Cal State Fullerton ended its season Saturday with a 23-13 victory over Utah State in front of 2,119 at Santa Ana Stadium, earning second place in the Big West Conference.
It is a distinction that sounds a bit more impressive than it is.
Fresno State, which won the title, is the only conference team with a winning record.
“Second is better than last,” said A.J. Jenkins, Fullerton defensive end.
The Titans, who finished with a 5-2 conference record, were 5-6 overall. They have not had a winning season since 1985.
Utah State’s standout receiver Kendal Smith was held to 2 catches for 23 yards, but that was enough for him to break the conference career receiving yardage record set by the Rams’ Henry Ellard when he was at Fresno State. Smith’s final mark of 2,952 is 5 yards more than Ellard’s.
The Aggies (4-7, 4-3) trailed, 14-13, at halftime, but didn’t score again despite having the ball for nearly 25 minutes in the second half.
Utah State drove to a first-and-goal at the 2 early in the fourth quarter after quarterback Brent Snyder connected with Tracey Jenkins for 31 yards.
But the Aggies were unable to score on 5 plays--a Fullerton penalty gave them an extra play--finally failing when James Young deflected a fourth-down pass meant for Smith in the end zone.
“Late in the game, and we can’t get it over from the eighth-of-an-inch line,” Utah State Coach Chuck Shelton said. “When things like that happen, you’re not going to win a football game. We didn’t deserve to win today, and we didn’t.”
Another fourth-quarter drive ended when Sean Fernandes intercepted Snyder at the Fullerton 26-yard line.
Fullerton’s Dan Speltz fell only 3 yards short of passing for 300 yards for the second straight week, completing 15 of 28 passes for 297 yards and 3 touchdowns with 1 interception. He threw for 325 last week against San Jose State.
Fullerton’s Rocky Palamara caught 8 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns.