Rob Huffman has never been a quarterback who earned high marks for flair.
His spirals aren't very tight, his mobility is limited and his arm should never be compared to any type of percussive weapon.
Yet Huffman's teams, first at Glendale College and now at Cal State Northridge, have won more than their share of games with him playing a key role. A major reason: He usually will risk taking flak for a sack rather than toss an end-over-ender to a defender.
Usually, but not always.
Huffman completed 18 of 32 passes for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns against Portland State on Saturday at Civic Stadium. But he also threw three interceptions, all in the second quarter, as Northridge lost, 38-22.
In 122 attempts over eight previous games, Huffman had only one pass picked off.
"I made more mistakes today than I made all year," he said.
And at an inopportune time. Portland State secured the championship of the Western Football Conference and ended Northridge's hopes of gaining a bid to the Division II playoffs.
The third-ranked Vikings, playing before a WFC-record crowd of 11,929, ended their regular-season schedule with a school record ninth win against a loss and a tie.
Northridge, which has one game left, fell to 6-4. If the Matadors beat Cal State Sacramento next Saturday, they could finish in a second-place tie for the second year in a row.
If nothing else, Northridge became the only Division II team this season to successfully move the ball against the Vikings. The Matadors gained 394 yards against a Portland team that had allowed only 20 points to five previous WFC opponents.
Portland's loss and tie were against Division I-AA teams.
The Matadors outplayed the Vikings at times but couldn't cash in on Portland's mistakes--four fumbles--while making too many of their own.
Huffman's first interception came when Viking linebacker Butch Woolfolk stepped in front of CSUN tight end Brian Bowers in the end zone. Huffman said he saw Woolfolk, but thought he could loft the ball over his head. "I should have thrown it away," he said.
The last one, with 2:18 left in the half, was the key play of the game.
With the ball at the Northridge 14, Huffman backpedaled and attempted a screen pass to tailback Albert Fann, only to hit Portland defensive end Anthony Spears right in the numbers. Spears held on and ran eight yards for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 17-7 advantage at the half.
The Matadors had run the same play earlier for a substantial gain. "They fooled me once, but I'm no fool," Spears said. "I saw it coming the second time."
And it took Huffman out of the game. He was replaced by freshman Sherdrick Bonner, who played the last two series of the first half and the entire third quarter.
Portland made it 24-10 on its first possession of the second half, a nifty seven-play, 74-yard drive capped by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Chris Crawford to Tim Corrigan, who beat Kip Dukes deep down the sideline.
Northridge trimmed the lead to eight when Richard Brown raced 62 yards on a fake punt midway through the third period. Brown, the lone blocking back, took the snap, broke a tackle and danced past Corrigan, Portland's deep man, at the 27 on his way to the end zone.