Sophomore quarterback Derek Carr has started off the season fast,
completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,010 yards and nine
touchdowns. Carr recorded career-best numbers last week.
Dalton Runberg / The Collegian
Carr will be faced with another big challenge in his second home game of the season against Mississippi
During last Saturday’s game against Idaho, sophomore starting quarterback Derek Carr picked apart the Idaho secondary in a breakout performance after he completed 24 of 37 passes for a total of 371 yards for five touchdowns and two interceptions in the Bulldogs’ 48-24 conference win.
The Bulldogs will try to extend their winning streak to three games and have above a .500 record for the first time this season. Fresno State’s opportunity will be this weekend against Mississippi who will be the first Southeastern Conference member ever to play at Bulldog Stadium. The game will be the first of a three-game home stand for the ‘Dogs.
The Rebels have started off the season 1-3 and are thirsty for a win after coming off back-to-back losses against Vanderbilt and last week’s defeat at Georgia, 27-13.
But the Bulldogs’ offense is putting up numbers that should make it difficult for Ole Miss to quench its thirst.
Carr is coming off his best performance of the season last week and has passed for 1,010 yards on 76 completions in 128 attempts thus far this season.
Former Bulldog quarterback and now passing game coordinator Jeff Grady agreed that Carr has improved over the past four weeks of the season since his sophomore has already surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.
At this time last season, then-starting quarterback Ryan Colburn had only thrown for 992 yards in 106 attempts. It may not seem like much of a difference, but the passing game has met and surpassed expectations with Carr under center. With the Bakersfield Christian High School graduate in charge of the offense, the ‘Dogs have spread the ball around and have found ways to get multiple receivers involved.
In four games, Carr has already passed to five different receivers at least 10 times each. Sophomore Jalen Saunders leads the receivers with 12 catches for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Junior Rashad Evans has also provided Carr with another reliable receiver with his 21 catches for 184 yards and one touchdown.
Carr and Saunders have formed a dynamic duo in the past two games. Saunders led the ‘Dogs in receiving with 3 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns against North Dakota and five catches for 142 yards and another pair of touchdowns at Idaho.
“Hopefully we can use it all season and be as balanced as possible,” Grady said of the well-rounded passing attack. “We have a lot of guys that are good with the ball in their hands and we just have to get it to them.”
Carr’s relationship with his receiving corps has strengthened as well with so many receivers given opportunities to make plays in Fresno State’s offense.
“We’re all on the same page right now, I trust where they’re going to be,” Carr said. “Especially with Jalen [Saunders] on the deep routes, he’s doing a great job.”
Saunders has emerged as a deep threat and is becoming one of Carr’s favorite targets, averaging 30.45 yards per catch on the season. He is second in the country in yards per catch behind only Georgia Tech’s Stephan Hill,/ who leads the nation with an average of 33.0 yards per catch.
But Mississippi’s tough SEC defense will test the Bulldog offense.
“They’re a good defense,” said Carr. “They like to run around and remind me a lot of Nebraska. Hopefully we find some things we can do against them.”
Carr could be getting some help in the protection department with junior center Richard Helepiko possibly returning to the lineup for this Saturday’s game, which would move senior Leslie Cooper back to the left guard position. With Helepiko possibly returning, Carr acknowledges how the changes to the offensive line could benefit him.
“[Cooper] feels comfortable at guard and I feel real comfortable with [Helepiko],” Carr said. “It should be some good changes. We’re ready to go and ready to play but we have to have a good week at practice.”