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Titan Fans Agree to Disagree : Murphy's Decisions Second Guessed in Homecoming Defeat

October 20, 1985|STEVE LOWERY | Times Staff Writer

Traditionally, homecoming crowds are models of like thought. It's amazing how a Hibachi, a fight song and beverages of the non-soft variety can get everyone in the same frame of mind.

Accordingly, the 8,110, mostly orange-clad Cal State Fullerton fans who showed up for the Titans' homecoming game against Nevada Las Vegas Saturday, were, for the most part, in agreement when they booed Titans' Coach Gene Murphy.

Trailing 10-3, Fullerton had a fourth-and-20 on the Rebel 26. Murphy decided to attempt a 43-yard field goal by Len Strandly.

All together now, alumni. Give that old college raspberry.

Strandly made the field goal to bring the Titans within four. That's as close as it got as Fullerton lost to the Rebels, 10-6, Saturday in Santa Ana Stadium.

Given the opportunity, the field goal attempt wasn't the call this homecoming crowd--which cheered wildly when the game ball was delivered by members of the Fullerton ROTC rappel team, who lowered themselves by rope from a hovering Army helicopter--would have made.

Coaches would be in trouble, though, if every time a tough call came up, they turned to a screaming throng for wisdom. And Murphy's reasoning was, well, reasonable.

He explained that fourth and 20 was just too far too risk going for a first down. He thought his defense could stop the UNLV offense on its following possession--which it did--and his team's two-minute offense could push in the winning score--which it did not.

"We kicked the field goal because we thought we had enough time to get the ball back and use our two-minute offense," Murphy said. "We moved the ball up and down the field on them today. We were pretty confident."

Murphy wasn't exactly confident Strandly would make the field goal attempt. He had missed two of three previous attempts in the game--one from 29 yards out and another from 49 yards.

Strandly's fluctuating range forced Murphy to run the ball on third and 22.

"We wanted to get some points out of that situation," Murphy said. "That's why we ran the draw. I wanted to get the ball close enough to give him a good shot at making it."

You might have deduced that Murphy was second guessed Saturday afternoon.

Yep. Second guessed and third guessed and . . .

There was his decision to accept a personal foul penalty after a UNLV punt had gone into the Titan end zone. Rebel punter Bob Hulberg moved back 10 yards and punted the ball dead on the Fullerton 2-yard line.

Then there was his decision after Strandly's late field goal not to order an onside kick.

"We didn't want an on-side kick. We thought there was enough time," he said. "We didn't try a fake field goal because they were in a safe defense, and we would have almost had to put the ball in the end zone to get the first down."

And, there was the mix up in signals that had the Titans running a draw play on fourth and four on their last possession.

"I'll take total responsibility for that mix up," Murphy said.

And Murphy seemed intent on taking responsibility for the loss. He stepped in front of Titans' offensive coordinator Jerry Brown when his assistant started to talk about Fullerton's last possession.

"This is one of those 'should have' and 'could have' games," Murphy said.

There were plenty of people in the stands Saturday who could have bent his ear on what he should have done. But after seven years as a head coach, Murphy realizes his job is not a popularity contest.

Not even on homecoming.

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