San Jose State was without its starting quarterback, who had risen from anonymity to place his name atop the NCAA total offense list. Cal State Fullerton was without, well, without anything to lose. When you've lost six more games than you've won, you start calling yourselves "spoilers." It sounds better than "losers," and it gives you some sense of purpose.
But there would be no spoiling Saturday afternoon in Santa Ana Stadium. Even without Mike Perez, the once-obscure quarterback who made quite a name for himself before suffering a shoulder injury last week, San Jose State kept rolling toward a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. championship and an appearance in the California Bowl.
Tony Locy, who last played in Santa Ana Stadium as a Mater Dei High School wide receiver, replaced Perez and passed for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns, and the Spartans compiled more than 500 yards in total offense for the sixth time this season en route to a 48-24 victory over Fullerton in front of a no-where-near-capacity crowd of 3,754.
A victory over Cal State Long Beach next week would give the Spartans a 6-0 conference record and their first PCAA title since 1981. Fullerton's season is mercifully drawing to a close. The Titans, 2-9 and losers in seven of their last eight, need a victory next week at the University of the Pacific to keep from finishing with the worst record in their 17-year football history.
Perez, his right shoulder in a sling, watched from the sidelines as Locy plugged himself into a San Jose State offense that has rather quietly emerged as one of college football's most effective. Locy, a transfer from Cerritos College, completed 22 of 33 passes and 3 touchdowns in about a five-minute span of the second quarter.
As if that weren't more than enough to bring a broad smile to the face of Spartan Coach Claude Gilbert, running back Kenny Jackson finished with a decided statistical advantage in the matchup between two of the PCAA's top running backs. Jackson finished with 134 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries. Fullerton's Rick Calhoun, the conference's leading rusher, was held to 19 yards in 9 carries.
It's not terribly surprising that Fullerton had such a terrible time trying to run the ball. San Jose came into the game ranked third in the nation in rushing defense. You may recognize the teams ranked ahead of them--Oklahoma and Penn State.
Stripped of its running game and forced to play catch-up, Fullerton went to the air. Junior quarterback Ronnie Barber completed 18 of 31 passes for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver John Gibbs had 7 receptions for 126 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown pass from Barber in the third quarter.
All of this only served to make the final statistics seem slightly less lopsided. Fullerton finished with 349 yards in total offense. San Jose had 278 yards passing and 268 rushing for a total of 546. Said Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy after surveying the stat sheet: "Well, we held 'em under 700 yards."
Gilbert, whose team has gone from 2-8-1 in 1985 to 8-2 this year, didn't seem particularly surprised that the Spartans were able to maintain their new-found status quo. "We've had very few flat moments . . . very few letdowns," he said. "This group has been more consistent than any team I've ever coached."
Fullerton has had several more valleys than peaks in 1986. But this was the first time since a 49-3, season-opening loss to Nevada Reno that the Titans were so thoroughly beaten.
"No ifs, ands or buts," Murphy said. "We were dominated."
Linebacker Sean Foy was one of 12 seniors playing his last home game for the Titans. Like the others, he was hoping to keep intact one of the Titans' last sources of pride--a five-game winning streak at home.
"We wanted to finish the year on a bang," Foy said. "Beating these guys would have done it, but it just didn't happen. It's kind of been like this for us all season. It's been disappointment after disappointment."
Utah State 14, Pacific 10---- Sophmore Kendal Smith caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Tom Ponich with 2:50 left to lead the Aggies.
The winning score capped a 97-yard, six-play drive and came two plays after Ponich threw 54 yards to Smith. Smith finished with 4 cathces for 94 yards, more than half of Ponich's 189 yards passing.