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Titans Hope Their Luck Improves in Louisiana

Times Staff Writer

The last time the Cal State Fullerton football team heard the words bayou and jambalaya, the Titans also got a lesson in Louisiana football geography.

Baton Rouge is no place for Fullerton. A 56-12 loss to Louisiana State there last year made that emphatic.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Sep. 05, 1988 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Monday September 5, 1988 Orange County Edition Sports Part 3 Page 15 Column 6 Sports Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Cal State Fullerton quarterback Dan Speltz completed 12 of 31 passes in the Titans’ 24-9 loss to Southwestern Louisiana on Saturday. The number of completions was incorrect in Sunday’s Times.

This year, the Titans open their season 70 miles west of Baton Rouge against Southwestern Louisiana, a team that should prove to be somewhat closer to Fullerton’s level. Nevada Las Vegas, which lost to Fullerton last year, opened its season against the Ragin’ Cajuns in Lafayette last season and lost, 21-10.

That’s indication enough to the Titans that this game is more palatable than their last in this neck of the woods. The Titans flew into Baton Rouge Friday and bused to Lafayette. Don’t imagine that anyone complained.

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Most of the Titans will be happy to replace memories of Louisiana with something more pleasant, although Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy is very wary of Southwestern Louisiana.

“LSU is in the past,” said James Howard, a cornerback and one of four co-captains. “That’s something we learned from. This year is going to be different. We’re the boys from Cally and we’re going to prove to them that we can play football, too.”

There is at least one Fullerton player who relishes the return--Stan Lambert, whose school-record four field goals against LSU accounted for all of Fullerton’s points.

“Louisiana is Louisiana,” Lambert said. “I’m excited about it. That’s where I had my best game. I enjoyed that plane ride home.”

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This Southwestern Louisiana team is much like Fullerton in some ways.

Both teams acknowledge that defense is their strength.

Chris Gannon, a 6-foot 5-inch, 250-pound end who had six sacks last season, is the best of Southwestern Louisiana’s nine returning starters.

Fullerton, led by end A.J. Jenkins, has a defense made up of a strong returning group and several key transfers.

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But both teams have worries on offense.

Southwestern Louisiana has a proven quarterback in Brian Mitchell, who passed for 1,100 yards last season and rushed for 767. But he’ll be playing behind an offensive line that might include two freshmen and two sophomores.

Fullerton quarterback Dan Speltz, who led El Camino College to an undefeated season last year, also will be playing behind a fairly inexperienced line.

“We’ve got so many new kids, we’re excited to see what’s going to happen,” Murphy said. “People talk about our defense, but I’ve never seen them play for us. What happens when they get their backs up against the wall?”

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Fullerton is opening on the road for the sixth consecutive year, and has lost its past three openers--the last two by a combined score of 93-3, to Nevada Reno and Hawaii.

"(The losses) could be because they’re all on the road, it could be the opponent, it could be the preparation,” Murphy said.

“A lot of people try to schedule nonconference openers against teams they can beat. We don’t have that luxury,” Murphy said, referring to Fullerton’s habit of scheduling difficult nonconference opponents in order to get large financial guarantees.

Fullerton athletic officials have not released the amount of the guarantees for any of this season’s games.

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“If hard work and discipline have much to do with the final score, I think we have a pretty good chance of winning,” Murphy said.

A steady rain limited Fullerton’s practice Friday to an hour in shorts and no pads.

The Titans worked on special teams plays.

“It was good for our kids,” Murphy said. “They haven’t practiced in the rain. It’s important as far as making snaps and for our kickers.”

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Rain also is forecast today.

Titan Notes

Darren Emery, a junior defensive end has been declared academically ineligible. . . . Injuries, academic ineligibilities and resignations have depleted the team to 79 players, not including five kickers. “We do not even have two-deep up front on either side of the ball,” Coach Gene Murphy said. . . . Offensive lineman Kevin Bernell (knee sprain) is out for this game and doubtful for next week’s game against West Virginia. . . . Defensive tackle Alex Stewart may not start having missed practice time because of nagging injuries, but probably will play. . . . Mike Kent, a freshman tight end from Esperanza High School who has played with the first unit because of injuries to players in front of him, did not make the trip. “We’re redshirting him,” Murphy said. “The reason that’s a tough decision is he’s come on real strong. But he’s 18 years old and hasn’t reached his full growth potential yet, and that makes a difference blocking.” Tight ends James Noel and Buford Halton, who had been injured during the preseason, both made the trip. Damien Macaluso, who started the final game of last season at tight end because of injuries to the No. 1 and No. 2 tight ends, has been switched back to tight end after spending the preseason at center.


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