It was Derek Carr’s senior season at Fresno State. His final shot to go out on top. The undefeated (10-0) Bulldogs were the 16th ranked team in the nation. All they needed for a surefire BCS Bowl berth do was win their final two games of the season, starting with a 5-6 San Jose State team that was just hoping to be eligible for a bowl of any kind.
Most of the game was a shootout between Carr and SJSU Spartans’ QB David Fales. Carr threw for 519 yards and 6 touchdowns and Fales put up a school record 547 yards and 6 touchdowns.
After the back and forth affair found the Spartans with a two-score lead 59-44 late, it was up to Carr to try and lead the Bulldogs back. It ended when Spartans linebacker Keith Smith made a leaping interception that set up the dagger field goal to put the game out of reach.
The interception by Smith ended a streak of 305 straight passes by Carr without an interception. And thus they fell to 10-1, ending their hopes of a BCS bowl bid.
“It’s hard,” Carr said after the game. “Guys are torn up as well they should be. If you like losing there’s something wrong with you.”
The Bulldogs would beat Utah State the following week and eventually go on to lose to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl; a heartbreaking way for Derek Carr’s college career to come to a close.
Why am I telling this story? Because that linebacker, Keith Smith, who made that game sealing interception is now an NFL fullback. And he just signed a 2-year deal with the Raiders. He remembers this game well.
“I picked him off my senior year when we played Fresno State,” Smith said Thursday, shortly after being announced as a Raiders free agent addition. “They were ranked. We kind of shattered their dreams to say the least.”
In case you were wondering, the Spartans would not get that bowl game. So, Smith’s final college game, and final moment, was intercepting that pass from Carr. A very different feeling to end his college career.
With some people, there may be cause for some concern with friction, even four years later. But Smith insists there is no bad blood or hard feelings from that game.
“I’ve always been cool with Derek,” Smith continued. “We actually met at media day at the Mountain West. I kind of knew him ever since then and nothing but love and respect for that guy.”
Smith switched positions two years ago during his time in Dallas. A position switch that Smith says makes him “a fullback with a linebacker mentality.”
So, now Derek Carr will be looking to give Smith the ball at times as well as throwing it to him. Only this time, it will be on purpose.