By Chadd Cripe
© 2012 Idaho Statesman
No Fresno State Bulldog has more motivation to beat the Broncos, or is more important to the effort, than junior quarterback Derek Carr.
The younger brother of former Fresno State star David Carr lives with a Boise State flag on his wall — a message from his older brother. He can’t take down the flag unless he beats the Broncos, who spoiled David’s senior season with an upset in Fresno.
“My wife is begging me to take it down,” Derek Carr said. “I’m going to do my best.”
Carr is the triggerman for the Bulldogs’ spread attack — and it has been a perfect fit. He has thrown 18 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. His quick release, accuracy and decision-making allow him to get the ball to the Bulldogs’ stable of speedy playmakers in open space.
He also can run enough to avoid rushers and move the chains.
“He gets in and out of his reads very quickly, the ball is out of his hands,” Boise State defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said. “That goes to coaching, and also you can tell he’s a very smart man, because he knows when he needs to get the ball out.”
Carr, the Mountain West preseason offensive player of the year, has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 302.7 yards per game. His efficiency rating of 157.30 ranks 19th in the nation.
Last year, he completed 62.6 percent with 272.6 yards per game and a 144.5 efficiency rating.
“He’s a great quarterback and he really manages the offense well,” Fresno State tailback Robbie Rouse said. “You’d think he’s been running this offense the past few years and not just since spring.”
Boise State recruited Carr — he was in the same class as Broncos starter Joe Southwick — and Carr maintains a friendly relationship with Boise State coach Chris Petersen.
They chatted at Mountain West media days in Las Vegas this summer.
“I’m a big believer in what coach Petersen does,” Carr said. “I think the world of him, not only as a coach but as a person. … Every year that we’ve played him, he’s come up to me after the game and asked how I’m doing, how life’s going. He doesn’t have to do that — that means a lot. Even when I wasn’t playing, he’d taken the time to ask me. It’s like seeing an old friend.”
Boise State has used the swinging-gate PAT play more this year. It’s been in the arsenal for several years but mostly disappeared last year.
“We just want to be unpredictable with it,” Petersen said. “Some games, we won’t do it at all.”
Sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller runs the play. He tossed a two-point pass at New Mexico.
“It’s not as easy as you think,” Petersen said. “It’s difficult because we’re changing it all the time.”
Turnovers will be a big part of the story line Saturday. Fresno State has forced a national-best 18 and is plus-10 in turnover margin. Boise State has forced 17, the best per-game average in the nation, and also is plus-10.
“It can change a game so much,” Boise State senior defensive tackle Darren Koontz said. “It can change the energy of a game. It puts it on us to know we need to get those takeaways, too.”
Carr on the Fresno State defense:
“Our defense, it’s just been a joy to watch them. I think we had, what, (five) interceptions last year? Phillip (Thomas) has six himself. … My defense and my run game and my offensive line are my best friends. They make me look better than I am.”
Boise State’s linebackers have had a bad case of the drops this season. True freshman Tyler Gray is the only linebacker with an interception.
“We’ve done great as a group. We just need to learn how to catch balls,” senior J.C. Percy said. “We should be leading the (defense) in turnovers. I could have scored. Tommy (Smith), against New Mexico, could have scored.”
Random facts: Boise State coach Chris Petersen is 77-7 in his 7th year ... and Saturday is his birthday (he'll be 48).