Eight days ago, Cal State Northridge Coach Bob Burt stood on the University of Santa Clara football field after a win and predicted the unexpected to happen against UC Davis, his team's next opponent.
He wasn't forecasting a victory over the second-ranked Aggies. But he was saying that the Matadors would try just about anything for an upset.
He wasn't lying.
Northridge took points off the scoreboard when it nullified a first-quarter field goal by kicker Mike Doan and took a penalty trying to get a touchdown. The Matadors threw a 23-yard pass on fourth and one. They faked a punt on fourth and seven, and, finally, they had Mike Kane, their all-conference running back, throw the ball.
Unbelievably, the gimmicks worked.
Except the last. And that enabled Davis to defeat the eighth-ranked Matadors, 25-20, Saturday night before a crowd of 6,244 at North Campus Stadium.
Northridge was 19 yards from the winning touchdown with 1:58 left in the game when quarterback Chris Parker handed the ball to Kane who threw a pass back across the field intended for Parker that was intercepted by UC Davis' Keith Lewis.
It was the first time this season Northridge has tried such a play.
Said Burt: "That was the first time and it will probably be the last. If that's man-to-man coverage and not zone, that's a touchdown."
"I never saw him coming," a disconsolate Kane said after the game. "They told me to throw the ball back, and that's what I tried to do. I don't know how to read defenses or anything. I saw Chris, but that's all."
Said Lewis: "The coaches told us at halftime to watch for the throwback. They were doing it the whole first half, but they weren't throwing it to him. When the halfback faded back, that's when I knew it was on."
And so ended Northridge's chance for perhaps the biggest victory, albeit nonconference, in the school's history. The Matadors are 7-2, while Davis improved to 8-0 behind a 309-yard passing effort by quarterback Chris Petersen.
Petersen completed only three passes longer than 20 yards--and most of those yards came on runs after the catch. Instead he picked away at the Matador defense with short passes over the middle and on the flat.
It was like watching darts pick away at particle board. Petersen completed 27 of 39, including 10 for 80 yards to fullback Roger Wilkinson.
Davis outgained Northridge, 420-274, and Kane was held to less than 100 yards rushing for only the second time this season. He had 86 yards on 20 carries, giving him 1,174 yards, a Western Football Conference record, for the season.
The Matadors get an A for all-out effort. But UC Davis Coach Jim Sochor said his team is accustomed to teams gunning for them.
"There's no question about it," he said. "Especially with Northridge's case, where they're a fine team and really needed this one."
Northridge trailed, 16-14, at the half, but took the lead on its first possession of the third quarter by running from its 42 to the UC Davis three before having to settle for a 20-yard field goal by Doan.
UC Davis answered with a nine-play, 70-yard drive for a touchdown.
Petersen hit Wayne Adkins in the corner of the end zone with an 11-yard scoring pass on third and 10. Davis failed to convert on a try for a two-point conversion.
Northridge used a 38-yard kickoff return by Kip Dukes to get into position for a 37-yard field goal by Doan that cut the lead to 22-20.
Davis' final points came early in the fourth period on Loretto's fourth field goal, another 31-yarder.
The Matadors (3-1 in the WFC) trail Portland State (4-1) and Sacramento State (4-1) by a half-game. Northridge plays host to Portland next Saturday, then travels to Sacramento for its final conference game.
Both games are must-wins if the Matadors hope to make the eight-team Division II playoffs. "If the bidding committee thinks a 25-20 loss to the No. 2 team in the country is worthy of a playoff bid, then we'll go," Burt said.
Northridge helped the Aggies to 10 of their first-half points.
CSUN had a 7-3 lead after the first quarter until Petersen hooked up with Rob Delgado on a 60-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.
Delgado ran 50 yards after catching the ball. As Delgado and tight end Mandeville crossed over the middle, Petersen delivered the ball between them and Matador strong safety Dukes tackled Mandeville, not Delgado, who cut to the sideline.
The Matadors regained the lead midway through the second period with their most impressive drive of the half, going 80 yards on eight plays.
A 23-yard pass from Parker to Richard Brown on a fourth-and-one was the key play. Brown was covered down the sideline, but Parker lofted the pass high over the defender.
Parker hit Brian Bowers with a 15-yard touchdown pass on the next play and Doan's extra point gave Northridge a 14-13 lead.
Davis took the lead at the half on a 31-yard field goal by Eddie Loretto with five seconds left.
Davis took the ball on its 28 and drove to the Matador 14 before stalling.
Davis scored on its first possession, driving 53 yards on 15 plays for a 21-yard field goal by Loretto.
Northridge came back by going 58 yards on 11 plays to take a 7-3 lead on a three-yard run by fullback Duane Lawlor. This was after Doan had kicked a 43-yard field goal that Burt declined to take when Davis had too many men on the field.
In doing so, he broke an unwritten rule of football. But he showed little remorse afterward.
"That rule is if I want to use it," Burt said. "I write my own rule book. Three points is fine, but seven is better."