From a pregame ceremony honoring Derek Carr and the rest of the senior class to a record-setting offensive performance that led to a division championship, it was a celebratory day for No. 15 Fresno State.
Carr threw for 527 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in his final regular-season home game to help the Bulldogs clinch a spot in the Mountain West title game with a 69-28 victory over New Mexico on Saturday.
”I couldn’t have scripted it better,” Carr said. ”It was fun.”
Davante Adams had nine catches for 246 yards and four scores and Josh Harper added 10 for 161 and three TDs as the Bulldogs (10-0, 7-0) gained a school-record 820 yards and clinched first place in the West Division. They will likely host the conference championship game on Dec. 7 as long as they remain ahead of the Mountain Division winner in the BCS standings.
The Lobos (3-8, 1-6) lost their 15th straight game against a ranked opponent as they struggled on offense without injured quarterback Cole Gautsche and running back Kasey Carrier and had no defensive answer to stop Carr and the Bulldogs’ bevy of playmakers.
”It was just the perfect storm of our offense really could not control the clock,” coach Bob Davie said. ”You keep putting anybody out there against that quarterback and those receivers, it’s just a matter of time. Whoever Fresno plays, if the other team can’t control the ball, they’re going to have a hard time matching up.”
Fresno State scored touchdowns on five of its first six possessions to turn senior day into a daylong celebration that started with a ceremony for the departing players and ended with a division championship as the Bulldogs opened 10-0 for the first time since 1989.
Carr then threw a pair of 59-yard scores in the third quarter to give him 100 career TD passes. The first came on a deep strike to Adams that traveled about 60 yards in the air, while the second was a shorter pass that Josh Harper ran in for a score. That made Carr the 18th player in FBS history with at least 100 career touchdown passes and 10,000 yards passing.
”He’s as good as there is in the country,” coach Tim DeRuyter said. ”That’s why I think it’s very well-deserved that he should be in the Heisman discussion. He’s led us to a 10-0 record which is the most important thing for a quarterback. Statistically he’s got to be up there with anybody in the country.”
Carr didn’t stop there, connecting once more with each Adams and Harper in the third quarter to break the school single-game mark for TD passes held by his brother, David, and Bill Yancy.
”Nothing really amazes me at this point with him,” Adams said. ”I’m so used to him making crazy plays and having numbers like this in the game. It’s kind of the norm.”
The win kept Fresno State in the running for a possible BCS berth if the Bulldogs can beat San Jose State next week and then win the conference title game. Fresno State is currently 15th in the BCS standings, within one spot of fellow undeafeted team Northern Illinois and three places against AAC leader Central Florida. If the Bulldogs remain in the top 16 and ahead of both of those schools they will play in a BCS game.
The Lobos offered little resistance in that quest. Carr found Adams on a deep pass on the Bulldogs fourth play from scrimmage. Adams beat Jadon Boatright for the ball and spun out of a potential tackle for a 57-yard score.
Carr even excelled on the rare possessions that Fresno State didn’t score. His pooch punt out of the shotgun formation in the first quarter was downed at the 1. That set up Fresno State with a short field on its next possession and Quezada scored on a 33-yard run on the first play.
The Bulldogs capitalized on some trick plays with Isaiah Burse running 26 yards on a ”fumble rooskie” for the fourth touchdown to the delight of the sellout crowd.
The Lobos have struggled all season on defense but were the nation’s No. 2 rushing team and averaged 39 points per game the past three weeks behind a triple-option attack led by Gautshe and Carrier.
The two have combined for 1,899 yards rushing and 17 TDs but are out for the season with concussions. With backup quarterback Clayton Mitchem and tailback Crusoe Gongbay running the offense, the Lobos gained just 42 yards on 30 carries in the first half before finally finding some holes once the game got out of hand.
The Lobos scored four touchdowns in the second half, including Carlos Wiggins’ third kick return for a score this season.
”We’ve just got to stay focused, don’t look at the scoreboard and keep fighting,” Wiggins said.