It’s No Snap for Fullerton as Ragin’ Cajuns Trounce Titans, 24-9
There are times when the most ordinary tasks become extraordinarily difficult, and it was clearly one of those times for quarterback Dan Speltz and the Cal State Fullerton football team Saturday night.
You have to walk before you can run.
And you have to get the snap safely from center before you can score.
That task occasionally seemed impossible for Speltz, who was making his debut with the Titans in their opener against Southwestern Louisiana.
He fumbled the snap six times, and lost it five times. That alone was plenty to put Southwestern Louisiana on the way to a 24-9 victory in front of 11,457 in a steady rain at Cajun Field.
Speltz, who helped lead El Camino College to an undefeated season last year, had a trying debut as a Titan.
“You could come up with excuses, but I’d rather not,” Speltz said. “I made a lot of mistakes. But even on a day like this, with the rain and the wet balls, you’ve always got to find a way to get it done. I didn’t tonight.”
Fullerton, which fell behind, 17-0, in the first half, didn’t gain a yard from scrimmage until 10 minutes into the game.
On their first possession, the Titans lost a total of three yards, and would have lost more except for an offsides penalty.
On their second, Speltz fumbled the snap on the first play from scrimmage, and Mike Book recovered for Southwestern Louisiana.
On the first down of their third possession, tailback Michael Moore gained six yards. But four plays later, Speltz fumbled another snap, and Southwestern Louisiana’s Greg Eagles recovered.
The tone was set.
Southwestern Louisiana had scored on its first possession, with Steve McKinney capping a 55-yard drive with a 1-yard run.
The Ragin’ Cajuns made it 10-0 with a 22-yard field goal by Mike Lemoine after Speltz’s first fumble.
And quarterback Brian Mitchell--who fumbled just one snap and rushed for 69 yards and passed for 57, made it 17-0 with a 1-yard run with 12 minutes left in the first half.
Fullerton didn’t score until just under eight minutes remained in the half, and the offense had little to do with the score.
The Titans’ Kevin Henderson intercepted a pass off the chest of a receiver at Southwestern Louisiana’s 48-yard line and returned it to the 27.
The Titan offense then advanced the ball two yards in the next three plays, and Stan Lambert came on to kick a 42-yard field goal.
The ineptitude of Fullerton’s offense was surprising in part because Speltz had looked so good in the preseason.
But the Titans weren’t sure how their inexperienced offensive line would perform.
Other than Speltz’s passing in the second half, the biggest part of Fullerton’s offense came from Moore, who rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries, with a long of 27. But most of his success came on runs to the outside. He had little success on repeated attempts up the middle.
“Our offense, we have to do a better job establishing the run,” said Fullerton Coach Gnee Murphy said.
Fullerton had better success in the second half. Speltz, who was 3 for 13 with 2 interceptions in the first half, finished 21 for 31 with 2 interceptions, passing for 142 yards.
Fullerton scored a touchdown in the second half on Moore’s 1-yard run, but Lambert’s extra-point kick was blocked, leaving it 17-9. And the Fullerton defense, despite starting its work in dismal field position all evening--the average was the 50-yard line--held the Ragin’ Cajuns to just one touchdown in the second half.
“We got off to a slow start and then started playing hard later,” said linebacker Bill Bryan. “Things just didn’t go the way we wanted them to.”
Murphy, judging the opener, called it “mediocre"--probably grading it that high only because the Titans have lost their past four openers, and were outscored, 93-3, in their past two.
“We have a lot more work to do on offense,” he said.
Speltz and Murphy both said the ball was not kept dry, but neither called that the most important thing in the game.
“We had a lot of guys playing for the first time as starters,” Speltz said. “You’re just not going to have the same confidence. We’re young everywhere. We made mistakes in all areas.
“I think we just made too many mistakes ourselves. I don’t think that was a team we couldn’t beat. But I don’t think we lost our composure. We just hurt ourselves early. When it was 17-9, I thought we might still win.”