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Aztecs Huddle as Faulk’s Feat Grows : College football: Freshman running back forces SDSU to adjust some plans after a record night against Pacific.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A month ago, the question was whether to redshirt Marshall Faulk.

Now San Diego State is looking at a different question: Do the Aztecs bronze the cleats Faulk was wearing Saturday night now, or do they let him keep them for awhile?

Faulk, an 18-year-old freshman running back who set an NCAA single-game rushing record against the University of Pacific Saturday night, entered the game with 11 carries for 39 yards in only one collegiate game.

By Sunday, friends back home in New Orleans were calling to say they saw him on ESPN and were reading about him in the local newspapers.

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Running with magic in his feet and a wide-open future ahead of him, Faulk gained 386 yards on 37 carries to surpass the NCAA Division I-A record of 377 yards, set by Anthony Thompson of Indiana in 1989 against Wisconsin. Thompson set the mark on 52 carries.

Faulk’s yardage also was a single-game record for any NCAA division.

And in the aftermath Sunday, SDSU officials discovered another record Faulk set--he surpassed the NCAA all-purpose yardage mark of 417 yards set by Temple’s Paul Palmer against Eastern Carolina in 1986 and by Greg Allen of Florida State against Western Carolina in 1981. Faulk had a total of 422 yards--386 rushing, 11 receiving and 25 on one kickoff return.

Faulk leads the nation this morning in rushing (212 1/2 yards a game) and scoring (25 points per game average). He is fifth in all-purpose yardage (227 1/2 yards a game), but may move up to fourth today because of a statistical error. The NCAA didn’t figure in Faulk’s 11 yards receiving Saturday.

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The unlikliest of heroes, Faulk didn’t enter the game, a 55-34 SDSU victory, until Aztec tailback T.C. Wright suffered a bruised left thigh late in the first quarter. Faulk didn’t get his first carry until less than four minutes remained in the first quarter.

By the quarter’s end, he had carried only three times for 12 yards. But he carried 13 times for 117 yards in the second quarter, 11 times for 194 yards in a whirlwind third, and 10 times for 63 yards in the fourth. He averaged 10 yards per carry.

“It could have happened to any back on our team,” Faulk said. “But I was out there at the time and all of the runs were just going good for me. I was making the right decisions.

“Everything was happening like I was in high school again. It was like, ‘Man, what am I doing?’ ”

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He scored seven touchdowns and 44 points--both NCAA freshman and SDSU records.

As the game progressed, SDSU fans gave him loud ovations on each carry. He received a couple of standing ovations when he left the game for breathers toward the end. And at times in the fourth quarter, SDSU fans chanted “Mar-shall, Mar-shall.”

It took Faulk by surprise.

“I didn’t know if it was real or not,” he said. “I’ve only seen this in the pros. I ain’t seen it in college too often.

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“I was thinking, ‘Do I know any of these people?”’

After the game, Faulk was stopped on the field by a television crew and asked for an interview. Faulk asked if the SDSU offensive line could stand on-camera behind him.

As it turned out, SDSU needed every yard he could muster. The Aztecs nearly blew a 40-21 lead, allowing Pacific to come within six, 40-34, in the fourth quarter. SDSU wasn’t safely ahead until Faulk scored his seventh touchdown, a 25-yard run that was his last carry of the game and gave him the NCAA rushing record.

Faulk, 5-feet-10, 180 pounds, is one of three recruits from Louisiana signed by SDSU last winter. It was part of a bizarre odyssey that left Curtis Johnson, SDSU receivers’ coach and primary recruiter in Lousiana, shaking his head. Johnson received several death threats last winter as he recruited linebacker Fred Harris of Woodlawn High School in Shreveport. Johnson said the threats came from people who didn’t want to see Harris, the Gatorade player of the year in Louisiana last year, leave the state.

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But Johnson, a native of St. Rose, La., had told SDSU Coach Al Luginbill that high school players would leave Louisiana, so the Aztecs pressed forward. The recruiting of Faulk, who ran 100 meters in 10.3 seconds in high school, didn’t get as nasty as that of Harris, but it was competitive. Faulk took recruiting visits to Miami, Texas A&M;, Nebraska and Lousiana State. Two days before signing day, he told Johnson he had narrowed the field down to SDSU and Nebraska.

There was a day when Faulk didn’t think college would be possible. He said his junior high eliminated sports because of budget problems, so he couldn’t play football until he reached high school. But he said he went out for football while in eighth grade and got to play some varsity and junior varsity games.

Saturday night, much of Faulk’s yardage came on counter plays.

“It seemed like every time we ran it, it broke for a big gainer,” he said.

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Said Pacific linebacker Ron Papazian: “They had really good blocking (on the counter). We had problems on the center. He would get to that hole and just cut off it.”

And Pacific Coach Walt Harris: “We’d heard a little about Faulk and his 10.3 100-meter time. He runs low and he runs hard.”

A day later, Faulk said it was all just beginning to sink in. Getting out of bed Sunday morning wasn’t the easiest task Faulk has accomplished.

“My eyes were open, but my body was still asleep,” he said. “It seemed like everything was hurting.”

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But soon the telephone started ringing and Faulk was at home. His friends’ reaction?

“They were like, ‘What are you doing out there? You going crazy?’ ” Faulk said.

Luginbill, whose policy is that starters do not lose positions because of injuries, said that Wright would start for SDSU Saturday at Air Force, with Faulk working into the rotation. Faulk said he isn’t going to argue.

“I really don’t feel as if I’m ready to start,” he said. “Starting is kind of hard--you have to get physically and mentally ready. I’m ready physically, but I just don’t know if I’m mentally ready.”

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Marshall Faulk’s Record Night

386 YARDS RUSHING

Most individual yards in an NCAA Division I-A game

Most individual yards in a game, any NCAA division

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Most rushing yards by a freshman

San Diego State record

422 ALL-PURPOSE YARDS

NCAA Division I-A record

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San Diego State record

SEVEN TOUCHDOWNS

Most touchdowns by a freshman in an NCAA Division I-A game

SDSU records for touchdowns in a game and for rushing touchdowns in a game

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44 POINTS

Most points by a freshman in an NCAA Division I-A game

San Diego State record


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