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By AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian
BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer email@example.com
FRESNO -- How will Derek Carr be remembered at Fresno State? Ask anybody in Fresno. Except Derek Carr.
"That's not for me to talk about," the Bakersfield Christian graduate said after he wrote the penultimate chapter of that legacy Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium, throwing for 404 yards and three touchdowns to help Fresno State to a 24-17 victory over Utah State in the Mountain West Conference Championship. "You guys know I'm not going to self-praise myself. Other people can talk about legacies and stuff like that."
Moments later, Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter, sitting next to Carr, couldn't stand it any longer.
"I'll speak for him," said DeRuyter, still pulling confetti out of his hair. "He's the greatest quarterback in Fresno State history, and he led us to two straight conference championships. You can put that for his legacy."
That's not just blustery coach-speak after a big win. It's easy to make the case, statistically, that Carr is the best quarterback the Bulldogs have ever had. Carr owns nearly every school passing record ; the biggies are career passing yards (12,626 yards), career passing touchdowns (111) and two he added Saturday, single-season passing yards (4,866) and single-season touchdowns (48, passing his brother, David, a Stockdale graduate who threw for 46 touchdowns in 2001).
He flashed all of his skills against Utah State, completing 36 of 53 passes, many of them seemingly laser-guided. The Minnesota Vikings, who figure to pick in the top 10 of next spring's NFL Draft, had a scout on hand (in fact, Fox Sports' latest mock draft has Carr going to the Vikings at No. 6 overall).
"He can really stretch the field with his arm, but people don't give him enough credit, because he's really athletic, too," said Utah State linebacker Brian Suite. "But his best weapon is his head. He's checking plays at the line of scrimmage, changing calls. He provided a great challenge ... and give him credit, because they came out on top."
Carr has one game to add to his gaudy totals, and it will have a Bakersfield twist. Fresno State has accepted a bid to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 21 -- and the Bulldogs' opponent will be USC and another local quarterback, Centennial product Cody Kessler.
"Me and Cody are good friends," Carr said. "He was already talking to my dad at the Bakersfield High Valley championship (Friday), saying we might get to play Fresno State and how we'd play each other. ... Now I'll be trash-talking him, telling him to get his defense to lighten up.
"Playing against Cody, that would be special for me."
It also will cap a special senior season. Carr's yardage and touchdown totals from this season are easily tops in the nation.
"I don't see why he shouldn't be in the Heisman discussion," DeRuyter said. "Look at his numbers, he's up there with anybody. And the person he is, he's exactly what that trophy represents."
Perhaps the only thing that could keep Carr from New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation next Saturday is the fact that he plays for Fresno State instead of a traditional college football powerhouse in a major conference.
That belies the fact that Carr was a highly touted high school quarterback (he played three years at Clements High School outside of Houston before coming to Bakersfield Christian as a senior), talented enough to earn offers from many big-time schools.
Yet, to the surprise of no one, he chose Fresno State, where his brother had played and where he had cut his football teeth a decade ago.
"The community has been so great to me and my family," Carr said. "That's why I love winning. It's not to get my name out there or anything like that. I love to see my teammates' and my coaches' faces. I love to see the joy on the city's face. That's what makes my heart joyful. Not selfish ambitions, but to see that city fired up that we won a championship for them."
In Carr's first year as a starter, in 2011, the Bulldogs struggled to a 4-9 record. But things turned around quickly when DeRuyter came to Fresno last season. Fresno State went 9-4 and shared a Mountain West title with Boise State and San Diego State.
Now the Bulldogs -- and their iconic leader -- have an MWC title all to themselves.
"That's a big reason why I came back," Carr said. "I wanted to win an outright championship. Sharing a title was great, that was cool to share with Boise and San Diego State, but as a competitor, that wasn't enough. I wanted to come back and finish this thing right."