FRESNO, Calif. – The game couldn't have gotten off to a much better start for Nevada when Kendall Brock ran for an opening drive touchdown in his first collegiate game in his hometown.
Then the Wolf Pack had to deal with Derek Carr and the Fresno State offense and things quickly went downhill.
Carr threw for 487 yards to break the Fresno State career passing record and lead the 16th-ranked Bulldogs to eight straight wins to open the season for the first time since 1989 with a 41-23 victory over Nevada on Saturday night.
"We have to be realistic and know that we didn't execute well enough on both sides of the ball to beat a top-16 opponent," coach Brian Polian said. "When we have opportunities to make plays on offense and defense, we have to make them in order to beat a top-20 team. There is a small margin to beat a team like this."
Carr threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to lead the way for the Bulldogs (8-0, 5-0 Mountain West).
Josh Harper had 17 catches for 253 yards and two touchdowns and Josh Quezada ran for 115 yards to move Fresno State to 8-0 for the fifth time in school history and keep the Bulldogs in the running to make a BCS bowl game for the first time.
Brock, a Fresno native who grew up going to games here, scored on a 43-yard run on the opening possession for the Wolf Pack (3-6, 2-4), who have lost four straight games in a season for the first time since 2001.
"That was great," Brock said. "I wanted that to be my first big run here in Fresno. The fans were heckling us, but that's OK, that's what they do here. I was just glad to get that score."
Cody Fajardo threw for 202 yards and two touchdowns as Nevada made it competitive in the second half before faltering late.
"There are no moral victories but we did fight our tails off in the second half," Polian said. "This is where we are. It doesn't matter how we got here, it only matters that we're here now."
Carr delighted the second straight sellout crowd at Bulldog Stadium with his 12th career 400-yard passing game but Fresno State had to sweat out another tight game in the fourth quarter. The lead wasn't safe until Colin McGuire kicked his second field goal of the game with 5:32 left to make it 34-23.
Carr then broke Kevin Sweeney's career record with a 27-yard pass to Harper in the closing minutes, giving him 10,821 yards passing in his career.
"He means a lot to me," Carr said. "He was one of the best quarterbacks to play here. That record has been here forever. As a Bulldog fan I kind of feel bad but at the same time it feels good. I don't think he would mind anyway."
Marteze Walker ran it in from 3 yards out on the next play for the exclamation point on the victory with 1:29 to play.
"We're just trying to score every time we get the ball," coach Tim DeRuyter said. "We don't worry about style points."
The Bulldogs are ranked 16th in the BCS standings. To automatically qualify for a BCS bowl, they need to be the highest-ranked team from a non-automatic qualifying conference and finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings. They also can qualify if they are in the top 16 and finish ahead of a champion from an automatic-qualifying conference.
The Wolf Pack fought back from a 24-7 halftime deficit with two scores in the third quarter, getting a field goal from Brent Zuzo and then a touchdown after going 60 yards in two plays following a fourth-down stop. Fajardo ran 47 yards on the first play and then threw a 13-yard TD pass to Brandon Wimberly. The extra point was blocked by Nikko Motta, keeping the score 24-16 heading into the fourth.
The teams traded touchdown passes early in the fourth quarter with Carr and Harper connecting on a 32-yarder for the Bulldogs. The Wolf Pack answered with a 32-yarder from Fajardo to Hassan Henderson that made it 31-23 after Charles Garrett ripped the ball out of Davante Adams' hands for a fumble.
Nevada won the coin toss and opted to take the ball to start the game and it paid off when Brock capped the opening drive with a burst up the middle that made it 7-0.
The Wolf Pack managed just 68 yards and two first downs the rest of the first half and trailed 24-7.
Fresno State responded to the opening score quickly. Carr completed a 57-yard pass to Harper on the first play from scrimmage after throwing a lateral to Isaiah Burse and then getting it back on a second lateral. That set up a 5-yard TD pass to Adams.
Harper added a 17-yard score in the closing minute of the half as he capitalized on Nevada's focus on Adams, who had nine TD catches the past three games.