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Titans Stay Close, but the Bulldogs Have the Last Bite

<i> From Staff and Wire Reports</i>

The local media had a field day with Cal State Fullerton, running front-page cartoons about the school’s football team, ridiculing it with one-liners, and poking fun at Georgia for even bothering to schedule such an unworthy opponent.

But it was the Titans who had the last laugh, giving Georgia all it could handle Saturday before losing, 27-14, in front of 76,117 in Sanford Stadium.

Frank Harvey’s two-yard touchdown run with 32 seconds remaining sealed the victory for the Bulldogs, but Fullerton was in the game--and actually had several chances for a major upset--until then.

Twice in the fourth quarter, the Titans (1-3) had possession in Georgia territory with a mere six-point deficit. Twice in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs (3-1) stopped the Titans for no gain on fourth-down plays.

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The last stop came with 3 minutes 25 seconds to play, when Curt Douglas stuffed Fullerton running back Reggie Yarbrough at the Titan 41, giving Georgia the ball. The Bulldogs then drove to their final touchdown, which made the score appear more lopsided than the game.

“The sad part is we had an opportunity to win the football game and couldn’t do it,” Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said.

No one gave the Titans a chance. Georgia-area broadcasters predicted a 40- or 50-point victory for the Bulldogs of the mighty Southeastern Conference. Las Vegas bookmakers, believing it would be a rout, didn’t even post odds on the game.

Georgia fans seemed fired up--for next week’s game against Clemson. A cartoon in the Athens Daily News/Banner-Herald featured a big Bulldog thinking to itself, “Just one more week to a real football game . . . " and a tiny Titan thinking, “It’s money for the program, it’s money for the program . . . “

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One headline read: “Bulldogs Should Be Able to Buy Another Win--For $225,000.” Wrote one columnist: “If 85,434 turn out for what should be a breather, it will be a true testimony to the devotion of the fans.”

Some breather. Georgia Coach Ray Goff was probably gasping for an oxygen mask until that final touchdown.

“Our football team wasn’t prepared today,” Goff said. “There was a lot of stuff in the papers ripping Cal State Fullerton. They came out fired up, and we might have believed the stuff in the papers. We were lucky to win.”

Early in the fourth quarter, it appeared the Titans might have a chance to trim the Bulldogs between the hedges. Trailing, 20-14, Fullerton drove to the Bulldog 30-yard line, where the Titans faced fourth and two.

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Yarbrough, who rushed for 192 yards in 43 carries and scored Fullerton’s first touchdown, tried the middle of the Georgia line but was stopped for no gain.

The Bulldogs faced fourth and one from their 40 on their next possession and also elected to go for it. But Titan lineman Shambi Scott stacked Garrison Hearst for a loss of a yard, and Fullerton took over on the Georgia 39 with 9:12 remaining.

The Titans, who had most of their offensive success on the ground, tried three consecutive passes, all of which fell incomplete. Fullerton punted, but Scott came up with another big defensive play on Georgia’s next possession, stopping Mack Strong short of a first down and forcing the Bulldogs to punt.

Fullerton took over on its 18 with 6:55 left. Quarterback Chad May’s 12-yard scramble on third down gave the Titans a first down at the 32, and Yarbrough’s nine-yard run on second down gave Fullerton a third and one at the 41.

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But Yarbrough--who carried the bulk of the offensive load with running back Arthur Davis out because of an ankle injury--came up empty-handed on his next two attempts.

“I’d give every yard up just to get those last two,” Yarbrough said. “I have kind of a hollow feeling.”

So did Titan kicker Phil Nevin, who missed a 47-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the score before halftime and a 52-yarder that would have tied it in the third quarter.

Still, there was much the Titans had to be proud of. Fullerton came up with several big defensive plays in the second half--Teddy McMillan’s interception, consecutive sacks by Jamal Jones and Danny Garcia and Scott’s two key tackles. Chad Lindsay had 13 tackles, 11 solo.

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The young Titan offensive line paved the way for 220 yards rushing (Georgia had 205 rushing yards). May had some success in his second start at quarterback, completing six of 17 passes for 82 yards. And Fullerton held the ball for 35:10, compared to Georgia’s 24:50.

It was certainly a moral victory.

But Murphy wanted more.

“Moral victories stink with a capital S,” Murphy said. “I don’t care what people think. . . . We played with Georgia right until the end, and the frustrating part is we could have won. But that’s good frustration compared to getting blown out.”

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Or booed out. Bulldog fans jeered their team off the field at halftime, as Georgia managed only a 17-14 lead.

It appeared Georgia would run away from Fullerton when, on its first possession, Hearst ran 49 yards to set up Greg Talley’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Strong with 10:59 left in the first quarter.

But the Titans came back as Yarbrough’s 35-yard run set up Terry Payne’s five-yard touchdown pass to Robert Bedford. Payne, who played only one series while May was nursing a nose injury, rolled left on the play, feigned a run and flipped a pass to Bedford to tie the score, 7-7, with 6:17 left in the first quarter.

Fullerton had excellent field position in the second quarter at its 49, but May was hit by linebacker Dwayne Simmons on a blitz, fumbled, and Georgia’s Donnie Maib recovered at the Titan 44. On the next play, Hearst went off left tackle, cut back upfield and ran into the end zone for a 14-7 lead with 10:39 left in the second quarter.

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The Titans got a huge break when Georgia’s Chuck Carswell, who had returned earlier punts for 29 and 21 yards, fumbled a punt at his own 10, and Fullerton’s Bedford recovered at the six. Yarbrough scored on the next play to make it 14-14 with 6:45 to go in the half.

Kanon Parkman kicked a 26-yard field goal to make it 17-14 and added a 20-yarder late in the third quarter to make it 20-14.


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