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HomeSportsUT
Published: Saturday, 9/20/2008

Rockets excited for home opener

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Moore Moore
NOT BLADE PHOTO Enlarge

When Nick Moore went to his classes this week, most conversations with fellow students didn't have to do with recent homework assignments or an upcoming test.

Everyone wanted to talk to the University of Toledo senior captain about the Rockets' game tonight against Fresno State.

"A lot of people have asked me if we're ready for the game, and they'll be there to show their support," Moore said. "That's a good thing to hear."

UT (1-1) opens its 2008 Glass Bowl slate against the No. 25 Bulldogs at 8:15 p.m.

The Rockets are 4-0 against nationally ranked teams at home. The players say they have been waiting for an opportunity like this.

"Since high school I've wanted to start in a game on national TV against a top-25 team," junior cornerback Joe Bates said. "It's a dream come true. You'll see at the game, my excitement level will be top-notch."

The only other nonconference top-25 team the Rockets have faced at home was No. 9 Pitt in 2003. UT won 35-31.

The Rockets also beat No. 20 Marshall in 2001, No. 21 Northern Illinois in 2003 and No. 24 Bowling Green in 2004.

UT coach Tom Amstutz is excited to get another chance at a ranked team tonight. The Rockets are 41-6 at home this decade.

"It's a big thrill," Amstutz said. "No. 1, it's a huge challenge. No. 2, it's a huge opportunity. We want our students to come out and really have a good time. It's going to be the best show in town. We want to fill the stands and have a very fun evening."

Fresno State (1-1) comes to town in between games against Wisconsin and UCLA. The Bulldogs hosted the then-No. 10 Badgers last week and lost 13-10.

Fresno State is expected to be without three starters because of injury - wide receiver Devon Wylie, offensive lineman Cole Popovich and defensive tackle

Cornell Banks. It's the second foray into the Eastern Time Zone for the Bulldogs, who played at Rutgers in week one.

"That's going to be a very, very tough game for us, coming back and traveling across the country for the second time in three weeks," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "We've got another game three time zones away. It'll be another great challenge for our football team to go back and play a tradition-rich program in Toledo in their home opener. Our senior leadership needs to step up for us in that game."

The Rockets will play their first game on the Glass Bowl's new FieldTurf surface, which was installed this summer to replace the NexTurf previously on the ground.

"I love it. It's so much softer," quarterback Aaron Opelt said. "The guys love it. It makes you feel a little bit quicker."

Once the game starts, the Rockets will have to curb their excitement and focus.

"They're a really physical team," linebacker Daris Quinn said. "We have to make sure we'll be ready. We'll be ready."

Said Moore: "It'll be a good opportunity to go out and shock the world."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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