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Good Teams Bring Bad News to CSUN : Turnovers Prove Costly for Slumping Matadors in a 31-13 Loss to UC Davis

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

There is a trend developing with the Cal State Northridge football team and it implies that the Matadors could be in for a rough final 3 games.

They can only hope those games are not as tough as Saturday’s 31-13 loss to UC Davis at North Campus Stadium. Northridge has played just 3 teams with winning records and its record is 5-3. Care to guess which teams it lost to?

The Matadors’ next 2 opponents, Santa Clara and Cal State Sacramento, both have winning records. The other, Southern Utah, is 3-0 at home. CSUN’s season finale is at Southern Utah.

And Northridge is not just losing to good teams, it is losing big--by a combined margin of 114-33.

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Worse, the losses have all come at home--against Davis there were 4,015 witnesses.

What they saw Saturday was a team bent--and ultimately mangled--on self-destruction.

Northridge turned the ball over 5 times--4 times in the first half--and missed a chip-shot field goal after getting stuffed on 3 runs from the 1-yard line.

The total yardage figures for the game were nearly even, Davis gaining 330 yards and Northridge 326. The Matadors even had an edge in time of possession--normally a good sign--by 5 minutes.

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“We did everything but put the ball in the end zone,” Northridge Coach Bob Burt said.

Not even from the 1-yard line, which is where the Matadors had the ball on their first possession of the second half, trailing only 17-7.

From there, Albert Fann, who broke out of a 3-game slump by gaining 134 yards in 28 carries, was stuffed on 2 tries over right tackle.

Quarterback Rob Huffman then tried to roll left and run it in. He was knocked out of bounds.

Enter Abo Velasco, CSUN’s reliable kicker, who promptly hooked a 19-yard attempt.

With all its yardage, Northridge did manage 3 touchdowns--but one of them was for Davis.

That took place early in the second quarter when snapper Richard Ane and punter Trent Morgan failed to connect and Doug Williams fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a Davis touchdown.

That made it 17-7, and the score stayed that way until the half.

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“That punt really hurt them,” Davis Coach Jim Sochor said. “They gave us a touchdown. And anytime you have a goal-line stand like that and they miss a field goal . . . . those were big plays.”

Burt said the muffed punt was the game’s key play.

“Any points there and we would have been fine,” he said.

The win was a big one for Davis (5-2), which still harbors playoff hopes.

The Aggies came in unranked largely because 3 of their previous 4 wins came against teams from the relatively weak Northern California Athletic Conference.

Davis’ losses were to Nevada Reno, then ranked No. 5 in Division I-AA, and to Sacramento, No. 12 in Division II.

“It was important for both teams,” Sochor said. “We feel if we win the rest of our games, we should make the playoffs.”

CSUN’s generosity started on its first possession when a Huffman pass was intercepted by Ed McNicoll after the Matadors had driven to the Davis 26.

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A 7-yard touchdown run by Fann with 3:44 left in the first quarter put Northridge in front, 7-3, but that lead was only temporary.

Davis came back with an 8-play, 86-yard march, scoring on a 3-yard sweep to the right by Shola Adeyemo with 23 seconds remaining in the first period. The key play on the drive was a short pass over the middle to Mike Sellar that the speedy senior turned into a 50-yard gain.

It was then that a trickle of turnovers turned into a flood.

Ane’s snap from CSUN’s 38 went off Morgan’s fingertips and rolled to the 15, where Morgan inadvertently kicked the ball trying to fall on it. The ball rolled to a stop in the end zone, where Williams fell on it for a 17-7 Aggie lead.

McNicoll’s second interception killed a Northridge scoring threat midway through the second period, and a fumble by Fann with less than a minute left in the half capped a thoroughly forgettable 2 periods for the Matadors.

Fann was the only bright spot for Northridge. In addition to his rushing total, he had 174 yards on 5 kickoff returns.


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