Matadors Fend Off Hayward

Times Staff Writer

What happened to Cal State Northridge at University Stadium in Hayward on Saturday was predicted about every 15 minutes during every practice session the Matadors had last week by various members of the coaching staff.

Hayward is winless but dangerous, they said. Hayward will play better in its home opener, they said. Knocking us off would make Hayward’s season, they said.

And did the Northridge players believe their coaches?


Until Saturday, that is, when the Pioneers ran wild on a Northridge defense that hadn’t been scored on in the previous two-and-a-half games.


Northridge managed to win, 38-27, but Coach Bob Burt was red-faced afterward.

Not from embarrassment--from screaming. Over the noise of a crowd of less than 500, his voice often could be heard trying to exhort his team.

But, he said afterward, “there was no powder in the keg.”

Hayward rushed for 217 yards against a Northridge defense that had allowed only 25 rushing yards on 72 attempts during its previous two games.

Pioneer tailback Lamar Kirkland accounted for 185 of those yards on 20 carries, including an 80-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Informed that he had almost doubled his season rushing output (216 yards coming into the game) against the nation’s top-rated Division II rushing defense, Kirkland remarked, “They were No. 1? Really? It didn’t seem like we were playing the best.”

Burt didn’t recognize it, either.

“Our defense stunk,” he said. “We just didn’t show up. It was purely emotional. We knew what we wanted to do and when we executed, everything was fine. When we executed. We told them all week that we’d have to play hard. Their attitude was ‘sure.’ ”

Burt can at least be credited for keeping his frustrations under control. Tim Tierney, Hayward’s coach, was whistled for a costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the fourth quarter after bending an official’s ear once too often.


The Matadors were leading, 31-27, at the time and the call gave Northridge a first down at the Hayward 18 instead of a second down at the 33. Two plays later, Albert Fann burst up the middle for a 7-yard touchdown, his second of the game, and the Matadors had breathing room.

Fann, a freshman from Cleveland High, rushed for 115 yards on 15 carries to lead a Northridge ground game that was every bit as impressive as Hayward’s.

One first-half drive was simply Fann-tastic. Northridge went 66 yards on four carries by Fann, the last a 20-yard scoring burst over right tackle.

The Matadors rushed for 280 yards, as Richard Brown, who made his debut at fullback, added 94 yards.

Northridge also threw effectively. Quarterback Rob Huffman attempted only 12 passes, completing six, but two went for touchdowns.

Keith Wright was on the receiving end of both scoring tosses, giving him seven catches this season, four of which have put points on the board.


Hayward, borrowing a page out of Sonoma State’s playbook of the previous week, packed its defense near the line of scrimmage, blitzed linebackers and had its secondary play if-you-can-beat-me-you-can-defeat-me man-to-man coverage.

Wright’s second catch of the game went for 29 yards and CSUN’s first touchdown. His last was for 30 yards and gave the Matadors a 31-21 lead in the waning seconds of the third quarter.

In both instances, Hayward defenders were so crossed up it was as though they had their cleats tied together.

All of which made a hero of an offense that had been completely befuddled in a 13-6 win over Sonoma last week.

“We matured a lot today,” Burt said. “Every time their offense scored we came back and scored when we could have folded up the tent.”

Hayward (0-4) never scored without Northridge quickly retaliating.

The Matadors (3-1) jumped to a 10-0 lead and appeared on the verge of breaking the game open when the Pioneers cashed in on a mental error by Kip Dukes, CSUN’s punt returner.


Dukes tried to field a bouncing punt, but it bounded off his hand and over his head. Hayward’s Earl Butler recovered the ball at the Northridge 28, and the Pioneers drove for a touchdown. It was the first time Hayward had scored in the first half this season.

Quarterback Russ Neal, who dove over from the one for the score, entered the game on that drive in the place of starter Rick Neugebauer, who suffered a wrist injury. Neal, who had not played since starting Hayward’s first game, sparked the Pioneers.

“All of a sudden we came together as a team,” Kirkland said, crediting Neal. “The reads were there. The right releases were there. He did a heck of a job.”