman hopeful slinging the ball all over the field, the Fresno State Bulldogs appear to be as good if not better than anyone on their schedule. This could be a special year in Fresno, especially for a senior quarterback named Derek Carr. New York, here he comes?
Additional source: Fresno State University