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Montana Defeats Fullerton on Late Pass, 31-30, Then Tunes Up

September 08, 1985|JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer

MISSOULA, Mont. — As debuts go, this one isn't going to elicit any rave reviews. But then, it wasn't a complete flop, either.

Cal State Fullerton's 1985 opener featured a number of bangs and more than a few whimpers Saturday and ended with the entire cast of the University of Montana football team singing their alma mater after the Grizzlies pulled out a 31-30 nonconference win on a touchdown with eight seconds left.

The Grizzlies, 2-8-1 last year, reacted as if they'd just won the national title. The 6,235 fans who sat through a steady drizzle at Dornblaser Stadium were equally jubilant. Montana Coach Larry Donovan seemed a little embarrassed, though, and ran over to longtime friend Gene Murphy, the Titan coach, to apologize.

"We're singing because we haven't won in one hell of a long time," Donovan said. "We forgot what it's like."

Murphy wasn't upset with the Grizzlies' closing act, but he had to be a little disappointed in the way the Titans let the game get away.

Montana was down to a fourth-and-23 play with 17 seconds remaining when quarterback Brent Pease threw a desperation pass down the sideline. Montana receiver Mike Rice and Titan safety Mike Romero were camped under it, but Romero got a cramp and lost the jumping contest as Rice came down with the ball on the Titan 11. On the next play, Pease hit Terry White in the end zone, and Eby Dobson's extra point won it for the Grizzlies.

"They outplayed us and outcoached us in every aspect of the game," Murphy said. "It was as simple as that."

Well, not exactly.

Tailback Burness Scott did become the first Titan since 1981 to gain more than 100 yards--he picked up 134 on 18 carries, including a dazzling 20-yard touchdown--and fullback Ricky Calhoun almost became the second, finishing with 88 yards on 18 carries. Calhoun also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

And the turnover-oriented Fullerton defense maintained its reputation with two fumble recoveries and an interception.

But the Titan offense could manage just three points as a result. Also, the team's inexperience (11 Titans were getting their first major-college start, including quarterback, Kevin Jan, both inside linebackers and three-fourths of the secondary) was evident.

And penalties proved devastating.

"We missed a lot of scoring opportunities," Murphy said. "There were some questionable penalties in crucial situations, but the officials didn't lose the game for us."

Jan, who completed just 5 of 20 passes for 53 yards, did not have a completion in the second half. James Pruitt did pull in a 35-yarder, but after officials ruled he stepped out of bounds on his route and then cited him for throwing the ball in a defender's face, Fullerton lost 15 yards (a 50-yard swing) and the down.

Fullerton had another completion--and the go-ahead touchdown--called back after Todd White's five-yard pass to Romero on a fake field-goal play was negated by an ineligible receiver downfield

The Grizzlies installed a wishbone offense in the off-season, but they ran a lot of straight-drop passing plays out of the formation Saturday. Pease completed 9 of 15 for 187 yards.

The Montana running game confused Fullerton early, and after running back LeRoy Foster broke loose for 32 yards, Pease slipped over from the three on the next play and the Grizzlies had a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Fullerton, dominating the line of scrimmage, went 83 yards on 14 plays to tie the score. On fourth and goal at the one, Jan faked a handoff, reverse-pivoted and jogged into the end zone to make it 7-7.

It didn't stay that way long.

Ted Ray took the ensuing kickoff, sprinted to the sideline and went 87 yards to the end zone as time expired in the first quarter. It was the first kickoff return for a touchdown against a Murphy-coached Fullerton team.

Scott, having the kind of game that carried him to a 2,000-yard season at Lynwood High School in 1980, scored on a 20-yard run after breaking three tackles and back-pedaling the last three yards into the end zone, making it 14-14 at halftime.

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