CSUN Flops Short of Upset of Davis, 41-22
Cal State Northridge was on the verge of perhaps its biggest football upset ever. The Matadors had the UC Davis Aggies, currently the No. 2 ranked Division II team in the nation and the most dominant Division II team in the country for the past 15 years, by the throat.
But in the end, as they did a few weeks ago in a 25-20 loss to Cal State Hayward after holding a 20-5 fourth-quarter lead, the Matadors collapsed with all the grace of a 300-pound man doing a belly flop off the three-meter diving platform. Italian governments have collapsed more slowly than the Matadors did Saturday night.
The final score of 41-22 was about what most people expected heading into the non-conference game. The Aggies had showed off their muscles last week with a 65-12 beating of San Francisco State and figured to spend 60 minutes kicking sand in the Matadors’ faces.
But instead the Aggies got all they could handle for the first 50 minutes.
CSUN, which fell to 4-4, had built a 13-10 halftime lead on a foundation of Aggie mistakes, and forged a 16-10 lead just 1:54 into the third quarter on Mike Doan’s third field goal of the game, a 34-yarder that was set up by a 56-yard swing pass from Chris Parker to Kenny Garrett.
The rash of Aggie mistakes continued to spread when Armin Anderson, who earlier in the game became the NCAA’s all-time leading career punt returner with his 141st return, fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Ron Foster recovered the loose ball for CSUN at the Davis 32.
But the Matadors continued to soothe the Aggies’ rash by being unable to find the end zone, and Doan missed a 45-yard field goal attempt after Parker threw three incomplete passes.
The Davis offense then erupted, putting 14 points on the board in less than three minutes, and CSUN’s once-bright hopes of its biggest upset in several seasons seemed to fade into the cold night.
The turnaround began when Chris Peterson, the starting quarterback, hit Roger Wilkinson, who was supposed to be the starting quarterback this season before a rotator cuff injury last season ended his passing career, with a nine-yard touchdown pass, giving Davis a 17-16 lead.
Then, with 3:44 remaining in the quarter, Peterson dropped a swing pass into the arms of Chris Mandeville, and the junior from Irvine got two crunching blocks at midfield and smoked the defense with a brilliant run for a 58-yard touchdown play. The PAT lifted the Aggies to a 24-16 lead.
The CSUN offense briefly became as non-existent as a skyscraper in the town of Davis, with three plays and a punt now the standard method of operation, and the Aggie offense continued to pound away, boosting Davis’ lead to 27-16 only 54 seconds into the final quarter when Eddie Loretto booted a 40-yard field goal.
But CSUN’s offense was revived by Parker with 10:50 left in the game when he hit a wide-open Scott Colvin in the end zone with a 29-yard scoring pass. The two-point conversion attempt failed on an incomplete pass, but the Matadors had sliced the deficit to 27-22. The touchdown pass came on second down and 13 as Colvin breezed past two confused Aggie defenders into the right corner of the end zone and Parker hit him between the numbers with a strong pass.
The Aggies, whose only loss in seven games this season came to Division I-AA powerhouse Boise State, stomped on CSUN’s hopes again, this time for good, with a touchdown and a two-point conversion with 6:44 remaining for a 35-22 lead. The touchdown was set up by a 30-yard pass from Peterson and a beautiful 14-yard cutback run by Bryant Carter to the CSUN 2. Two plays later, Carter squeezed into the end zone from the 1 and the two-point conversion gave the Aggies a comfortable 13-point lead.
Another touchdown, this one on a 1-yard run by Wilkinson, made the score very comfortable for Davis and unbearable for CSUN.
“We played with a lot of intensity, but we came in second best again,” said CSUN Coach Tom Keele. “I’m tired of losing these. It’s about time we won one.”
The Matadors began their strong early showing by intercepting Peterson’s fourth pass of the game with Jonathan Bradshaw tipping the ball and Ray Johnson grabbing it inches off the ground. CSUN then silenced the large Davis crowd with a 38-yard pass from Parker to Richard Brown to the Davis 34, and four plays later Doan drilled a 43-yard field goal, giving CSUN a 3-0 lead midway through the opening period.
Davis made amends for the interception five minutes later, however, when Denny Raymond fell on a fumbled punt by Charles Collins, giving the Aggies a first down at the CSUN 14. Collins made an unwise lunge at the punt and it bounced off his hands.
On the third play, Carter pounded into the end zone from the 2, giving Davis a 7-3 lead with 1:27 left in the quarter.
Davis surged to a 10-3 lead 1:58 into the second quarter on a 31-yard field goal by Loretto, but the mistake-prone Aggies again put on a heartwarming display of charity in the following 10 minutes with two turnovers, and CSUN made hay at the once-agricultural school, scoring 10 points to take a 13-10 halftime lead.