Or maybe they'd already seen what they needed to see? A week earlier in the much more comfortable surroundings of Bulldog Stadium in Fresno, Carr and his Fresno State teammates lit up the scoreboard and stamped themselves MW title contenders when they outgunned San Diego State 52-40 behind Carr's 536 yards and five touchdown passes. After throwing four more TD passes in a workman-like 28-7 win over Colorado State, Carr now has 18 scoring strikes on the year. Midway through his junior year, the pre-season MW Offensive Player of the Year is walking the walk: He's averaging more than 300 yards passing per game, has completed 68.5% of his throws and has a QB efficiency rating of 157.3.
Is the NFL taking notice? They've seen this before. Derek's older brother David caught their attention back in 2001 when he was the best quarterback in the country. As a senior, David became just the sixth QB in NCAA history to throw for more than 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a single season on his way to winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. That production and immense physical skill helped David become the first pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. Fresno State has retired his jersey.
Tough cleats to fill, to be sure. So far, Derek has looked up to the task. He has impressed his coaches, that's for sure.
"I'm biased," said Fresno State secondary coach Tim McDonald, a former six-time NFL All-Pro safety for the San Francisco 49ers. "But I think Derek is better than David. He's not as big - as thick - but he's got better feet and that's really important in the game now."
Coming out of high school in Bakersfield, Derek was recruited by heavyweights like LSU, Texas Tech, USC, Arizona, Utah, Alabama, Notre Dame and Cal. He chose Fresno State because of his connection with David, whom he lists as his favorite athlete. He's also followed his brother's footsteps and gotten married while still in school - and has continued to produce in the classroom, where he's earned Academic All-Conference honors.
So far, the NFL is apparently lukewarm on Derek. The two brothers are different physically. David was more powerfully built - he excelled in the weight room as well as the field. Derek, generously listed at 6"3" (same height as David) is the more elusive runner (he's 20 pounds or so lighter) who can stand and deliver in the pocket but who will also run the zone-read option on occasion. While David is now serving as Eli Manning's back-up with the New York Giants, Derek is not listed in the top ten of anyone's list of top NFL draft prospects. At this point, it seems like almost everyone is expecting him to return to FSU for his senior season, which should greatly improve his NFL draft stock. (You wonder if Derek has ever had the chance to ask Eli what advice he would give a guy about trying to follow in the footsteps of a famous older brother...?)
There is no question that Derek has an NFL arm. He's got a short, quick, "flick of the wrist" release and the arm strength to throw the long out pattern. He's already mastered the new spread offense brought in by new Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter. If he continues at his current pace - and he and his teammates face perhaps their toughest test of the season when the Bulldogs confront a salty Boise State defense this Saturday - he could approach that hallowed "40 TD/4,000 yards" ground by season's end. Wonder if the NFL will decide to take notice his year, or wait until he is a senior. If they wait, Carr his junior season may just be a warm-up for a Heisman campaign in 2013 that could lead to being a top pick in the 2014 NFL draft.