From his quick release to his knowledge of Fresno State's playbook, Derek Carr is ready to take the reins as the Bulldogs' starting quarterback.
But as past Fresno State quarterbacks can attest, some things can only be learned through game experience.
"What I think a lot of people need to understand is that No. 1: Practicing how you want to play in games is great, but some things just have to be learned from playing in games," said Ryan Colburn, the Bulldogs starting quarterback the past two seasons.
"And No. 2: A quarterback can only do so much. He can't do it all by himself."
Fresno State's primary starting quarterbacks since 2002 each won their debuts, most recently Colburn during Fresno State's 51-0 victory against UC Davis in 2009.
Tommy Brandstater led Fresno State to a 28-19 victory against Nevada in 2006. And Paul Pinegar guided the Bulldogs to a 16-14 win over San Diego State in 2002.
None, however, passed for more than 200 yards or threw for more than one touchdown.
And not all starting debuts have been successful either. David Carr threw four interceptions in a 43-10 loss at Ohio State in 2000.
"I can't say I'm Peyton Manning and I'm ready to go, because I'm not," said Derek Carr, a sophomore whose only game experience came in 2009 during mop-up duties in four games. "I'm ready to play. I'm prepared. But there are always things you learn only through games.
"There's going to be growing pains. But I'm going to fight things out."
Pinegar, who directed Fresno State to four straight bowl games from 2002-05, predicts Carr will have to learn a lot on the fly. But Pinegar added that the young quarterback can ease his transition through thorough preparation.
"A lot of thoughts are going through your mind that first time out," Pinegar said. "You have to make about 70 decisions by the end of the night.
"The trick is to tie what you want to do and what the defense wants to do, and understand why you're running that play. My biggest piece of advice is when mistakes happen, 'cause they do happen, it's a matter of how you come back on the next play. You can't get down on yourself."
As if Carr wasn't focused enough about performing well in his starting debut, he has extra incentive to beat Cal.
Before committing to Fresno State in the summer of 2008, Carr said he reached out to Cal coach Jeff Tedford, the ex-Bulldogs assistant who was David Carr's first offensive coordinator at Fresno State.
But Tedford had already signed ex-Clovis West High quarterback Beau Sweeney (who transferred to Cornell this offseason) in February 2008 and had received an early commitment from four-star recruit Allan Bridgford (who has yet to play for Cal), so he passed on Carr.
Carr's next call went to Hill.
"I wanted to play for Tedford because he was good to my brother, and anybody good to my family is good to me," Carr said. "They decided to go a different route, which I couldn't understand. There were a lot of teams that wanted me, but they didn't for some reason.
"Luckily, Coach Hill wanted me. I probably would have went there, but I'm happy to be a Bulldog. This is where my heart is."
Carr said he still feels close to Tedford and when the two met to promote Saturday's opener earlier this summer, they hugged and wished each other good luck on the upcoming season.
Tedford, who has a reputation of developing good quarterbacks, including David Carr and Aaron Rodgers, said he believes Derek Carr has a bright future.
"Everything I've seen and read or heard about him is what a great leader he is, a very good player," Tedford said. "Now he gets a chance to get his career started there. And we hope to make it a little difficult on him.
"I like him and his family. I just hope he doesn't start off successful."
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates agreed to a friendly wager on the Fresno State-Cal game, with the losing team's mayor forced to wear the opponent's jersey for a day.
"The citizens of Berkeley can expect to be seeing red at City Hall – at least for a day – after Fresno State defeats Cal on Saturday," Swearengin said in a news release. "I'm sure Mayor Bates will look great in Bulldog red and white."
In addition, Swearengin made a bet with San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, with the winning team's mayor receiving a package of the losing city's best treats and drinks.
If Fresno State wins, Swearengin gets Dungeness crab from Fisherman's Wharf, Anchor Steam beer, Ghirardelli chocolates and Philz coffee.
The mayors are expected to attend Saturday's game.
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