On Saturday, Earl Williams was the most appealing story in a Cal State Fullerton uniform.
Who could resist a fourth-string tailback who spent all last week running Pacific's plays for the scout team--and then ran for 49 yards on 11 carries and returned 2 kickoffs for 71 yards in the real game?
This is a fellow who sang for a group of boosters Monday, introducing the tune as "one of my favorites." He sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Unfortunately for the Titans, he also is a fellow who sat at lunch Monday with his right arm in a sling, waiting as Coach Gene Murphy cut the food on his plate for him.
Those Titan tailbacks. They keep going down with injuries. And until now, the Titans have come up with replacements who have seemed every bit as good.
As of Monday, the tailbacks are so battered a bunch that the starter against 18th-ranked Wyoming Saturday may well be fullback Tim Byrnes.
The disabled list:
--Michael Moore, the No. 1 tailback, is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
--Michael Pringle, the backup, started Fullerton's 13-10 victory over Pacific but left after only eight carries after aggravating an injury in his lower leg. Trainer Jerry Lloyd said Pringle is probable for the Wyoming game. But Fullerton coaches make no secret of the fact that they would rather hold him for a conference game against Fresno State in two weeks than risk aggravating the injury.
--Palente Henry, the third-stringer, ran for 21 yards on 7 carries Saturday, but he injured his wrist on a play late in the game on which he fumbled.
"I would like to think Palente would be the starting tailback," Jim Chaney, who coaches the running backs, said.
Not only is Henry's condition uncertain, but he also missed practice Monday without notifying the coaching staff he would be absent. Murphy said that Henry "will run," but that the missed practice does not mean he can not play if able.
--Williams, who has a separated shoulder, is not expected to be able to play.
--Jon Bell, a former running back who has been playing wide receiver, didn't practice Monday because of a calf injury.
Saturday was a very, very bad day for the Fullerton offensive line. Before practice Monday, guard Dennis Ellis sat and held his head in his hands.
"Right now, personally, I blame myself," said Ellis, a 6-foot 1-inch, 290-pound senior. "I feel like I'm a good player, but for some reason I'm not getting the job done."
The offensive line played so poorly Saturday that coaches Larry Manfull and Don Morel both declined to talk about it Monday.
But Ellis had a point to make in defense of quarterback Dan Speltz, who has struggled some.
"It needs to be pointed out that Dan can't do anything behind this line," Ellis said. "It's not fair for there to be that much pressure on him. . . . Sometimes, shoot, if I was a quarterback, I'd be scared to be behind this line."
The problem isn't a matter of missed assignments, Ellis said.
"We're on the right people. We're just not blocking them," he said.
The offensive line will be under even more pressure this week against Wyoming's defense, which operates out of a 6-1 alignment and stunts often.
"Speltz can get better. He will get better," Murphy said. "But he wasn't getting time to look at (all the receivers) Saturday. And he won't this Saturday, either."
Fullerton ranked last in paid attendance at home games among Division I schools in 1987.
After 2,924 gathered for Fullerton's home opener against Pacific Saturday, Murphy described the crowd as "wives, family, friends, creditors you owe money to, and our good boosters."
Fullerton's joking claim is that the surest way to make the top 20 is to schedule the Titans. And sure enough, on Monday, five days before it will play host to Fullerton, Wyoming made the Associated Press poll for the first time in almost 20 years, entering the rankings at No. 18.
Michael Pringle's kickoff-return average of 33.7 yards ranks fourth in the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. Barry Sanders of Oklahoma State is the leader with a 43.3 average. An NCAA report that lists John Gibbs as second in punt returns is incorrect because of a statistical error . . . San Jose State tailback Johnny Johnson, who gained 217 yards against Washington, was the Big West Conference offensive player of the week. Utah State free safety Travis Clark was the defensive player of the week after intercepting two passes in the Aggies' victory over New Mexico State.
Volleyball player Susan Herman, Fullerton's career leader in kills, is 10th in the NCAA with an average of 4.53 a game. She ranks third in the Big West, trailing only NCAA leader Teee Williams of Hawaii (5.55) and No. 2 Tara Cross of Cal State Long Beach (5.12). Sophomore Beth Rosipalja has been the best performer of the cross-country season, according to Coach John Elders. "She did well last year but she's really running beyond my expectations," Elders said. Elders called Rosipalja a contender for all-conference honors, which recognize the top 10 performers.