Sometimes it is not whether you win or lose, but how long you stay in the game.
There was another nonconference game for Cal State Fullerton Saturday, and another mismatch. This one, against 18th-ranked Wyoming, was perceived as one of such proportions that oddsmakers declined to set a line.
But the Titans, who by now have a handle on the delicate psychology of playing the big boys and maintaining more than a smidgen of self-respect, made a game of it--for a while, anyway.
In the end, Wyoming took a 35-16 victory in front of 22,143 at War Memorial Stadium, remaining unbeaten at 5-0.
“We want to play with the best of them for as long as we can,” said Tim Byrnes, a sturdy if somewhat slow-footed fullback who was forced into a debut at tailback because of injuries to three of the Titans’ four tailbacks. He responded with the best day of his career, catching 4 passes for 58 yards and rushing for another 50 in 11 carries.
Fullerton, which even led, 3-0, at the outset, was right in this one in the third quarter, when it trailed, 21-16, after quarterback Dan Speltz directed touchdown drives on consecutive possessions.
But the game began to slip away when Randy Welniak, Wyoming’s double-threat quarterback, found Dabby Dawson wide open. Dawson eluded a tackler before taking the ball into the end zone on a 70-yard pass play that stretched the lead to 28-16.
By Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy’s reckoning, the Titans were in it a bit longer, until about 10 minutes remained, when Welniak struck deep again, this time with a pass to Tom Kilpatrick that went for a 60-yard touchdown for the final points.
“It was winnable until the last touchdown,” Murphy said.
After that, Murphy, looking ahead to a Big West Conference game against Fresno State next week, started pulling players from a lineup already thinned by injuries.
It was too late for wide receiver John Gibbs, who is almost certainly lost for the season after dislocating his knee on a punt return earlier in the fourth quarter.
Gibbs, who caught 2 passes for 28 yards, was the Titans’ second-leading receiver with 11 catches in the first 4 games.
In the early going, Fullerton’s defense dominated Wyoming, not allowing a first down until well into the second quarter. But after that, Welniak became more of a running threat, and built the victory on 4 big plays, including the 2 long touchdown passes and 2 open-field runs that accounted for 55 yards of a 73-yard touchdown drive late in the second quarter.
“We decided we just had to get going,” said Welniak, who passed for 274 yards and ran for 50.
Speltz completed 16 of 27 passes for 244 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown pass to Rocky Palamara, who caught the overthrown ball one-handed and carried it in.
For Fullerton (2-3), it was the fourth game against a top-20 team in the past 2 seasons. Fullerton lost to Louisiana State and Florida last season, and lost to West Virginia, 45-10, in the second game of this season.