While Cal State Fullerton prepared for its game against Idaho State this week, Bryan Riggs and Mark Stephenson were sharing a hospital room and swapping stories about their respective knee surgeries.
Riggs and Stephenson, two of the top pro prospects on the Titans, suffered season-ending--and career-threatening--knee injuries in last Saturday's 35-25 victory over Idaho State. The Titans were able to avoid serious injuries in opening losses to Nevada Reno and New Mexico State. They had no such luck in the season's third week.
Riggs, a linebacker, and Stephenson, an offensive guard, were the most serious casualties, but there were others.
Defensive tackle Ron McLean, a fifth-year senior, suffered strained knee ligaments. Offensive tackle Matt Fitts was bothered by a herniated disc. Neither will play today when the Titans visit the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Ida., to play defending Big Sky Conference champion Idaho. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
In one week, Fullerton went from injury free to Cal State Crutch. The situation has left Coach Gene Murphy rearranging the names on his depth chart, which seems to be getting more shallow each day. "We're just going to have to line up and play with what we have," Murphy said.
The injuries have forced some inexperienced Fullerton players to step into the lineup. Tom Holler, a redshirt freshman from La Quinta High School, will replace Stephenson. Sophomore Bill Jaquish will replace Riggs at linebacker. Dan Unger, a transfer from Fullerton College, will fill in for McLean, and sophomore Mike Oliver for Fitts.
The Vandals are 1-1 under first-year Idaho Coach Keith Gilbertson, a former Los Angeles Express assistant. Quarterback Scott Linehan completed 30 of 48 passes for 361 yards and 3 touchdowns in last week's 34-21 loss to Central Michigan.
Defensively, the Vandals were susceptible to the run last week, giving up 397 yards. That could mean another big performance for Titan running back Rick Calhoun, who had 204 yards and 3 touchdowns in 31 carries in the victory over Idaho State.