Players of the game
Josh Harper: Bulldogs junior wide receiver broke out with a career night — 17 receptions for 253 yards and two TDs.
Derek Carr: Hit on 39 of 55 attempts for 487 yards and three TDs as senior quarterback set the Fresno State career passing record.
Derron Smith: Playing through an ankle injury from last week, junior safety still came up with a big interception — and 47-yard run back.
Play of the game
Fourth quarter, 13:09 remaining, second-and-6 from the Nevada 32: With Fresno State clinging to an eight-point lead, receiver Josh Harper darts down the right sideline and gets behind the defender. Quarterback Derek Carr unleashes a perfect spiral that hits Harper in perfect stride for a 32-yard touchdown. Carr's third TD pass of the night gives the Bulldogs a 31-16 lead and helps keep the Wolf Pack at bay after they blanked Fresno State in the third quarter to pull within one score.
7:15 p.m. Saturday at Wyoming: While the Cowboys (4-4, 2-2) go through a defensive overhaul — on Tuesday they fired coordinator Chris Tormey and this week will add 37-year veteran defensive coach Bill Young to the staff — another concern may be the weather. The forecast calls for up to 6 inches of snow midweek with the game-time temperature in the 30s along with a 20% chance of precipitation.
By the numbers
293: Passing yards in the first half for Derek Carr, more than six Mountain West teams had in full games Saturday.
10,821: Career passing yards for Carr after he finished with 487 against Nevada to break Kevin Sweeney's 27-year-old Fresno State record of 10,802 yards.
15.3: Average on three kickoff returns for Nevada in the first half — the Bulldogs came in allowing 26.3 yards per return and were ranked 117th in the nation.
7: Attempted passes in the first half for the Wolf Pack, who came in averaging 44 passes over their past four games.
1: Touchdowns allowed by the Bulldogs on game-opening drives this season, after the Wolf Pack went 81 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 43-yard run by former Clovis West High star Kendall Brock.
139: Receiving yards in the first half for Josh Harper, eclipsing his single-game career high. It is his fourth career game with 100 or more receiving yards.
-- Fresno State surely held its breath early after referees stopped the game less than three minutes in to determine whether Bulldogs safety Charles Washington should've been ejected for targeting.
Washington violently collided with Nevada receiver Richie Turner, breaking up a pass. Turner lost the ball, but referees flagged Washington for unsportsmanlike conduct.
After reviewing the play, the 15-yard penalty was upheld but Washington was allowed to stay in the game because the hit was shoulder-to-shoulder.
Fresno State's secondary started the game with cornerback L.J. Jones out with a sprained knee and safety Derron Smith hobbled during practice. (Smith, however, shrugged off his injury and grabbed an interception and returned it 47 yards in the second quarter.)
Earlier this season, Fresno State slot receiver Isaiah Burse was ejected in the first quarter against Hawaii for targeting. A day later, the Mountain West coordinator of officials said Burse should not have been ejected and the wrong call was made.
-- Former Fresno State All-American Phillip Thomas returned to Bulldog Stadium for the first time since he was drafted by the Washington Redskins (video at fresnobee.com). Thomas, who has been on the injured reserve list and is out for the season after a Lisfranc tear in his left foot during the preseason, said he's watched all of Fresno State's games this season, even with some ending around 3 a.m. when he is tuning in from Washington, D.C.
"I'm excited to be back," Thomas said. "I see the team is doing really well, ranked No. 16 in the country. It gives me a lot of stuff to brag about in my locker room with the Redskins.
"I want to be back at every game," Thomas added. "I'm so connected with Fresno State. The opportunity to come to this game, it's a big game, the Blackout game. I just wanted to be in this atmosphere again because I miss it so much."
Thomas said he is about halfway through the recovery from his foot injury and two or three months out from returning to football activities. During his time at Fresno State, Thomas broke his fibula in his left leg and dislocated his left ankle before the 2011 season and missed a year. But he came back in 2012 to lead the nation in interceptions and was a Jim Thorpe Award finalist.
"I've been through this before," Thomas said. "Now that I've been through this process, I know what it takes to get back out there."
--Fiesta Bowl Board member Patrick Barkley was a conspicuous visitor in the Bulldog Stadium press box. Must be the pale yellow blazer.
Barkley said he roamed the tailgate areas before the game and was impressed by Fresno State's fan support: "I've had more people take pictures of me than ever before."
-- Fresno State sophomore Bo Bonnheim started at left guard for the second straight week ahead of sophomore Alex Fifita.
-- Boxer Jose Ramirez, the former Olympian from Avenal who attended Fresno State, was honored on the field after the first quarter. The undefeated Ramirez will fight as a pro for the first time in the Valley next Saturday at West Hills College Lemoore.
-- World War II veterans who participated in last week's Central Valley Honor Flight were recognized in a halftime ceremony on the field.