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Matadors Play Like Boobs on Tube

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was plain to see Cal State Northridge is not ready for prime time.

And probably better off leaving the Big Sky Conference.

Under lights and before television cameras, the Matadors provided little action in a 31-14 Big Sky loss to Weber State before a Fox Sports Net audience and 8,812 at Stewart Stadium.

Northridge (1-4, 0-3 in conference play), appearing flat and undisciplined, reverted to bad habits by fumbling the ball away on its first two possessions and committing costly penalties that stalled drives and disrupted rhythm.

“We took three big steps backward tonight,” said Northridge Coach Jeff Kearin. “We were careless with the ball and that’s very frustrating to me.

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“I feel really good about what we can do, we just have to quit making mistakes.”

Marcus Brady’s quick slant to D.J. Hackett midway through the third quarter resulted in a 54-yard touchdown pass play that cut the Wildcats’ lead to 14-7. Early in the fourth quarter, Brady lobbed a four-yard scoring pass to Hackett to cut the margin to 28-14.

Those plays summed up the Northridge highlights, disappointing followers treated to a rare glimpse of the Matadors on TV.

What viewers got was an up-close look at a team midway through a long season and struggling to avoid finishing last.

Weber State (3-3, 2-2), far from a Big Sky juggernaut, recorded its 200th victory in school history dating to 1962 while defeating Northridge for the first time in four Big Sky games.

Jordan Miller, playing in place of injured Johnnie Gray, rushed for a career-high 176 yards in 43 carries, doing most of his damage in the second half on lengthy marches that wore down the Matadors.

Cole Cooper completed 22 of 32 passes for 260 yards, including scoring passes of 14 yards to Miller to cap the game’s opening drive and 17 yards to Jon Jefferson that gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.

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Northridge, scheduled to leave the Big Sky next season and compete as an independent, intends to continue playing nonconference games against Weber State. Suddenly, after four consecutive victories against the Wildcats, Northridge appeared overmatched.

Northridge stumbled through seven first-half drives that produced no points, not only fumbling the ball away twice but short-circuiting two drives because of illegal procedure penalties.

“It seemed like it was our first game again,” Brady said. “Stupid mistakes, fumbles . . . . It was our first chance to be on TV in the West Coast and we just didn’t play the way we should have played.”

Weber State marched 80 yards in 14 plays on the game’s opening march to take a 7-0 lead on Cooper’s pass to Miller.

It took the Matadors only three plays to give the ball back. Brady connected with Drew Amerson, who fumbled at the Weber State 24-yard line while attempting to extend a 15-yard gain.

Northridge’s second drive was lengthier but ended with another turnover when Brady, who completed his first five passes, fumbled at the Wildcats’ 21 after scrambling for an eight-yard gain.

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Weber State countered with another lengthy possession, driving 75 yards in seven plays that culminated with Cooper’s touchdown pass to Jefferson.

Brady, scrambling as usual behind poor protection, completed 19 of 34 for 285 yards and no interceptions.

Amerson had nine catches for 139 and Hackett caught two for 58, both for touchdowns.

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