When the Cal State Fullerton team bus got in a minor traffic accident on the way to War Memorial Stadium Saturday morning, Coach Gene Murphy figured that the Titans’ luck had finally changed--for the better.
Fullerton has been successful in recent seasons in spite of such adversities as its lack of a home stadium and its small budget. By now, Murphy feels more at ease when there is some sort of off-the-field distraction that he can point to and say: “That’s us.”
That’s exactly what he said after the fender-bender (no one was injured), but it didn’t work this time. With a porous secondary and an offense unable to move the ball until the game was already decided, Fullerton lost to Wyoming, 31-8, before a crowd of 13,629 to fall to 0-3. Wyoming is 1-2.
Titan quarterback Kevin Jan completed 1 of 10 first-half passes, and Fullerton had only 52 yards of total offense and two first downs in the first two quarters as Wyoming led, 21-0, at halftime.
“We didn’t play with any offensive intensity in the first half,” Murphy said, “and we gave them great field position. The defense played harder than they have so far, but we still made a lot of mental and physical mistakes despite the intensity.”
Wyoming, which runs a wishbone offense, is hardly a pass-happy football team, but it didn’t take the Cowboys long to figure out where to attack the Titans. Quarterback Scott Runyan, seemingly able to get the big completion whenever he needed one, connected on 6 of 12 passes for 147 yards and one touchdown before leaving in the fourth quarter.
“We looked like a pretty decent offensive football team in the second quarter,” Wyoming Coach Al Kincaid said. “All in all, it wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but at this point, I don’t give a damn. We finally got a win.”
Fullerton, of course, is still waiting. And if Saturday was any indication, the Titans might be waiting a long time. Fullerton lost four fumbles and was penalized 10 times for 88 yards.
To compound the Titan problems, Jan was sacked in the fourth quarter and received a head injury that left him nauseous and dizzy an hour later; defensive tackle Ron McLean injured his left knee and may be facing surgery; and linebacker Bryan Riggs (ankle), safeties Tom Phillips (head injury) and Trent Baker (ankle) and running back Burness Scott (ankle) were all knocked out of action Saturday.
“Thank God for the bye week,” Murphy said. The Titans have next Saturday off before opening Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. play Oct. 3 at San Jose State.
For a while Saturday, it seemed that both teams were taking the day off. The first quarter was little more than a punting contest, with Wyoming’s Tom Kilpatrick showing a slight edge over the Titans’ Jim Sirois. Sirois had four first-quarter chances, kicking punts of 46, 53, 33 and 34 yards. Kilpatrick made the most of his three chances, too, with punts of 48, 53 and 49 yards.
The Cowboys, who had 248 yards rushing, stayed on the ground in the early going. One can’t blame Kincaid for being reluctant to pass--Runyan had completed 7 of 26 passes in the Cowboys’ first two games--but soon, the Titan defensive backfield was making the 5-foot 9-inch sophomore look like Dan Marino.
A 29-yard pass to a wide-open Allyn Griffin set up Wyoming’s first score, a 20-yard touchdown run by Stan Waddell with 13:52 left in the second quarter.
Fourteen seconds later, the Cowboys led, 13-0. On Fullerton’s first play after the kickoff, Jan dropped to pass, was sacked by Tim Gosar and fumbled, and Wyoming’s Craig Earl recovered on the Titan three-yard line. Toriano Taylor sliced through the middle to score on the first play, and a two-point conversion try failed.
Fullerton was in a 1-2-3-punt mode, but Wyoming was moving the ball consistently. The Cowboys went 65 yards in nine plays--the biggest a 28-yard pass from Runyan to a wide-open Gerald Abraham, with Waddell scoring on a seven-yard run. The two-point conversion was successful this time (Titan cornerback Vernon Norwood fell down), and Wyoming had a 21-0 lead at halftime.
The Cowboys, who were outscored, 88-25, in their first two games, weren’t the least bit hesitant to exploit the Titans’ weak pass defense. Less than two minutes into the second half, Runyan threw a strike to Griffin, who had about five steps on Norwood, for a 42-yard touchdown play that gave Wyoming a 28-0 lead.
“It’s not just the secondary,” Murphy said. “You have to have a pass rush, and the linebackers have to drop and help. But we’ve got work to do because we haven’t faced a real passing team yet.”
Fullerton finally managed to get into the end zone--for the first time in six quarters--when Jan capped a 49-yard, eight-play drive with a 12-yard touchdown pass to James Pruitt. Holder Todd White hit tight end Jim Thornton for a two-point conversion.
The Titan offense fell back into form after that, fumbling away the ball on first down on its next two possessions. But Wyoming, which had its second- and third-stringers in, came away with just three points on a 27-yard Andy Cottingham field goal.
“Despite everything, I think maybe we finally came together in the second half,” Murphy said. “Jan did a pretty good job (completing 6 of 10 second-half passes). We’ve got to be grateful for the week of rest and try to regroup.
“The exhibition season is over, and now we’re going to play the games that really count.”
The defending conference champion Titans might be in even more trouble, though, when they get into conference play in the pass-oriented PCAA.