Richard Brown spent most of last season on the sidelines watching Mike Kane run the ball for Cal State Northridge. As the understudy to an All-American, that was about all Brown could do. Watch. And wait.
This year was supposed to be the year everyone watched him. But it hasn't started according to expectations. Two weeks ago, Brown got the stomach flu, then chicken pox. In the days preceding CSUN's intrasquad scrimmage Saturday night at North Campus Stadium, Brown, a senior, practiced once. And instead of establishing himself as the clear-cut choice as No. 1 tailback, he's in a tight battle with sophomore Lance Harper. "When I got sick," he said, "everything went down the drain."
But practice or not, Brown played for the victorious white team, rushing for 7 yards on 7 carries and catching one pass for 13 yards. Harper, who played for the red, rushed for 15 yards on 5 carries and had 3 catches for 15 yards. The white team won, 7-0.
Further complicating matters, the leading rusher of the game was another tailback, Jason Ferguson, who had 39 yards on 7 carries and 2 catches for 19 yards.
Sherdrick Bonner threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Tony Young for the only score.
At Cal Lutheran, the varsity defeated an alumni team, 27-18, as the two best quarterbacks in school history squared off.
Senior Tom Bonds, who holds almost all of CLU's game and career passing records, completed 9 of 18 for 91 yards, including touchdown passes of 37 yards to Bill Fisher and 3 yards to Michael Parks.
The game's standout, however, was clearly Russ Jensen, the quarterback of the alumni team. Jensen, who in 1982 led the Kingsmen to their most recent playoff appearance, threw 39 passes, completing 17 for 217 yards and a touchdown.
Jensen, who still holds most of CLU's season passing records, played for the Los Angeles Express of the United States Football League for two years before signing with the Raiders last season. He is currently a free agent awaiting a tryout call.
"I've been waiting for the draft, seeing where all the college guys would fall," Jensen said after the game. "It makes absolutely no difference to me where I play." He said he might even end up in the Canadian Football League.
"There are pluses to both," he said. "The pay is better in the NFL, but there's a better chance to play in Canada."
Hank Bauer, coach of the alumni team, said he will make some calls to friends around the NFL to try to help Jensen get a tryout.
Bauer, a former CLU and San Diego Chargers running back, was the special-teams coach for the Chargers for the past three seasons but will spend this year out of football for the first time in 11 years. "I want to see if I can live without football," he said.
Instead, he might do some broadcasting in the San Diego area.
Jensen and Bauer, who have spent enough time around professional football to know, had this to say about Bonds' chances of becoming an NFL quarterback:
"He's good--very good, but I'm not sure if he has the size. He has a lot of talent, but his size is going to hurt him. I'd compare him to Flutie," Jensen said, referring to Doug Flutie, the former Heisman Trophy winner now playing for the Chicago Bears. "Both are good athletes and good leaders."
Said Bauer: "I just can't see him playing in the NFL because of his size. It's a fact of life. Fran Tarkenton is about the only really good short quarterback there has ever been. He's a good one, though. He'd probably have a better chance up in Canada where they play a more wide-open, sprint-out style."
Bonds is 5-11, 185 pounds.
CSUN linebackers Coach Rick Gamboa says Tracey Anderson will be the best linebacker in the Western Football Conference if he weighs 230 pounds. Therein lies the problem. Anderson currently tips the scales at slightly more than 250.