Fullerton Gets Its Guarantee, 45-10 : Titans Come Home With a Big Loss and a Bigger Check
By now, Cal State Fullerton has spent enough occasional days in the big-time to know that a team sometimes must take its pleasure in very little things.
Against West Virginia Saturday, the Titans played with dry footballs, watched Michael Pringle set a stadium record for kickoff returns and held the 12th-ranked Mountaineers to fewer than 50 points.
So, who was to complain?
With a 45-10 loss to West Virginia in front of 54,196 at Mountaineer Field on the books and a $100,000 guarantee check on the way to the bank, the Titans were about as satisfied a group of 35-point losers as you’ll ever find.
“We wanted to win the game, but we were realistic about it,” Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said. “Our football team came in and we played hard. We were prepared to play to win.”
Fullerton was coming off a dismal opening game, a 24-9 loss to Southwestern Louisiana in the rain. Quarterback Dan Speltz fumbled six snaps in that game and threw two interceptions.
“We improved as a football team today,” Murphy said. “We held onto the football, and that’s a positive thing for us.”
For West Virginia, it was the second warmup game of the season. Last week, the Mountaineers beat Coach Don Nehlen’s alma mater, Bowling Green, 62-14.
“Now the scrimmages are over and the wars begin,” said Nehlen, whose team will play Maryland Saturday and Pitt in two weeks. “We’ll find out next Saturday if we’re where we want to be. But you score more than 100 points in two games, so that’s not all bad.”
The performance of the day belonged to Mountaineer receiver Calvin Phillips, who caught 5 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown, tying the school record for yardage set by Oscar Patrick in 1968.
West Virginia took just a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on Charlie Baumann’s 28-yard field goal. But the Mountaineers scored three touchdowns in the second quarter and led, 38-0, before Fullerton scored.
The Titans managed just 175 yards of offense and had the unusual distinction of rushing for more yards (119) than they passed for (56).
“We still have a long way to go on offense,” Murphy said.
Fullerton drove as deep as the West Virginia 24-yard line in the second quarter, but Speltz was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third down and Stan Lambert missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt wide.
“Our offense hasn’t been able to consistently move the ball, but we’ve seen two good defenses,” Murphy said.
Lambert’s 29-yard field goal with 10 minutes to play averted a shutout, and the Titans scored a touchdown with 51 seconds remaining on a 12-yard pass from third-string quarterback Carlos Siragusa to John Gibbs.
“In the second half, we tried to come out and score, to have some semblance of dignity, and we scored a touchdown,” Murphy said.
Speltz completed 5 of 12 passes for 44 yards with 1 interception. The bulk of Fullerton’s offense came from Pringle, who rushed for 100 yards and, in his debut as the Titan kickoff returner, set a Mountaineer Field record for yardage with 202 yards on 6 returns.
His best run, a 68-yard return, gave Fullerton a first-and-10 at the West Virginia 29. But the Fullerton drive stalled, ending when Lambert missed a 49-yard field-goal attempt.
Major Harris, the Mountaineer quarterback, completed 7 of 11 passes for 166 yards with 1 interception, but did not play in the second half after sustaining a hip pointer on his final pass of the first half, one that was intercepted in the end zone by Mike Schaffel. Nehlen said he didn’t think the injury was serious, but held Harris out. Greg Jones threw for 122 yards as the backup.
Fullerton (0-2) opens its Big West Conference season against Nevada Las Vegas Saturday.
“It’s kind of a new season for us,” Speltz said. “We’ll be starting all over again. (All games) count, but it will be a bit different to be playing for the league championship.”