Before Fresno State hosts Oregon State and travels to USC, the Bulldogs have to take care of business in the season opener Thursday against Cal Poly at Valley Children’s Stadium.
Despite the roller coaster nature in the quality of opponents over the next three weeks, Fresno State Head Coach Jeff Tedford message to the team is to focus on itself.
“No matter who we play, it’s not about the opponent, it’s about how we play. It’s about how we execute. It’s about how we prepare, we practice. How we take care of our bodies. How we rest. How we sleep. How we hydrate. All of it goes into it…” Tedford said Saturday at his weekly press conference.
“I don’t care who we play. It’s really about how we play. It’s about how we prepare and how we execute. It’s all about us. That’s how we’re going to go into every game, focus on our opportunity to play, No. 1, which we’re thankful for. But really how we focus on ourself.”
It’s the second year in a row the ‘Dogs will host the lower-tier Mustangs from the Big Sky Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Last year, the Bulldogs beat Cal Poly 63-10 behind 380 yards through the air and six total touchdowns for quarterback Jake Haener – two on the ground, four through the air.
Haener will lead the ‘Dogs down the ramp at Bulldog Stadium once again on Thursday as he and senior safety Evan Williams were named team captains, Tedford announced.
Tedford took time Saturday to praise Haener, who has high expectations on his shoulders after throwing for over 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns last season, some of the best numbers in the nation.
“Coming to work every day with Jake is just a true pleasure. He’s the first guy in the building. He’s the last one to leave. He’s so dedicated. I worked with Jake maybe when he was nine years old, so we go way, way back. Finally to be able to be around him on the field – when I was here before he was here, but he couldn’t play. He had to sit out that year, so didn’t have the same interaction daily,” Tedford said.
“But to be on the field every single day with him and see how focused he is, it’s unbelievable the way he prepares and what this means to him and his discipline – his purpose, the whole bit. He’s an amazing player, not just his skill set, but his mindset and his preparation is one of the best I’ve ever seen. He’s unbelievably committed to this program, and it’s a pleasure to come to work with him every day.”
An addition that Haener has on offense is wide receiver Nikko Remigio, a Cal transfer who is listed as one of the three starting receivers on the depth chart.
Remigio also excelled on special teams at Cal as a threat in the return game, ranking 16th in the county last year in kickoff returns.
“I think Nikko really proved early on – he was here all spring – he really proved early on not only his abilities on the field, but his work ethic I think has just stood out,” Tedford said. “Every single day if you’ve been at practice and you watch him practice you know what I’m talking about. Every play he goes 100 percent. Taking care of his body, just really committed to what’s going on.”
One player the Bulldogs will be without, however, is nickelback Justin Houston. Tedford said Houston has been deemed ineligible for the first half of the season and did not comment further.
While he returns to the sidelines after two seasons, Tedford gained a new appreciation for being around the student-athletes, the staff and the game as a whole.
“Not that I didn’t appreciate it before, but when retirement becomes a reality, the purpose that you have every day when you get out of bed is a little bit different now for me. Because before it was so consistent all the time for however many years I coached that I don’t know that I ever really took the time to be thankful for the purpose, the meaningful purpose that I got up with every day. And now I do,” Tedford said.
“It is a meaningful purpose. I told the players last night that when I recovered from my health issue before, I had about a year there where it was kind of a challenge to find that purpose. These guys and this program and our opportunity is the purpose that I wake up with every single day.”