Small Colleges / Alan Drooz : Azusa Pacific, Occidental Are Set to Match Offenses

Saturday’s football showdown between Azusa Pacific and Occidental could be a battle of the backs, but the defenses will probably preclude a shootout.

Azusa Pacific (2-0) is averaging 481 yards a game in total offense--the Cougars rank among the NAIA’s top five nationally--with a balanced attack featuring 250-pound running back Christian Okoye and quarterback Dave Russell.

Okoye has run for 261 yards, and Russell has completed 26 of 31 passes for 420 yards. He’s coming off his best game at Azusa Pacific, having completed 14 of 17 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-14 rout of Claremont-Mudd last Saturday.

Occidental (2-0) has two four-year starters at running back, Vance Mueller and Jeff Goldstein, and another veteran in quarterback Pat Guthrie.

Mueller, last season’s Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference offensive player of the year, suffered a separated shoulder in the first game of the season but returned Saturday and played a strong second half, finishing with a 25-yard touchdown catch and more than 80 yards rushing in a 31-21 victory over Redlands.


Guthrie passed for two touchdowns. Goldstein had more than 100 yards rushing a week earlier against LaVerne.

All of which indicates that if either offense performs as usual, that team probably will win.

Azusa Pacific’s defense has allowed nine yards rushing in the first two games, which puts them first in the NAIA. “If they do that against us, they’re going to win the game,” Occidental Coach Dale Widolff said. “The teams they played were basically passing teams. We like to think we’re more multi-dimensional.”

Guthrie has passed for about 250 yards in the first two games, but Widolff expects more from the senior. “He needs to play better,” the coach said. “He has the tools. I think he’ll play better.”

Occidental’s defense, meanwhile, has eight starters back from last year and is at full strength with linebacker Parris Devine returning after having been injured in the first game. Defensive backs were the stars in the victory over Redlands, with Quay Richardson making two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, and safety Doug Porter returning a punt 85 yards.

“The defense is playing real well. They may be the strength of the team,” Widolff said.

Before the season, Occidental was rated third in the nation among small colleges by Sports Illustrated. An Azusa Pacific official called the matchup “one of our biggest games of the year.” Occidental won last year, 21-18.

Widolff cautioned that since this is not an SCIAC game, it probably means more to Azusa Pacific, but recognized the gunslinger aspect of carrying a ranking. “It’s kind of fun for the kids,” he said. “You don’t get much notoriety at this level. But it really doesn’t mean anything. If anything, it helps fuel the fire for our opponents.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Azusa Pacific’s Hillside Stadium.

All-American Kathy Slaten, Cal State Northridge softball pitcher who announced her “retirement” last season after leading Northridge to its third straight national title, held a press conference last week to say she will play her senior year.

The powerful right-hander has a three-year earned-run average of 0.24. She has pitched 18 no-hitters, 11 of them last season, and has struck out 1,322 in 1,032 innings, including an NCAA-record 533 last year.

Slaten said when she gave up the sport that the pressure to win had taken the fun out of the game.

Last week, however, she told The Times’ Rich Tosches: “Now that I’m back I know how much I would have been lost without it. . . . I realized how much the game and the friendships at college meant to me. . . . The pressure won’t be any different. I’ll just take more Rolaids, I guess.”

Slaten said that the pressure was partly self-imposed. “I expect to throw a no-hitter every time I step on the mound,” she said. “Every time. People come to expect that from me. I feel such tremendous pressure because of the thought of letting my teammates down, of letting everybody down.

“I don’t know how to lose. I don’t know how to fail on a softball field. As much as I would like to be able to smile after a loss and say that I did my best, I know I can’t. I just can’t do that.”

The Cal Poly Pomona women’s volleyball team, ranked second in the country in Division II, won the LaVerne tournament over the weekend, beating six teams without losing a game. The Lady Broncos beat Claremont-Mudd, Biola, Nebraska Omaha and Cal State Los Angeles in pool play, then defeated LaVerne in the semifinals and Athletes in Action for the title. The title game doesn’t count in NCAA results, since it was against Athletes in Action, so the team’s official record is 11-4. All-Americans Clara Piersma and Terri Dantuma were standouts for Pomona.

College Notes

Cal State Los Angeles has been selected as host of the 1986 NCAA Division II men’s and women’s track and field meets. The Los Angeles campus also had the meets last spring, at which women broke four NCAA records. . . . Biola’s cross-country team is off to a fast start. The Eagles won the 10-team Chapman Invitational over the weekend after having been first among Division II teams the previous week at Cal State Fullerton. No. 1 runner Dave Withers ran first at Fullerton and sixth at Chapman. . . . Through its first four games, the Cal State Bakersfield soccer team (2-2) had scored 10 goals, topping its total from last season. Junior Mike Getty leads the Roadrunners with three goals. . . . Senior Blackman Ihem has scored nine goals in seven games for the Azusa Pacific soccer team, which is off to its best start since 1978 with a 4-2-1 record. If he maintains his current pace, Ihem will break Kwame Apea’s 1974 school record of 24. The Nigerian is also a member of Azusa Pacific’s All-American sprint relay team. . . . Running back Ed Soto had another big game for Redlands, rushing for 162 yards and an 83-yard touchdown in a loss to Occidental. . . . Mya Sanders, 25, is the new women’s softball coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills. The former standout player at Palomar College and San Diego State had been an assistant coach at Santa Monica College. She replaces Kathy Strahan, who left to start a program at San Jose State.