But it wasn't until Hess went back to the past--and the pass--that the Aggies were able to secure a 35-12 Big West Conference victory over the Titans in front of a homecoming crowd of 3,112 in Santa Ana Stadium.
Chisum, a graduate of Sunny Hills High School and Fullerton College who was not recruited by the Titans, replaced Ledbetter midway through the third quarter and completed eight of 10 passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns, helping New Mexico State turn a 14-6 game at halftime into a rout.
Chisum, playing in front of about 50 relatives and friends, threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Atlas Reagor with 1 minute 49 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 21-6. He then connected with Reagor on a 39-yard scoring pass play and with Todd Cutler on a seven-yarder in the fourth quarter to help New Mexico State (1-7, 1-3 conference) pull away from the Titans (1-7, 0-4).
"I've seen people today who I haven't seen for the last two years," said Chisum, who started all 11 games in 1990 and the first seven in '91. "It's really overwhelming. To do well here and have friends show the support they did, I'm just happy. It's gonna be a sweet night."
The victory was a streak-buster for the Aggies, who:
--Had not won a game in California in 26 years, a 26-game skid dating to a 14-6 victory at Pacific on Oct. 9, 1965.
--Had not won a road game in 20 consecutive attempts, dating to a 42-29 victory at Kansas on Oct. 1, 1988.
--Had not won a Big West road game in 27 tries.
"We've got more streaks than anyone in America," said Hess, whose Aggies ended a 27-game losing streak, the nation's longest at the time, with a 43-9 victory over Fullerton last November.
The Titans also ended a drought by scoring a touchdown on Arthur Davis' one-yard run with 1:06 left. Fullerton had gone 11 consecutive quarters without a touchdown, its last one coming in the fourth quarter of a 56-28 loss to Pacific Oct. 5.
But that was little consolation for the Titans, who slipped into their all-too-familiar pattern of falling behind early, executing poorly on defense and special teams and relying on an erratic passing game to bring them back.
"It's no moral victory to get into the end zone," Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said. "Maybe for some people it is, but not for me. It's very frustrating."
The Titan offense showed some signs of life late in the second quarter; Phil Nevin kicked field goals of 50 and 27 yards in the final 2:22 of the first half to cut New Mexico State's lead to 14-6.
Fullerton had a chance to cut further into the deficit when quarterback Chad May threw a 36-yard pass to Kerry Reed--the team's longest completion of the season, surpassing Nevin's 28-yard pass on a fake punt--to give the Titans a first down on the Aggie 19 late in the second quarter.
After an incomplete pass, May threw nine yards to Anthony Pack, giving Fullerton third and one at the 10. The Titans had New Mexico State's defense reeling but were out of timeouts, so May spiked the ball intentionally to stop the clock with 35 seconds left.
Mental mistake. May, a redshirt freshman, could have gone for a first down, and if the Titans failed, there was plenty of time to attempt a field goal. Had they gained the first down, they could have taken two more cracks at the end zone. As it was, Fullerton settled for Nevin's second field goal.
New Mexico State ran all over the Titans early, as Brian Pizula, another Sunny Hills graduate, scored on a two-yard run in the first quarter and Billy Borten, a 5-foot-10, 250-pound, medicine ball of a fullback, added a one-yard scoring run in the second.
But the Titans began to shut down the Aggies' option offense, forcing punts on New Mexico State's last two first-half possessions and a missed field goal on the Aggies' first third-quarter possession.
Chisum then replaced Ledbetter with 7:42 left in the third quarter. Twelve minutes later, New Mexico State had a 35-6 lead. Chisum completed passes of 18, 17 and 16 yards to Fred Montgomery on his first scoring drive and found Reagor open on the 39-yard touchdown play.
George Sykes' 50-yard interception return to the Fullerton seven set up Chisum's final touchdown pass to Cutler.
"We hadn't won doing what we were doing, and I just wanted to change the pace and look at our future," Hess said of the quarterback change. "David was awfully mad, but he took it real well. To his ever-loving credit, he won the ballgame."
Murphy spent most of the second half with an elbow in one hand and his chin in the other, sort of a standing Thinking Man's pose. And just what was on Murphy's mind as his team suffered its sixth lopsided defeat of the season?
"You think you're in the game to win until you realize you're being unrealistic," Murphy said. "Then, you try to retain dignity for your team by getting the clock moving and getting out of there."
The clock is moving. One more home game, against Cal State Long Beach Nov. 23, and the Titans are out of Santa Ana Stadium for good, moving into their new on-campus stadium in 1992.
Maybe then Fullerton can have a real homecoming.
Fullerton running back Reggie Yarbrough led all rushers with 102 yards in 21 carries, and quarterback Chad May completed 13 of 29 passes for 125 yards and two interceptions. May has not thrown a touchdown pass this season. . . . Terry Payne replace May in the fourth quarter and completed four of seven passes for 67 yards. He had completions of 16 and 14 yards late in the game on the Titans' only touchdown drive, which was set up by Leonard Hudson's fumble recovery at the New Mexico State 31-yard line. . . . Anthony Pack caught five passes for 65 yards. . . . Fullerton linebacker Chad Lindsay suffered a leg injury, possibly a fractured tibia, and might be out for the season. Receiver Victor Prince injured his collarbone, and defensive backs Mike Brown (Achilles) and B.B. Hudson (wrist) suffered injuries.