The hit came in from the right side, the blind side, and the tackler laughed loudly as he wrapped his arms around New Mexico State quarterback David Chisum.
So what's new? Getting sacked is no longer an occupational hazard for Chisum. By now, the hazard is an occupation.
He was sacked 50 times in 11 games in 1990.
He was sacked 25 times in his first seven games of 1991.
He was sacked before Saturday's game against Cal State Fullerton, by his coach, who told Chisum to sit and watch the welts rise on someone else for a change.
So what's new?
The blind-side happened after the game, after New Mexico State's 35-12 victory over Fullerton, New Mexico State's first victory since its last game against Fullerton.
This sack was credited to a friend dressed in T-shirt and jeans, not an enemy dressed in plastic armor.
This sack was to celebrate three touchdown passes in nine minutes by Chisum, who came off the bench in the second half to make the drive to Santa Ana Stadium worth the while for this friend and about 50 others, who combined to form the largest and loudest cheering section on either side of the field.
Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy predicted as much. Not the score, the roar: "CHIS-UM! CHIS-UM!"
"Coach Murphy told me that half the fans here would be Chisum fans," New Mexico State Coach Jim Hess said. Murphy was close, no matter what the "official" attendance figure read. Attendance was listed at 3,112. If Fullerton counted points the way it counts home spectators, the Titans would be 8-0 today.
Reality, of course, is 1-7 in the wake of the loss to New Mexico State. Now we know what has been wrong with the New Mexico State football program for the past decade or two: Not enough games against Fullerton. Hess, nearing the end of his second season with the Aggies, is 0-18 against the rest of the NCAA but 2-0 against the Titans. Into those games, Hess' team took losing streaks of 27 and seven games.
In those games, Hess' teams outscored Fullerton, 78-19.
Worse yet, Hess' teams have out-Fullertoned Fullerton. Chisum learned his football not far from Murphy's office--at Sunny Hills High, where he threw for 22 touchdowns as a senior, and at Fullerton College, where he ranks second on the school's all-time passing yardage list.
But after those two prestigious stints, Chisum didn't even rate a phone call from Murphy. "Fullerton never contacted me," Chisum said. "Not after high school, not after junior college, not once throughout my whole career. The only full ride I was offered was the one I took. At New Mexico State."
The full ride has been more like a bull ride. As a junior in 1990, Chisum lost his first 10 starts and was hammered for 50 sacks, which Chisum thinks must be some kind of record. He played most of the season with a fractured left wrist, which caused some fumbled snaps, but he also passed for 2,277 yards and 13 touchdowns. In a 43-9 finale against Fullerton, Chisum went 18 for 31 for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
As a senior, there have been more downs than ups. An 0-7 start. Twenty-five more sacks. And then, Saturday, the loss of his starting job to freshman Cody Ledbetter.
"We're not going anywhere this year," Hess reasoned. "Ledbetter's going to be with us for the next three. We want to see what he can do."
Hess watched for a half. The Aggies led, 14-6--much too close for Hess' comfort. He let Ledbetter go one more series, saw no more points, and then dialed Old Sometimes Faithful.
Chisum sputtered to a quick punt on his first possession but then gathered steam. With 1:49 left in the third quarter, he threw his first scoring pass--11 yards, right on the map, to Atlas Reagor.
Three and a half minutes later, he threw another--39 yards, again to Reagor.
Five and a half minutes later, he threw another--seven yards to Todd Cutler.
The last touchdown was the best for Chisum, because it came after he'd been benched again, this time in favor of third-stringer Charles Puleri. Puleri lasted until he fumbled a snap at the Fullerton seven.
"When you're not used to winning, no lead is good enough," Hess said. "I'm sure Gene knows what I'm talking about. When we bobbled the snap, I sent Chisum back in there and told him to get it in the end zone."
One pass was all Chisum needed. For the day, he attempted 10, completed eight and built a lead that was good enough--35-6.
Just glad to help.
With the Chisum clan eating it up and whooping it up in the stands, the quarterback called it "an exciting day . . . To do this well in front of so many old friends, I'm just overwhelmed." He said he was proud to have been at the ground floor at New Mexico State, assuming something is eventually built there. "Every team we've played this year told us afterward that we're much improved over last year. I feel glad to be a part of that change."
As for next week, though, Chisum can't be sure.
"I may not play at all," he said, "or I may pass for 500 yards. Who knows what next week will bring?"
It won't bring Cal State Fullerton. Chisum and the Aggies realize that much. For the rest of the season, they'll just have to pick on someone their own size.