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Titans Put Up Battle but Lose to Fresno, 30-20

Times Staff Writer

The Titans of Cal State Fullerton--unhappy wanderers of college football--continued their 1986 Magic-Less Misery Tour Thursday night. In what was once scheduled to be their homecoming game, the Titans got another lesson on the hazards of the road.

Fresno State quarterback Kevin Sweeney became the third quarterback in NCAA history to pass for more than 10,000 yards in a career and James Williams rushed for 119 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown with 3:51 to play, to lead the Bulldogs to a 30-20 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. victory in front of 27,222 spectators in Bulldog Stadium.

Fullerton, despite being outgained by 171 yards, forced the Bulldogs to score 10 points in the fourth quarter to get a victory that some thought would come easily. It was another moral victory for the Titans, but one that will show up as their eighth road loss in eight tries this season. It was Fresno’s 11th straight home victory.

The Bulldogs, still hoping for an opportunity to play in a bowl game, are 4-1 in PCAA play, 7-1 overall. Fullerton dropped to 1-4, 2-8 and needs one victory in its last two games to avoid finishing with its worst record.

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“That’s as hard as we can play,” Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said. “We did a good job of coming back. This is a 2-8 team, but their mark is that they haven’t given up. But there are no danged moral victories when you’re 2-8.”

Sweeney, whose pursuit of Doug Flutie’s NCAA career passing record has been slowed by tender shoulders, appeared healthy Thursday night. The son of Fresno Coach Jim Sweeney completed 13 of 20 passes for 189 yards to move within 463 yards of Flutie’s mark. He has 10,116 yards passing, and has three more games to play.

“Like I’ve said before we don’t want the record to get out of perspective,” Kevin Sweeney said. “Winning games is the main thing. Now, we’re 7-1. It may not have been pretty all of the time, but we have to win football games.”

Sweeney didn’t have much time to celebrate his milestones against the Titans. He was too busy trying to keep Fullerton from salvaging a large chunk of their season with an upset on national television.

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Thanks largely to a defense that would bend almost to the breaking point before snapping back, Fullerton found itself in a 13-13 tie entering the fourth quarter and a 20-20 tie with 8:31 to play. The Titans may have been outgained, but they weren’t outplayed.

Len Strandley’s longest field goal of the season--a 42-yard line drive with the wind at his back--tied it at 13-13 with 17 seconds left in the third quarter. It was set up by two of the Titans’ long list of big defensive plays. Defensive tackle Ron McLean fought off a blocker to sack Sweeney for a 12-yard loss and force the Bulldogs to attempt a 35-yard field goal. James Howard blocked the kick and recovered for the Titans to give them the ball at their 25 yard line.

The Titans then drove to the Fresno 25 to set up Strandley’s field goal. The momentum that came with it didn’t last long. Brock Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Fullerton 28. Five plays later, Anthony Mosley ran it in from one yard out to give Fresno a 20-13 lead with 13:58 to play.

The Titans came back with one of their best offensive drives of the season. They moved 67 yards in 11 plays with quarterback Ronnie Barber hitting fullback Mark Hood in the end zone for a 18-yard touchdown. Strandley’s point after tied it at 20-20 at the 8:31 mark.

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Fresno responded with an 11-play, 67-yard drive. A 23-yard run by Mosley and 12-yard gain by Kelly Skipper led to Williams one-yard scoring run. The Bulldogs added a 32-yard field goal by Barry Belli with 42 seconds remaining to provide the final margin.

Titan running back Rick Calhoun rebounded from a sub-par performance last Saturday against Hawaii to finish with 109 yards in 26 carries. Most of those, according to Murphy, came after an injury that Calhoun tried to keep to himself.

“Calhoun probably shouldn’t have played after the first quarter,” Murphy said. “He took a shot in the back of the head and the back and played in a lot of pain. Another player came to us at halftime to let us know. Ricky wouldn’t say anything.”


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