As the football season progresses, Cal State Northridge regresses.
Or so it seems.
Just 4 weeks ago the Matadors were 4-0, ranked No. 5 in Division II and appeared to be serious contenders for a Western Football Conference championship.
Losses to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Portland State ended CSUN’s title hopes 3 games into its conference schedule.
Then, last week, UC Davis doused any flickering hopes of a playoff berth.
Now, after a 31-27 loss to Santa Clara in a WFC game on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium, the Matadors are struggling to finish with a record better than .500.
Northridge has lost 3 games in a row for the first time in Coach Bob Burt’s 3-year tenure. CSUN is 5-4 overall and 1-3 in the WFC with games remaining against nationally ranked Cal State Sacramento at home and Southern Utah State on the road.
“We have nothing else to play for but pride,” Burt said.
Santa Clara (6-3) not only defeated Northridge, but it did so largely because of the performance of a Valley-area high school standout who got away.
Travis Bargeman, a junior from Alemany High, had 4 receptions for a career-high 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The second scoring play--off an offensive rebound, to use a little basketball terminology--turned the game in favor of Santa Clara.
Northridge led, 14-6, when quarterback John St. Jacques heaved a pass in the general direction of Bargeman, who was sprinting down the right sideline.
CSUN cornerback Troy Banks got both hands on the pass at the 25-yard line but could only deflect the ball--right to Bargeman.
“I thought it was going to get picked off, so I was getting in position to make the tackle,” Bargeman said. “It came right to me.”
And away he went to complete a 59-yard scoring play.
“Fluke TDs have been killing us,” Northridge tailback Albert Fann said. “We’re playing well, we’re just not getting any breaks at all.”
Fann helped the Matadors to a quick start, rushing for touchdowns of 6 and 1 yards on CSUN’s first 2 possessions. He finished with 83 yards in 23 carries, caught 5 passes for 60 yards and returned 4 kickoffs for 115 yards.
After Northridge went ahead, 14-0, Santa Clara responded with 31 unanswered points.
Bargeman, Santa Clara’s smallest player at 5 feet, 8 inches, 155 pounds, beat Matador safety Bill McDonald and hauled in a 37-yard touchdown from St. Jacques for the Broncos’ first score. Tobin Douglas was wide right on the extra point.
Bargeman’s touchdown off the tip came with 2:01 left in the half and a 2-point conversion run by reserve quarterback Mike Hurley enabled Santa Clara to tie the score, 14-14, at the half.
Santa Clara went ahead to stay on its first possession of the second half when St. Jacques hit tight end Geoff Cook with a 14-yard pass.
Douglas added an 18-yard field goal later in the period.
St. Jacques, a redshirt freshman, capped the Broncos’ scoring when he again connected with Cook, this time for a 13-yard touchdown with 13:34 left.
St. Jacques, who had shared quarterback duties in Santa Clara’s first 6 games, passed for 234 yards and 4 touchdowns and completed 12 of 27 passes and threw an interception.
CSUN quarterback Rob Huffman completed 17 of 36 for 257 yards and a touchdown but threw 4 interceptions.
Northridge scored twice within a 6-minute span in the fourth period to draw close.
Huffman connected with tight end Richard Ane on a 13-yard scoring play with 11:50 left.
CSUN’s final score came on a 1-yard run by Cedric Johnson.