Northridge Saved by Defensive Standouts
Despite--or perhaps because of--inspired efforts by its defense and special teams, Cal State Northridge’s football game against Eastern New Mexico came down to aheart-stopping 34-yard field-goal attempt by Jodie Peterson with 45 seconds left.
The kick sailed wide right, allowing the Matadors to escape with a 12-10 victory before 3,000 at Greyhound Stadium.
“Boy, we had to tooth-and-nail it,” said Northridge cornerback Tremelle Barnes, who had two interceptions.
Pressure from Alo Sila and Mario Hull forced Peterson to rush his kick. Peterson also had to deal with a poor angle from the right hash mark.
“We should have had it in the middle of the field for him,” said Eastern New Mexico Coach Don Carthel, whose team had run out of timeouts before the kick. “It’s our fault. It would have been easier for him.”
It would have been easier for the entire Eastern New Mexico team had CSUN not intercepted five passes, scored a safety and recovered two muffed punt returns.
“It should never have come down to one play,” Northridge Coach Bob Burt said.
But it did, in large part because the Northridge offense was ineffective. But the difference, as it turned out, was a safety by Matador defensive tackle Ron McKinney with 11:37 remaining in the third quarter.
McKinney burst through the right side and sacked Eastern New Mexico quarterback Todd Lacey in the end zone, giving Northridge a 9-3 lead.
“We ran a stunt and I happened to get free,” said McKinney, a transfer from Pasadena City College. “It ended up being a real big two points.”
Twice in the last four minutes of the game, the CSUN defense forced the Greyhounds (1-2) to punt, but the Matador offense failed to get a first down on either possession.
Damone Scott was at the controls by the end of the game. Earlier, starting quarterback Marty Fisher and third-string quarterback Coley Kyman were injured.
Fisher suffered a bruised right hand it was caught between two helmets early in the third quarter.
Kyman, who came off the bench last season to defeat the Greyhounds, was not able to repeat his heroics. One his second series, he suffered a broken left clavicle when he was knocked to the ground. Kyman is expected to miss at least eight weeks.
His successor, second-string quarterback Scott, a transfer from Western Michigan, also was unable to move the Northridge offense.
The only glaring mistake by the CSUN defense made for the tense ending. With 4:11 left, Eastern New Mexico scored on a 39-yard pass to cut the deficit to 12-10.
The Eastern New Mexico offense had trouble getting untracked all day, in part because of defensive pressure from Northridge but also because of its own mistakes. The Greyhounds were assessed 105 yards in penalties, including an illegal-procedure penalty that nullified a 63-yard run by Mario Smalls.
Along with Barnes, Eric Treibatch, Tyrone Dorsey and Hull also had interceptions for CSUN.
Eastern New Mexico scored on its opening possession, a 10-play, 54-yard drive culminating in a 36-yard field goal by Peterson. The Greyhounds settled for the field goal after CSUN linebacker O.J. Ojomoh pressured Lacey into an incomplete pass on third-and-four from the CSUN 19.
Northridge started one drive on the 50 and another on its 48, but the Matadors could not take advantage of their tremendous field position for most of the first half.
On their final drive of the half, however, Adam McKinney caught a 12-yard touchdown pass, ending a 13-play, 79-yard march that took 6:13 off the clock.
Freshman Aaron Brumfield and Harbor College transfer Billy Harris, who replaced starting tailback Jess Garner in the second quarter, made most of the plays on the drive.
Brumfield, who replaced ailing fullback Anthony Nicholson (out with a sprained left ankle), carried the ball six times for 16 yards and caught a screen pass for a seven-yard gain.
Harris caught screen passes for four and 29 yards, the latter sprung by a block by wide receiver Paul Peters.