Kelly Skipper, Fresno State’s 5-foot 6-inch, 180-pound tailback, has made a career out of pounding out short yardage for the Bulldogs.
But in a Big West Conference game against Cal State Fullerton Saturday, there was nothing doing. Skipper carried the ball 16 times, and all he had to show for 15 of those carries was 16 yards.
That one other carry, though, was the game’s biggest play, a 23-10 Fresno victory in front of 5,108 at Santa Ana Stadium.
On a third-quarter, second-and-10 play at Fresno’s 30, Skipper got the ball on a draw and started churning away. Thirty yards downfield, a would-be Fullerton tackler had him by the jersey, but Skipper broke loose, finishing with a 70-yard touchdown run, the longest of the senior’s career.
The touchdown broke a 10-10 tie, putting Fresno State ahead for good. The Bulldogs (4-2 overall, 2-0 in conference play) added 2 fourth-quarter field goals and held off the mostly feeble attempts of Fullerton’s offense.
“I took the ball on a sprint draw, got a good block at the line of scrimmage, broke one tackle, and the one guy held on to my jersey for several yards,” said Skipper, who has started all 4 years. “He had my jersey, but he couldn’t stop my legs. I broke away from him and I was able to outrun the last guy to the goal line.”
That last player who pursued Skipper was an unlikely one--end A. J. Jenkins, who closed in on Skipper from 20 yards back but wasn’t able to stop the touchdown.
“Anytime you see a back or anybody break away, and you’re any kind of football player, you try to catch them,” Jenkins said. “I tried. It just didn’t go my way. . . . I thought I had a chance. I just ran out of field.”
The play was the game’s only major breakdown for the Fullerton defense, which allowed one other touchdown only after Fresno State’s Jeff Theisen recovered a fumble by William Robinson at the Fullerton 12. Two plays later, Fresno State’s Mark Barsotti hit Myron Jones with a short pass and Jones carried it in easily for a touchdown and a 10-3 third-quarter lead.
Every other time Fresno State drove deep, the Bulldogs were forced to settle for field goals. Steve Loop made 3 of 4, with a long of 33 yards. He missed a 22-yarder in the first quarter.
The Titans--particularly the defense--left bitterly disappointed.
“I feel like crying,” said Fullerton linebacker Jerry Leggett as he left the field after an 18-tackle performance. “I feel we were the better team, way better. But they beat us. . . . Point blank, we beat ourselves. They were not a better team, but the scoreboard showed they won.”
Fullerton (2-4, 2-1), which has struggled offensively all season, continued the trend Saturday.
“Our players may think we were the better team today, but I have to disagree,” Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said. “Not today.”
Among Fullerton’s mistakes were drive-killing penalties in the first quarter alone, an interception by Fresno State off the chest of receiver Tony Dill at the Fresno 31, and a fumbled pitch at the Fresno 24.
And that was just the first half.
In the fourth quarter, with the game still within reach, Fullerton managed only 2 first downs on 4 possessions.
“Most of the time, we stopped ourselves,” said Fullerton quarterback Dan Speltz, who completed 11 of 29 passes for 122 yards with 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown. “I give credit to our defense. I’m sure before the season is out the offense will play a good game, too.”