Mark Collins, a three-time All-Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. defensive back, is in the process of making a name for himself as a rookie with the New York Giants. His departure was one reason Cal State Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy was concerned about his secondary entering Saturday’s season opener at Nevada Reno.
It appears his concern was more than justified.
Reno quarterback Eric Beavers pretty much had his way with an inexperienced group of Fullerton defensive backs, passing for 316 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Wolf Pack to a 49-3 nonconference victory in front of 13,062 in Mackay Stadium.
It was second-worst defeat in Fullerton history (the Titans lost to Southern Mississippi, 70-0, in 1975) and the worst in Murphy’s tenure with the Titans.
So, what’s the difference between NCAA Division I-A and I-AA football? Well, based on the last two meetings between Fullerton and Reno, it’s about 73 points in favor of the alleged little guys. As if Saturday’s proceedings weren’t humbling enough for the Titans, they still have the memory of a 30-3 loss to the Wolf Pack last Sept. 14 in Santa Ana Stadium.
Fullerton free safety Tom Phillips, the only returning starter in the Titans’ now-beleaguered secondary, said:
“This is the second straight year we’ve just been embarrassed by a Division I-AA team. It just kills me.”
It wasn’t exactly therapy for Murphy, who watched Beavers complete 16 of 21 passes in helping the Wolf Pack roll up a 592-242 advantage in total offense. Beavers had touchdown passes of 28, 34, 32 and 53 yards and left the game as Reno’s leader in career-passing yardage. He entered the game needing 280 yards to break the school mark set by Jeff Tisdel in 1974-77. After a big first half, the record came on Beaver’s first pass attempt of the third quarter, a 34-yard touchdown play to Scott Threde.
By that time, Murphy had already begun counting the minutes until the final gun. “I just wanted the dang clock to keep going,” he said.
Fullerton’s long afternoon began on the game’s first possession. Rick Calhoun returned the opening kickoff to the Fullerton 34. Three plays and an illegal procedure penalty later, the Titans were punting from their 28.
The kickoff return team was the most effective part of the Titans’ game. But then, it had plenty of opportunities. Between them, Calhoun and Todd White returned five kickoffs for 200 yards in the first half. But all the Fullerton offense could accomplish with that field position was Lee Strandley’s 38-yard field goal with 38 seconds left in the half.
“The most positive thing for us is that we got to play a lot of people, and we ran back some kicks,” Murphy said. “Other than that, we weren’t a very good football team.”
Beavers was 14 of 18 passing in the first half, and that included two passes that were dropped and another that was questionably ruled incomplete, nullifying a 43-yard gain by Bryan Calder.
“They have a pretty young secondary, and we have pretty experienced receivers,” Beavers said. “We felt pretty good about being able to get people open.”
A 35-yard gain on a Beavers-to-Charvez Foger screen pass set up the Wolf Pack’s first score. Beavers threw for a 13-yard gain to Threde to move the ball to the Fullerton 3, and Foger carried it in from there on the following play to culminate a nine-play, 80-yard drive. Marty Zendejas kicked his first of seven extra points to give Reno a 7-0 lead with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter.
On its ensuing possession, Fullerton ran three plays that netted four yards, and Reno quickly got the ball back on its 24 after a Titan punt. This time, Beavers needed 10 plays to cover 76 yards. He completed all four passing attempts on the drive, including 16-yard gains to Tony Logan and Lucius Floyd, the latter of which set up Foger’s 10-yard touchdown run.
On Fullerton’s next possession, Bill Bonsall recovered a Dill fumble at the Reno 48. This time, Beavers dropped back on first down and threw deep to Floyd, who had no defenders to beat because none were near him. The play went for a 51-yard touchdown that extended Reno’s lead to 21-0.
The Wolf Pack made it 28-0 with 1:47 to play in the half on a 38-yard scoring pass from Beavers to Kevin Claiborne.
Strandley has the dubious distinction of being the only Fullerton player to score in the last two meetings between these teams. It was his 52-yard field goal that saved the Titans from being shutout last season. His 38-yarder this time was set up by White’s 61-yard kickoff return, a 13-yard run by Calhoun and an 18-yard pass play from Dills to John Gibbs.
The start of the game was delayed about 25 minutes because of an injury to a Marine Corps sky diver who was supposed to parachute into the stadium with the game ball before kickoff. Paramedics at the scene said Sgt. Maj. Rick Scriven suffered a broken right leg and concussion when he landed hard on the stadium turf after seemingly losing control of his speed on descent.