COLLEGE FOOTBALL ’85 : PCAA Preview : Two Claimants on Last Season’s Title, Several Contenders for This Year’s
A double take.
The University of Nevada Las Vegas won the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. football championship last season in impressive fashion. The Rebels, with All-American quarterback Randall Cunningham, were 7-0 in PCAA play and defeated Toledo, 30-13, in the California Bowl. And, of course, the Rebels received championship rings.
Cal State Fullerton’s football team also won the PCAA championship last season in impressive fashion. Led by quarterback Damon Allen, the Titans opened the season with 10 straight wins and broke into United Press International’s top 20 poll for the first time in school history.
The Titans received championship watches.
Actually, UNLV won the PCAA title and the California Bowl, but had its title stripped after the season when it was discovered in March that the Rebels used seven ineligible players.
The PCAA Compliance Committee made UNLV forfeit all its victories and awarded the championship to the Titans, whose only conference loss was a 26-20 decision to UNLV.
The Rebels and Coach Harvey Hyde are still calling themselves champions. So are the Titans. This could be the start of something big.
“Yes, I think we are the champions,” Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said. “I know Harvey thinks they were the champions. That’s fine. Let’s just see who it’s going to be this year.”
The Titans and Rebels meet Oct. 19 at the Santa Ana Bowl.
It should make for an interesting season in a conference that’s becoming more interesting every year.
Not many people know it, but the PCAA led all conferences in the nation in passing last season. The two top quarterbacks in the league, Cunningham of the Rebels and Allen of the Titans, are gone. But there are plenty of strong arms left, including Fresno State’s Kevin Sweeney and Doug Gaynor of Cal State Long Beach.
Here’s a closer look at the PCAA with on-the-field and amended 1984 records.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
1984 RECORDS:11-1 overall, 6-1 in PCAA
(12-0, 7-0 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: First
Led by All-PCAA quarterback Damon Allen, the Titans enjoyed their finest season in school history in 1984. Fullerton broke into UPI’s Top 20 football poll after going 10-0. The only blemish on the Titans’ record was a 26-20 loss to UNLV, a win that was later forfeited by the Rebels. Fullerton has some big holes to plug, though. Allen is quarterback for the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League, leaving Fullerton with two guys (Kevin Jan and Whit Brown) who have never started a Division I-A game. The Titans are also going to have to rebuild at linebacker and have no fullback to speak of. The secondary is led by the talented Mark Collins, but don’t look for many teams to throw his way. The offense line should be good, but the strength of this team is at wide receiver, where the Titans have four players (James Pruitt, Allen Pitts, Wade Lockett and Corn Redick) who can strike fear into any secondary
CAL STATE LONG BEACH 1984 RECORDS: 4-7 overall, 3-4 in PCAA
(5-6, 4-3 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Third
This could be a big year for the 49ers. They have 15 starters returning from last year’s team, and one of those is quarterback Doug Gaynor, who finished third in the nation in total offense last season (an average of 323 yards per game). Gaynor passed for 3,230 yards and 16 touchdowns. His primary receiver will be Charles Lockett, an Honorable Mention All-America last season. The problem will be giving Gaynor time to pass. “Our offensive line is still a question mark,” Coach Mike Sheppard said. The defensive line is solid and should put plenty of pressure on the opposing quarterback.
FRESNO STATE 1984 RECORDS: 6-6 overall, 3-4 in PCAA
(7-5, 4-3 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Third
The key to the Bulldogs’ season sits across from Coach Jim Sweeney every night after dinner. It’s not his wife, but his son, Kevin, who returns as quarterback. And he’s a good one. As a sophomore, Sweeney passed for 3,259 yards last season, the second-highest total in PCAA history. But how about receivers? Well, Sweeney says there hasn’t been as much depth there since the days of Henry Ellard and Stephone Paige. The entire offensive line returns and Sweeney said that Lavale Thomas is the best running back at Fresno since Ted Torosian. So what gives? It’s the defensive secondary, where Sweeney must replace all four starters. Still, the Bulldogs should have enough talent to make the Sweeneys one happy family.
4-7 overall, 2-5 in PCAA
(5-6, 3-4 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Fourth
Everyone else in the conference is pass-happy these days, so what better time to break out the thought-to-be-extinct wishbone offense. Has Pacific Coach Bob Cope lost his mind? No, just his quarterback, Paul Berner, Pacific’s all-time leading passer. And Cope isn’t about to ask his cast of raw recruits to pass with the best in the PCAA. “If you can’t do something better than everyone can do it, then you’d better do something unique and different,” Cope explained. Led by linebacker Nick Holt and cornerback Tommy Purvis, the Tigers should have a respectable defense.
SAN JOSE STATE 1984 RECORDS: 6-5 overall, 5-2 in PCAA
(7-4 and 6-1 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Second
Coach Claude Gilbert didn’t want last season to end after his Spartans closed the season with three straight wins. But if he can get some offensive production, San Jose may be able to continue its winning streak for a while. The Spartans, historically one of the PCAA’s stronger teams, will bring back one of the league’s better defenses. The line, led by tackles Ed Bird (6-3, 256) and Wayne Woodard (6-4, 250) is big and experienced. The concern is on offense, where Jon Carlson returns at quarterback after missing the 1984 season because of cysts on his tail bone. Carlson showed flashes of brilliance in 1983, but was inconsistent. The Spartans had some offense but not nearly enough defense in last Saturday’s opener, losing to California, 48-21, at Berkeley.
NEVADA LAS VEGAS 1984 RECORDS: 10-2 overall, 7-0 in PCAA
(0-12, 0-7 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Eighth
This is the team PCAA coaches are picking to win the conference again. The Rebels were stripped of their conference title last year for using seven ineligible players but should have enough eligible ones this season to make a run for the title again. UNLV returns 50 letterman, though only three on offense. Two of those, however, are talented running backs Kirk Jones (1,090 yards, 6.3 average in 1984) and Tony Lewis (823 yards, 5.1 average). The Rebels will have to replace their great two-for-one-deal, Randall Cunningham. Cunningham, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, was the PCAA’s Offensive Player of the Year as quarterback as well as being one of the nation’s top punters. Steve Stallworth will be the quarterback, Bob Hulberg the punter. On defense, the Rebels return their entire secondary and have a linebacking corps that Coach Harvey Hyde calls “As good as I’ve been around.” And he calls the defensive line one of the team’s strengths.
NEW MEXICO STATE 1984 RECORDS: 2-9 overall, 1-6 in PCAA
(3-8 and 2-5 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Sixth
You know a team is in trouble when its placekicker’s picture appears as the New Mexico State player to watch in the conference media guide. But Andy Weiler, all 5-9 and 160 pounds of him, is about all the offense the Aggies have. New Mexico State has a number of starters returning but, as Coach Fred Zechman says, “That’s a good-news, bad-news situation.” If it’s passing you want to see in New Mexico, you’d better tune your cable to the Stanford game. “If we could have hit the wall with the football the past two seasons, we would have done more passing, " Zechman said. Trying to remedy the situation, Zechman recruited a quarterback (David Giannini) who passed for 4,600 yards and 42 touchdowns at San Mateo College last season.
UTAH STATE 1984 RECORDS: 1-10 overall, 1-6 in PCAA
(2-9 and 2-5 after forfeits)
1984 CONFERENCE FINISH: Sixth
The Aggies finished 13th in the country in passing last year, but their defense was busy giving up an average of 461 yards per game. Hence, their record. Coach Chris Pella is going to try to plug some holes by switching to a four-man front on defense. What he needs, though, is another Merlin Olsen (a Utah State graduate). The starting quarterback spot is up for grabs. Brad Ipsen, who started four games last year before injuring his knee, is back, along with former Fountain Valley quarterback, Brett Stevens, and Tom Ponich, a transfer from San Diego Mesa Community College.