Derek Carr's record-setting night helps Fresno State beat Nevada

Bulldogs QB breaks Kevin Sweeney's career passing record

The Fresno BeeNovember 2, 2013 

Fresno State unveiled an all-new look Saturday night -- and a new career passing leader.

Derek Carr passed for 487 yards and three touchdowns while breaking Kevin Sweeney's 27-year-old record at Fresno State before a Blackout sell-out crowd of 41,031 at Bulldog Stadium.

The Bulldogs looked different in all-black uniforms, and the crowd sounded different, too -- loud throughout the 41-23 victory over Nevada.

But No. 16 Fresno State's path to its eighth straight victory remained dangerous. Good enough to build big leads, but always needing some key plays in the fourth quarter to close things out.

The Bulldogs jumped to a 17-point halftime lead, only for the Wolf Pack to close within eight twice in the second half. A late field goal and a late touchdown helped keep the Wolf Pack at bay.

"Honestly, I felt like we were moving the ball great but we stopped ourselves," Carr said. "When we turn the film on, we're going to be sick because we left so many points out there. It drives me nuts."

Fresno State (8-0, 5-0 Mountain West) is one of seven undefeated teams in the nation. It's the first 8-0 start since 1989 and the fifth in school history.

Still, Northern Illinois (9-0) -- a big winner Saturday over UMass -- remains on Fresno State's tail to finish as the top team from a non-automatic qualifying conference in the race to lock up an automatic bid to a BCS bowl.

Like its flashy uniforms, the Fresno State offense came out in style. After Nevada jumped to a 7-0 lead on a touchdown run by former Clovis West High star Kendall Brock, the Bulldogs answered.

On its first offensive play, Fresno State gained 57 yards with Carr connecting with Josh Harper off a triple pass. Carr slung a long lateral pass to slot receiver Isaiah Burse, who throw a long lateral back to back to Carr.

Then Carr rifled the ball to a wide-open Harper, who slowed to catch the slightly underthrown ball. Harper might have scored had he not tripped up on his own at the Nevada 18. The big gain set up Carr's first touchdown, 5 yards to Davante Adams.

It was the start of a big night for Carr -- 39 of 55, the last a 27-yarder to Harper that set up the final Bulldogs touchdown and gave Carr 10,821 career yards to break Kevin Sweeney's record.

"I'm really happy for him," Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. "DC will tell you that the No. 1 thing we worry about is winning. I do think it's nice he was able to break the record at home, on Blackout, before a sell-out crowd. That played nicely."

Harper emerged with a career night: 17 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bulldogs needed it to combat Nevada's tenacity.

The Wolf Pack got within eight points with 55 seconds left in the third quarter on Brandon Wimberly's 13-yard touchdown catch from Cody Fajardo, and again at 31-23 with 8:48 left on a 32-yard touchdown pass to Hasaan Henderson from Fajardo.

Each time, Fresno State responded.

After Wimberly's touchdown, Carr found Harper streaking down the Nevada sideline for a 32-yard touchdown that gave Fresno State a 31-16 lead with 13:09 remaining. The drive was aided by running back Josh Quezada's 24-yard scramble on a shovel pass.

After Henderson's touchdown, Fresno State marched to the Nevada 23 before settling for a field goal.

Playing without top cornerback L.J. Jones (knee) and with safety Derron Smith nursing an ankle injury, Fresno State's secondary seemed in line for a long night.

But Nevada didn't go to the air much in the first half, as Fajardo was just 3 of 7 for 23 yards and an interception. He finished 14 of 24 for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

Fresno State moved ahead 24-7 at the half despite allowing an opponent to score first for the first in a game all year.

The Bulldogs offense, though, stalled early in the second half, which allowed Nevada back in the game.

That is, until Fresno State put on the finishing touch with Colin McGuire's field goal and Marteze Waller's 3-yard touchdown run with 1:29 left.

"It was nice to get a somewhat easier win," Smith said, "instead of a nail-biting, heart-pumping defensive stop (at the end)."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6362, bjanteola@fresnobee.com, @Banteola_TheBee on Twitter.

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