The blue and white towels were twirling overhead as University of San Diego quarterback Brendan Murphy stepped toward the line. The Toreros were 5 yards away from upsetting Occidental with 39 seconds remaining in Saturday night’s game at Torero Field.
But a few seconds later, those cheers turned to boos and chants of “We were robbed!”
Murphy’s pass to receiver Ken Zampese fell short, and Occidental had held on for a 20-16 nonconference victory.
Zampese could not conceal his color--an angry red.
“I caught it, no question about it,” Zampese said of the pass that was ruled to have bounced off the turf. “The side judge didn’t want no part of the call because he’s chicken.
“I feel very robbed.”
Murphy, who afterward was close to tears, did not agree.
“It was a bad throw,” he said. “I underthrew him. It’s very frustrating to get that close and have good protection and have everything click.”
And 2 plays earlier, USD was even closer to the victory at the 2, but receiver Ken Jones dropped a perfectly thrown pass in the back of the end zone.
On the next play, linebacker David Hodges sacked Murphy at the 5, setting the stage for the controversial call.
Occidental (5-1, 4-0) took 2 consecutive delay-of-game penalties on its 1-yard line with 4 minutes to play. Finally, punter Jeff Bedell stepped out of the end zone, taking an intentional safety to make the score 20-16.
The Tigers, who scored 70 points against Pomona last Saturday, failed to score in the second half.
Still, Coach Dale Widolff was beaming afterward.
“My heart was right here,” said Widolff, pointing to his throat. “It was a great win. Those are so nice.”
Occidental quarterback Tony Werbelow was 17 for 22 for 176 yards and a touchdown.
Occidental’s Rob Leinbach led all receivers with 7 catches for 91 yards.
Rick Freeman made a leaping catch over defensive back Ty Barksdale to give the Tigers a 17-14 advantage with 35 seconds remaining in the first half. The spectacular grab capped a 7-play, 44-yard drive that began when Ben White returned a kickoff 49 yards.
Barksdale returned the ensuing kickoff 27 yards but fumbled.
Occidental’s Ronnie Cunningham recovered at the USD 38. Four plays later, Mark Collinsworth kicked a 42-yard field goal to extend the Tigers’ lead to 20-14 on the last play of the half.
The Toreros took the lead with 2:40 remaining in the second quarter when Barksdale punched in from 3 yards. Jim Morrison added the PAT to make the score 14-10.
The drive lasted 3:55 and took 11 plays.
Kevin Vegas scored from a yard out with 6:35 to play in the half, capping a 77-yard drive that gave Occidental a 10-7 lead.
Torero tailback Todd Jackson led all rushers with 107 yards in 20 carries.
USD took a 7-3 lead with 43 seconds left in the first quarter on a 9-yard pass from Murphy to Virgil Enriquez.