Fresno State at No. 15 Ohio State
Defensive captain Tim Skipper will lead Fresno State against No. 15 Ohio State in the season opener on Saturday.
Defensive captain Tim Skipper will lead Fresno State against No. 15 Ohio State in the season opener on Saturday.

Aug. 28, 2000

Full version of release in PDF

Fresno State at Ohio State
Date: Saturday, Sept. 2
Time: 9:10 a.m.
Location: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
National TV: ESPN Regional (the game will be a part of ESPN's Gameplan package)
Local TV: KMPH Fox 26
Radio: KMJ (AM 580)
Satellite Coordinates: TBA

This Week
The Bulldogs will open their 79th college football season on Sept. 2 at Ohio Stadium taking on the Ohio State Buckeyes. It marks the second time in the last seven years that the 'Dogs have opened the season against the Buckeyes. Fresno State lost to Ohio State 34-10 in the 1994 Disneyland Pigskin Classic at Anaheim.

Last Year
The Bulldogs are coming off their best season since 1993, going 8-5 overall and 5-2 in the WAC. Fresno State earned a share of the WAC championship last season and played in the EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl, losing to Utah 17-16. The Buckeyes were 6-6 last season, 3-5 in the Big Ten for eighth place.

All-Time vs. Ohio State
This is just the second meeting between the two schools, with the Buckeyes owning a 1-0 lead. Fresno State played Ohio State in the 1994 Disneyland Pigskin Classic, a 34-10 Buckeye victory. The Bulldogs were 5-7-1 overall, 3-4-1 in the WAC that season. The Buckeyes finished 9-4, 6-2 in the Big Ten for second place and lost to No. 6 Alabama 24-17 in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Ohio State finished the season No. 9 in the USA Today/CNN Poll.

All-Time vs. Big Ten
The Bulldogs have played only one other game against a Big Ten team, Ohio State in 1994. The 'Dogs are 0-1 vs. Big Ten opponents.

Season Openers
The Bulldogs are 44-30-4 in season openers and 10-15-1 in season openers on the road. . . Fresno State is 3-3 in its last six season opening road games with two consecutive losses. . .Fresno State's last season opener on the road was Sept. 12, 1998, at Colorado, a 29-21 loss. . .Fresno State is 11-5 in the last 16 season opening games (8-1 at home, 3-3 on the road, 0-1 at neutral sites). . . The Buckeyes have won 17 consecutive season openers at home. . .Fresno State's last two season opening road losses were by a combined 11 points (42-39 at Baylor in 1993, 29-21 at Colorado in 1997). . .Fresno State's last three season opening road wins were by a combined 73 points (27-22 at Arizona in 1984, 68-21 at New Mexico in 1988, 42-21 at Pacific in 1992). . .the Bulldogs are 2-1 in season openers under Pat Hill, 2-0 at home and 0-1 on the road . . .the 'Dogs are opening the season with a non-conference opponent for the 20th consecutive season . . .this will be Fresno State's first-ever season opener in the eastern time zone.

Ranking the Openers
The Bulldogs are opening the season against a nationally ranked team for the second time since 1998. The Buckeyes are rated No. 15 by the AP in the preseason polls. In 1998, Fresno State opened the season at No. 16 Colorado, losing 29-21. Ohio State was ranked No. 20 when the Bulldogs and Buckeyes opened the 1994 season. Fresno State lost to No. 16 UCLA 35-21 last season in its last game vs. a ranked opponent.

Best in the West
Fresno State has been one of hottest teams in the West, having won 12 of its last 18 games. Of the Division I-A schools located in the Mountain, Pacific and Hawaiian time zones, only Utah - based on a 17-16 win over Fresno State in the EA Sports Las Vegas Bowl - has a better record than the Bulldogs during that time.

Best in the West (last 18 games)
1. Utah           13-5
2. Fresno State   12-6
   Air Force      12-6
   Arizona        12-6
   BYU            12-6
6. Colorado       11-7
   Colorado State 11-7
   Oregon         11-7
   Wyoming        11-7
WAC Coaching Leader
Pat Hill is the active WAC coaching leader in winning percentage with a record of 15-8 (.652). Here's how the other WAC coaches with more than one year of experience rank (with years in parentheses).
Coach                      WAC Record  Pct    Overall Record  Pct
Ken Hatfield, Rice         20-11 (4)  .625    32-27 (21)     .542
Dennis Franchione, TCU     9-6 (2)    .600    30-33 (8)      .476
Mike Cavan, SMU            12-10 (3)  .545    12-10 (3)      .545
Dave Baldwin, San Jose St. 8-14 (3)   .364    8-14 (3)       .364
In Case You Missed It
The 'Dogs lost their top two players at weakside defensive ends when senior Justin Johnson, the 1999 FS sack leader, had season-ending shoulder surgery in July and redshirt freshman Brian Morris, Johnson's backup prior to fall camp, suffered a season-ending knee injury during camp. . .the Bulldogs received two votes in the preseason Associated Press college football poll. . .the Bulldogs had some jersey number changes from last season, most notably quarterback David Carr is taking on No. 8. He had worn No. 15 in his first two years, but switched to the new number, which was his high school jersey number. Backup quarterback Jeff Grady is changing from No. 11 to No.15 and sophomore receiver Marque Davis is switching from #8 to No. 11.

'Dogs Picked Second in WAC Preseason Poll
Despite returning the most first-team All-WAC players of any team in the league, Fresno State was the second choice of media members in the 2000 Preseason Poll. The Bulldogs received 178 total points and six first place votes. TCU, 20th in the AP preseason poll, with 16 first place votes, received 206 points, as the predicted league champion.

2000 WAC Football Media Poll (first-place votes in parenthesis)
No Name              Votes
1. TCU (16)            206
2. Fresno State (6)    178
3. Hawai'i (2)         170
4. Rice                114
5. SMU                 108
6. UTEP                 90
7. Nevada               84
8. Tulsa                68
9. San Jose State       62
All-WAC Back
The Bulldogs welcome back four first-team All-WAC players from 1999 and one who was a first-team All-WAC selection in 1998 (Tim Skipper). In addition, the Bulldogs return two second-team All-WAC players and six others who were honorable mention All-WAC in 1999.

1998 First-Team All-WAC: Tim Skipper, Linebacker
1999 First-Team All-WAC: Alan Harper, Defensive Tackle, Orlando Huff, Linebacker, Anthony Limbrick, Safety, Rodney Wright, Receiver
1999 Second-Team All-WAC: Tim Skipper, Linebacker, Charles Smith, Return Specialist
1999 Honorable Mention All-WAC: Nick Burley, Defensive End, Giachino Chiaramonte, Linebacker, Vernon Fox, Safety, Paris Gaines, Running Back, Charles Smith, Wide Receiver, Derrick Ward, Running Back.

Who's Watching
Ohio Stadium's anticipated sellout of over 95,000 will be the largest crowd ever to watch a Fresno State game. Last season, the Bulldogs played in the Rose Bowl, which has a capacity of 94,000, but the attendance was 42,649. The largest crowd ever to watch a Fresno State football game was 79,026 at Auburn on Sept. 7, 1996, a 62-0 Tiger victory. The largest crowd ever to watch a FS victory was 65,816 on Oct. 23, 1993 at BYU, a 48-45 victory.

Traveling for the Opener
Fresno State will voyage 2,460 miles to Columbus, Ohio, to take on Ohio State in the season opener. It marks the longest distance the Bulldogs have ever traveled to play a season opener, the previous high coming in 1978 when FS went 2,018 miles to Lake Charles, La., to battle McNeese State. The OSU trip also marks the farthest Fresno State has traveled in the continental United States for a football game since playing Auburn (2,551 miles) on Sept. 7, 1996. The Bulldogs aren't strangers to traveling long distances for games, however. With Hawai'i also a member of the Western Athletic Conference, FS makes the 2,515 trip to Honolulu every other year.

Interesting Distinction
Fresno State is the only school from California Ohio State has played in a season opener. With the only other meeting between Ohio State and Fresno State coming in the Pigskin Classic at Anaheim, Calif., in 1994, FS will also have the distinction of being the first school from California in OSU history to play at fabled Ohio Stadium in a season opener.

WAC Leaders
Here's where the Bulldogs finished in the 1999 WAC statistics:

                      Avg     WAC     NCAA
Scoring Offense      33.1      1       15
Third Down Conv.     .500      1      N/A
Punting              39.0      2       17
Punt Returns         10.6      2       26
Scoring Defense      22.1      2       35
Fabulous in the Fourth
Here are some fourth quarter Bulldog bullets for 1999:
  • Shutout the opponents in three of the last five games
  • Allowed just 20 points in the last six games (3.3 per game)
  • Outscored the opponent 108-49 for the season
  • Outscored the opponent 54-17 in the last six games
  • Outscored the opponent 87-29 in the last nine games

    Young Pups
    Several first-year players are expected to contribute in the season opener. Here's a look at some of the first-year players who will be playing in their first Division I game.

  • Transfer Asen Asparuhov or freshman Brett Visintainer will handle the kicking duties
  • Sophomore Jason Simpson, a transfer, will handle the punting and holding duties
  • Freshman Fitu Tu'ua will see action at right guard
  • Redshirt freshmen Alec Greco and Jeremy Johnson will be sharing time at tight end
  • Junior transfer Luke Slevkoff will start at fullback
  • Jajuan Huddleston, a senior transfer, will be starting at defensive end

    Little Big Man
    Senior middle linebacker Tim Skipper (Kenner, La.) continues to be Fresno State's leader on defense and will be the defensive captain for the second consecutive year. Skipper is an excellent student who has been a WAC scholar-athlete. Despite being the smallest middle linebacker in the country (5-7, 215 lbs.), Skipper has played very large throughout his career. Skipper, who has has started 31 of 34 games in his career, was a first-team All-WAC selection as a sophomore and despite missing two-and-a-half games and four starts with a knee injury, was selected second-team All-WAC last season. He had started 27 consecutive games before the injury. He finished second on the team in tackles last season with 86, missing his third consecutive 100-tackle season. He ranks third on the Fresno State career tackle chart with 306. He was a consensus preseason All-WAC selection and called the WAC's Most Underrated Player by The Sporting News. Information on Skipper can be found on

    Skipper's Slate

  • Fresno State record 17 tackles for a loss in 1998
  • First-team All-WAC in 1998
  • Second-team All-WAC in 1999
  • Third on Fresno State's career tackle list with 306 tackles
  • WAC's Most Underrated Player by The Sporting News
  • No. 10 on Fresno State list for most tackles in a single season with 117 in 1998
  • Ninth in the WAC in tackles in 1999, 8.1 per game
  • Career-high 17 tackles vs. Baylor in 1997
  • Has 12 games of double-digit tackles in his career

    Fresno State Career Tackle Leaders
    1. Omar Stoutmire (1993-96)    458
    2. A.J. Gass (1993-97)         325
    3. Tim Skipper (1997-)         306
    No Holding Harper
    Junior defensive tackle Alan Harper (Fontana, Calif.) was a one man wrecking crew during his sophomore season, earning first-team All-WAC honors, making him the youngest player selected. Harper, who as the potential to become the best defensive linemen in school history, was Fresno State's nominee for WAC Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording 15 tackles for losses, second-most in school history and second-most in the WAC. He is a consensus preseason All-WAC selection and was rated the 20th best defensive tackle in the nation by The Sporting News, one of seven underclassmen honored.

    The Bodyguard
    Senior left tackle Kevin Jordan (Los Angeles, Calif.) should be one of the WAC's best this season. Jordan, who started 12 games at right tackle last season, switched to left tackle to protect David Carr's blind side this season. Jordan, a defensive tackle in his first two years in the program, is a good athlete who ran a 4.7 40-yard dash as a defensive lineman. He currently runs just under 5.0 seconds. Jordan is very strong, bench pressing 405 pounds. He allowed just one quarterback sack last season in over 340 pass plays.

    1,000 Club
    Rodney Wright joined the long tradition of great receivers at Fresno State last season when he caught 74 passes for 1,062 yards and seven touchdowns. His reception total was the fourth-best in school history and his yardage output ranked third. Wright became the fifth player, and third in the last five years, to surpass 1,000 receiving yards.

    Despite their diminutive stature, the duo of Charles Smith and Rodney Wright could be the most explosive receiving combo in the nation this season. Wright is coming off a 1,000-yard season, while Smith had 56 receptions for 653 yards and seven scores. Smith ranks seventh on Fresno State's career receiving yardage charts with 1,274 yards. They are also Fresno State's top two return specialists. Here are their career totals:

                       Rec   Yards    Avg   TD
    Charles Smith       98   1,274   13.0   10
    Rodney Wright       80   1,187   14.7    9
    Counting on Carr
    David Carr will be making his first career start vs. Ohio State. Carr, who has played in just 11 games in his two-year career, redshirted last season and worked with the Bulldog scout teams, earning the scout team MVP award given by the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said the best quarterback the Bulldog defense faced last season was Carr. In addition, Carr spend the entire season in the coaching booth on a headset with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig learning more about the offense. Carr has completed 27-52 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown and two interceptions in his career. He has not attempted a pass in game since Nov. 21, 1998, when he completed 5-8 passes for 56 yards in a 24-21 win over San Jose State. Carr could be the best all-around athlete to play quarterback for the 'Dogs in a few years. He bench presses 390 pounds, power cleans 300 pounds and squats 500 pounds. At 6-3, 225 pounds, he runs a 4.67 40-yard dash.

    Ward Watch
    After a spectacular freshman season, running back Derrick Ward (Moreno Valley, Calif.) found himself off the team. Ward rushed for a freshman record 875 yards, averaged 6.0 yards per carry, and a team-best seven touchdowns. He was selected a freshman All-American. In February, Ward was dismissed from the team by head coach Pat Hill. Ward rejoined the team following spring ball and has been impressive in fall camp. Last season, he showed big-play capability, scoring on runs of 86 yards vs. Nevada, the fourth-longest in Fresno State history, and 75 yards vs. Colorado State, the seventh-longest. He also blocked two punts that were returned for touchdowns. Ward set a freshman single game rushing record with 176 yards vs. Nevada.

    Isn't That Special?
    The Bulldogs dominated their opponents in special teams in 1999. Fresno State had a season total of 10 blocked kicks, four punts, five field goals and one PAT. Of the Bulldogs blocked punts, two were returned for touchdowns.

    1999 Fresno State Special Teams Highlights

  • Fresno State blocked four punts
  • Derrick Ward blocked two punts that were returned for touchdowns
  • Opponents averaged 33.1 net yards punting
  • Opponents had just 71 total punt return yards for a 3.9 average
  • Fresno State downed 40% (24 of 60) of its punts inside the 20-yard line
  • Fresno State was 11-14 on field goals
  • The 'Dogs average drive start after a kickoff is the 29-yard line
  • Opponent's kick return average is 20.2 yards

    Kick This
    The Bulldogs have had a hotly contested battle for the starting kicking job vacated by the graduation of All-WAC performer Jeff Hanna, a three-year starter and one of the most accurate in school history. In fact, the last time someone other than Hanna scored a kicking point for the 'Dogs was Nov. 23, 1996 (Johan Lyssand) vs. San Diego State. The two competitors for the kicking job are newcomers - freshman Brett Visintainer and junior college transfer Asen Asparuhov. Both have kicked well in fall camp. According to special teams coach John Baxter, both are so close they both will travel to Ohio State and a game time decision will determine the starter. Visintainer is scheduled to handle the kickoff responsibilities. The punting duties will be handled by transfer Jason Simpson, the only punter in camp.

    Welcome Back
    An area that was racked with injuries last season was the offensive line. Despite the injuries, the 'Dogs patched together a unit that allowed a school record low 13 quarterback sacks. Each of the five starters this year have started games at various times in their careers and the top six linemen have a combined 53 starts in their careers. Of the starters, Russ Harding missed the entire 1999 season with an injury. Ahmad Bhatti and Joe Schey each started the first three games of last season before injuries sidelined them.

    Projected Starting Offensive Line (# of career starts)

  • RT -- Kevin Jordan (12)
  • RG -- Russell Harding (2)
  • C -- Rodney Michael (11) backed up by Mike Stovall (17)
  • LG -- Ahmad Bhatti (8)
  • LT -- Joe Schey (3)



  •  Email this article   Printer-friendly format