No. 15-ranked Ducks and Bulldogs to Square Off Saturday in Expanded Autzen
Aug. 27, 2002
Oregon opens its 107th football campaign in search of an encore for its most successful season in school history with a new cast of headliners in an expanded venue as it goes after its ninth straight season-opening triumph in 10 years. The Ducks will host an opponent from the Southeastern Conference for the first time ever while testing the waters against a representative of the league for the first time in 25 years. As many as eight players could debut in starting roles for the Ducks -- including a novice quarterback in a season-opener for the first time since 1999 -- as they face the challenge of replacing 11 starters from last year. The program's head coach nears one milestone as he as been associated with almost one-fifth of the school's all-time wins. Oregon hopes a revised Autzen Stadium won't alter a home-field advantage which has produced 25 wins in its last 26 Eugene appearances as it anticipates its first of several record-breaking crowds during the upcoming season.
Finishing last season second in the country in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls, Oregon broke into this year's pre-season elite ranked 15th in the nation. Mississippi State is unranked.
HEAD COACH MIKE BELLOTTI
Ranking third on the Ducks' all-time winningest coaching list (60-23-0), Mike Bellotti has led the program to more overall victories during his tenure than any other school in the Pacific-10 Conference. He stands as the winningest active coach in the Pac-10 based on conference winning percentage (66.1%), and 11th all time. Oregon's eighth-year head coach has accumulated a 37-19 record in Pac-10 encounters (.661), which ties him for 18th in career league wins. Bellotti has played a vital role in assembling more than 19 percent (99 wins) of the university's all-time triumphs (502) in his 13-year Oregon association (six as offensive coordinator and seven as head coach). Only Hugo Bezdek (72.7 -- 1906, 1913-17) has accumulated a better winning percentage than Bellotti's 72.3% among the program's mentors who have coached the Ducks three seasons or more. The 51-year-old former Cal State-Chico mentor owns a 12-year career head coaching mark of 83-48-2.
MISSISSIPPI STATE'S JACKIE SHERRILL
The 'dean' of the SEC coaches, Jackie Sherrill has accumulated a 70-56-2 record (.555) in 11 seasons in Starkville, Miss., as well as a 24-year Division I ledger of 175-101-4 (.632) at four different stops. He ranks fourth on the NCAA's list of winningest active Division I coaches behind only Penn State's Joe Paterno, Florida State's Bobby Bowden and South Carolina's Lou Holtz, and is one of 17 coaches to ever take three or more different schools to bowl games. His head coaching tenure began at Washington State (1976) and was followed by Pittsburg (1977-81), Texas A&M (1982-88) and Mississippi State (1991- ).
Oregon has accumulated a 19-2 ledger in regular-season non-conference encounters since Mike Bellotti assumed control prior to the 1995 season, however is unbeaten on those 14 occasions at home under the current head coach. The lone losses occurred in the 1999 season opener at Michigan State (27-20) as well as in 2000 at Wisconsin (27-23). The Ducks have not dropped a non-conference contest at home since losing to Utah on Sept. 17, 1994. Since then, the Ducks have accumulated 15 straight non-league wins in Eugene, including victories over Iowa (1994), Illinois (1995), Michigan State (1998) and Wisconsin (2001).