The smallest guy on the football field got to play bouncer Saturday night. And what a job he did.
Curtis Delgardo, Portland State’s 5-foot, 5-inch, 165-pound tailback, knocked Cal State Northridge on its collective keister, 45-13, in a Western Football Conference game at North Campus Stadium.
Who says little guys don’t pack a punch?
Delgardo, a flyweight by football standards, gained an average of 10 yards every time he touched the ball. Unfortunately for the Matadors, that happened 23 times.
The rundown (pun intended):
One hundred and thirteen yards--and touchdown runs of 7, 4 and 16 yards--on 19 rushes.
Eighteen yards on a pass reception.
Forty-nine yards on a punt return.
Fifty-three yards on 2 kickoff returns.
“He’s quick, elusive, whatever you want to call it,” CSUN linebacker David Benfield said of Delgardo. “He’s a good back. If he was larger, it might be easier, but he ducks in and out of that big line of theirs real fast.”
When Delgardo’s onslaught was over--perhaps by the time it was half over--any hopes the Matadors had of contending for a WFC championship for the third consecutive season had been flattened.
Northridge, which has placed second in the WFC the past two seasons, has lost 2 of its 3 conference games.
Overall, the Matadors, who came in ranked No. 6 in the nation (another example of ratings being an imperfect science), dropped to 5-2.
Two losses might still get CSUN into the playoffs if the selection committee manages to overlook the fact that the Matadors’ losses have come by a total of 63 points.
Coach Bob Burt of Northridge is still hopeful. “Nine-two still makes the playoffs a possibility, I think,” he said. “We lost to a good football team and we lost to a fluke.”
The fluke, presumably, took place 2 weeks ago--a 38-7 loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Burt certainly was not referring to 11th-ranked Portland. “That’s as good of a Division II football team as you’re going to find,” Burt said of the Vikings. “Losing to them is no crime.”
Portland is 4-2-1 overall and 3-0 in the WFC. The Vikings have won 9 conference games in a row dating to 1986, when CSUN won, 34-0, the last time the teams played at the Matadors’ home field.
Delgardo played poorly as a freshman starter 2 seasons ago.
“I was young and made a lot of key mistakes to put us out of the game,” he said. “Tonight was like a flashback. We came into the game saying this was going to be pay-back.”
The Portland offense is not a one-man show, although it at times resembled one against Northridge. Delgardo isn’t even considered the Vikings’ main threat.
That distinction goes to All-American quarterback Chris Crawford, who quietly managed to complete 16 of 28 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns. In all, Portland outgained Northridge, 453 yards to 213.
Delgardo’s third touchdown--an ad-lib 16-yard run after a fumbled snap--touched off a rather odd moment in the booth of CSUN Athletic Director Bob Hiegert.
At almost the same moment Delgardo went scampering over the goal line, a wild cheer went up from the section. Kirk Gibson’s homer that enabled the Dodgers to win Game 1 of the World Series was clearing the fence. Someone had a miniature television.
It was one of few cheers from the Northridge side during the second half.
Delgardo went to work quickly, scoring twice and accounting for 149 yards during the first half.
His 4-yard run on the last play of the first quarter gave Portland the lead for good, 14-7. The play, a pitch to the left, wasn’t spectacular. But the effort was, considering he had to be short of breath.
On the play before, Delgardo had weaved 49 yards through the Matador defense on a punt return.
Portland extended its lead to 24-7 at the half on a 10-yard scoring pass from Crawford to Tim Corrigan and a 21-yard field goal by J. J. Brumfield.
Northridge’s touchdowns came on an 8-yard pass from quarterback Rob Huffman to Robert Guillen in the first quarter that tied the score, 7-7, and a 14-yard run by Derrick White with 3:22 left.
“They were a better football team,” Burt said. “No one in this conference is going to touch them.”
And the Matadors? “I still think we’re a pretty good football team.”
The coach even managed to find a silver lining in the loss. “They’re all seniors,” he said of the Vikings. “We’re all juniors.”
Indeed, the Portland starting lineup was mostly upperclassmen. With one notable exception: Delgardo.