Advertisement

San Diego State’s Wright Goes Out in Tears : Aztecs: Senior’s fumble on punt allowed Tulsa to put the game out of reach. It capped a long fall for former starting tailback.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

During the week before the Freedom Bowl, San Diego State running T.C. Wright said he just wanted his senior season to end.

Unfortunately for Wright, it didn’t end soon enough.

Wright started the season as the Aztecs’ starting tailback, but he quickly became a forgotten man once freshman Marshall Faulk came on the scene with his record-setting 387-yard performance against Pacific.

But with 4 minutes 43 seconds remaining in Monday night’s game against Tulsa and SDSU trailing 21-17, Wright suddenly took center stage again.

Advertisement

As he settled under Tulsa punter Gus Frerotte’s punt at his own 20, his entire senior season was captured before his eyes. The punt carried over his head and as he attempted to one-hand the ball, it fell off his fingertips. Seconds later, Tulsa’s Billy Cole had recovered at the four--ending the Aztecs’ season and Wright’s career.

As Wright came off the field, he was consoled by teammates Jake Nyberg, Zac Stokes, Curtis Butts and Gary Taylor.

In the locker room, Wright wept as he was hugged by his teammates. Although Wright could not bear to talk, Butts, his best friend on the team, found the words.

“I felt I was out there on the field myself,” Butts said. “That’s a bad as I’ve ever felt for anyone. Everybody just dropped on the sideline when he dropped the ball. Not because he dropped it, because they knew how much it hurt him. No one deserves to go out that way.”

Advertisement

Wright and Butts were two of SDSU’s most important players last year. Butts led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring, Wright was second in the WAC in rushing with 730 yards and a 6.3 average.

“This wasn’t the way we thought our senior seasons would go,” Butts said. “We worked out together all summer. But he got hurt and I got hurt and we never got back in there.”

Wright rushed for 405 yards and three touchdowns this season. Since Faulk took over the bulk of the rushing duties, Wright has been relegated to returning punts. He averaged 9.6 yards a return, third in the WAC.

“He told me before the game, ‘Punts is going to be my only chance to do something,’ ” Patrick Rowe said. “He wanted so badly to make things happen. That’s why he fielded that punt.”

Advertisement

Butts said Wright simply misjudged the ball.

“He was surprised by the length of it,” Butts said. “It went over his head. As he tried to catch the ball, he slipped.”

Aztec quarterback David Lowery said Wright was not at fault.

“I talked to him after the game,” he said. “We went out there and had the ball at the 40 and we didn’t score. It’s my fault. You can’t zero in on one guy.”

Advertisement

Rowe said it was painful to watch Wright this season.

“In opinion, he should have switched off with Marshall more,” Rowe said. “He was never really given a chance.”

Monday night was more of the same. Faulk carried 30 times, while Wright did not touch it once from scrimmage.

“The scouts know he can play,” Rowe said. “I’m confident he’ll play at the next level.”

Advertisement

After all his teammates left him, Wright was finally alone.

“They say things happen for a reason, I guess,” said Wright as he wiped away the tears.

But Wright couldn’t and wouldn’t say much more.

“It just hurts too badly right now,” he said. “I’m sorry. I just can’t talk about it anymore.”

Advertisement


Advertisement
Advertisement