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Northridge’s Win Strange but True, 21-7 : College football: Matadors rally to beat Chico State after trailing at halftime.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Perhaps the homecoming crowd of 4,576 at North Campus Stadium Saturday night should have expected the weird, strange, bizarre and unusual on Halloween Eve.

The result was no surprise, which, the way things were going, was a bit of an upset in itself. Cal State Northridge defeated Chico State, 21-7, in a nonconference game.

But, on the other hand . . .

--Robert Trice, on a night he became only the third 1,000-yard rusher in Northridge history, spent half the game on the bench nursing injuries to both feet.

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In the first half, a painful big left toe kept him out. In the second half, he was hobbled by a sprained right ankle.

Trice finished with 108 yards and a touchdown in 25 carries, making him the only Matador ballcarrier with more yardage than a part-time fullback.

--Shaun Coleman, who had a dozen carries for 29 yards in Northridge’s first seven games, rushed 12 times for 66 precious yards as the Matadors played ball control in the second half.

--Northridge quarterback J.J. O’Laughlin did not play in the second half. He suffered a partially dislocated right (throwing) shoulder with about a minute to go in the first half. O’Laughlin, who had season highs in passing yardage the previous three games, completed eight of 18 attempts for 117 yards. When he was injured, he had connected on four in a row.

--Clayton Millis, O’Laughlin’s understudy, was understandably shaky in reserve. Millis completed one of three attempts, leaving the second-half passing heroics to . . . the punter.

--Albert Razo, the third quarterback on Northridge’s depth chart, connected with tight end Travis Hall for a 50-yard touchdown on a fake punt. It was Razo’s second pass of the season. The other covered 63 yards and also went for a touchdown.

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Razo was warming up his arm on the sideline for some time before the fake. Hall said Razo was probably trying to convince Coach Bob Burt to put him in at quarterback.

Therefore, the question was posed to Burt. Why did Razo feel it was necessary to throw, to prepare for the fake or to call signals? “Both,” the coach said.

Chico defenders must have thought he was going to replace Millis. The fake caught the Wildcats completely off guard. They rushed 10 men and Hall had an open field once he caught the ball.

The touchdown, which came with 12 minutes 19 seconds remaining, finally gave the Matadors some cushion.

To that point, nothing had come easy for Northridge.

For instance, Matt Ornelaz made three field goals, including a 42-yarder, his longest this season. He also missed two conversion kicks.

Northridge drove the ball inside Chico’s 25 four times in the first half and came away only with the two field goals.

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If not for an offside penalty on the Wildcats, the Matadors would have scored only once. On Northridge’s second possession, Ornelaz was wide right on a 37-yard field-goal attempt, but made a second try from five yards closer.

Later, the Matadors had an infraction cost them a touchdown.

On second-and-goal from the Wildcat seven, O’Laughlin scrambled away from from three blitzing defenders and found Hall in the back of the end zone.

However, a Northridge lineman was downfield, nullifying the score. A 10-yard pass to Victor Prince moved the ball to the two, but O’Laughlin’s fourth-down pitch to Trice was two yards wide and he was buried at the 12.

Chico gained only 113 yards in the first half, but the Wildcats managed to piece together a 67-yard scoring drive that was capped by Marco Arcipreste’s nine-yard pass to Jason Raven.

Northridge made it 7-6 on a 29-yard field goal by Ornelaz with two seconds left in the half.

Northridge forced turnovers on Chico’s first three possessions of the second half, yet converted only on Trice’s seven-yard run with 9:11 left in the third quarter.

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