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Struggling Titans Have Started New Season on No Wins and A Prayer

September 17, 1985|JOHN WEYLER | Times Staff Writer

Gene Murphy was attending mass at St. Juliana's Church in Fullerton Sunday when the priest noticed the Cal State Fullerton coach and asked the congregation to pray that the Titans have a spiritually rewarding season.

After the service, Murphy shook the priest's hand and said, "Forget the prayers, Father, just get me a quarterback."

Murphy is not really that disappointed in the performance of senior Kevin Jan, who completed 13 of 16 passes for 90 yards in Fullerton's humiliating 30-3 loss to Nevada Reno Saturday. But, as Murphy says: "When things go bad, the trigger man gets the blame."

The Titan coach's main concern is that Fullerton has fouled up the majority of its scoring opportunities en route to an 0-2 start. And, because backup quarterback Whit Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury Saturday, the responsibility of getting the Titans in the end zone rests squarely on Jan's shoulders.

Fullerton got just three points out of three Montana turnovers in Grizzly territory during a season-opening loss, and Saturday the Titans had the ball inside the Nevada Reno 15-yard line twice and came away with nothing to show for it.

"Kevin hit hands Saturday and he did exactly what we told him to do," Murphy said, "but when we got behind, he was unable to get the ball downfield in the hands of our big money guys."

The Titans won Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championships the last two years with quarterback Damon Allen often getting the ball to the talented wide receiver corps of Wade Lockett, Allen Pitts, James Pruitt and Corn Redick.

But Fullerton also forced a lot of turnovers and seldom gave away the ball. The turnover margin became a key statistic, a Titan trademark and a point of great pride on the team.

"Part of the problem is our fault," Murphy agreed. "We've ingrained that take-care-of-the-ball philosophy in our offensive players. But the time (on the clock) and the score have to dictate. At some point, you've got to force the ball downfield.

"You have to remember that Kevin is still a rookie, but the films show that these people (the wide receivers) were open."

Fullerton's offense may still have a long way to go, but the Titan defense is not exactly making it easy for the offensive unit. The Titans fell behind early Saturday and were forced to call 21 pass plays while running just five times in the second half--not exactly the game plan Murphy had in mind.

Murphy admits that seven new starters make his defensive unit inexperienced, but he insists the talent is there and the defense is getting better on every down.

"This defense has the potential to be as good as any we've ever had," he says.

In reality, that seems unlikely.

Four members of last year's defense are either playing--or could be playing--pro football. Linebacker John Nevens was an All-USFL for the Denver Gold last season, tackle Andre Pinesett is playing for Edmonton in the Canadian Football League, linebacker Eric Emery is with British Columbia of the CFL and safety Mark Pembrook, just recently cut by the New York Giants, had a contract offer from British Columbia but opted to return to school and get his degree.

In any event, Fullerton will need to make giant strides on both sides of the football or 1985 will be a year Murphy prays everyone will forget.

Titan Notes

Fullerton's financial woes are almost legendary by now and two successful seasons haven't changed much. "We're getting $2,500 to be on ESPN against San Jose State (Oct. 3)," Coach Gene Murphy said. "That may not sound like a lot, but that's good money when you're getting pooh." . . . Freshman Tony Dil will become the Titans' No. 2 quarterback and make the trip to Wyoming Saturday, where he should get a chance to play, according to Murphy. . . . Quarterback Kevin Jan had a "no comment" for the media after Saturday's loss. Mel Franks, Fullerton sports information director, when asked if this was going to go on all year: "No comment." . . . Injury update: Tight end Bob Kent, who had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee last week, will be out for the year. Running back Burness Scott (sprained ankle) is probable, nose guard Jim Baioa (twisted knee) is questionable and defensive tackle Ruben Lizarraga (twisted knee) is doubtful.

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