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Rainbows Leave Titans Looking for Ray of Sunlight : Hawaii's 44-0 Win Has Murphy in Search of Positives

September 07, 1987|ROBYN NORWOOD | Times Staff Writer

HONOLULU — Cal State Fullerton's last act in Aloha Stadium was to trudge the length of the football field, with the players showered and dressed, to the buses waiting at the opposite end.

It was a distance, from goal line to goal line, that equaled the Titans' entire offensive output in their 44-0 season-opening loss to Hawaii Saturday night.

Fullerton finished with just 111 yards passing and minus-11 yards rushing against the Rainbows. The Titans were tackled for losses seven times, for 40 yards. The quarterbacks were sacked three times, were penalized for intentional grounding once, and were fortunate to get off incomplete passes several more times.

And the defense--obviously--didn't do much better.

"We'll find some positive things when we look at the films," Titan Coach Gene Murphy said afterward. "But I can't think of any right now."

It was the Titans' worst loss since, well, last year's season opener--a 49-3 defeat by Nevada Reno--and their third consecutive season-opening loss. They had not been shut out since 1983, when Nevada Las Vegas beat them, 13-0, in the last game of the regular season.

The Titans' concerns in the preseason had focused on defense, since only three starters from last year were in the starting lineup this year.

But against Hawaii, the offense never advanced farther than the Rainbows' 39-yard line and did not cross the 50 in the second half.

"It was a matter of our offense not being able to sustain a drive, and our defense being on the field too long," Murphy said.

Much of the blame went to the offensive line, a unit that was thought to be the team's strength.

"The running backs are only as good as the offensive line," Murphy said. "You take that negative yardage on sacks and pass plays."

Tracey Pierce, who with 32 yards on seven carries was the Titans' leading rusher, usually credits the line. But against Hawaii, he conceded, there was something to be desired.

"Our line was physically good but maybe a little not mentally ready," Pierce said. "But Hawaii was quick. It seemed like they knew the snap count, they were coming in so fast."

Greg Hammond, an offensive lineman who often found himself opposite Al Noga, Hawaii's first-team All-America defensive lineman, said Fullerton didn't react well to Hawaii's defensive shifts.

"We let them shift," Hammond said. "We didn't play our game."

Murphy, though, said the trouble was simply Hawaii's superiority in personnel.

Carlos Siragusa--who started the second half at quarterback, replacing Ronnie Barber (7 of 17 passes, 60 yards)--said Hawaii's switching defenses were a problem.

"We didn't adjust. We didn't do what we needed to," said Siragusa, who completed four of nine passes for 15 yards. "We're big and fast, too. They're good, but we're far better than we looked."

Whatever the case, Fullerton had little success.

"We ran at them, we ran away from them," Murphy said. "It didn't seem to make a difference."

The teams played fairly evenly through the first quarter, as both struggled with opening-night miscues that led to four first-quarter fumbles and eight penalties for 81 yards between them.

But Hawaii scored on three of four possessions in the second quarter, going up, 21-0. Warren Jones, the Hawaii quarterback who was not named the starter until game day, ran for two of those and threw a 20-yard pass to Koldene Walsh for the other.

By game's end, Jones had completed 12 of 17 passes for 206 yards and carried the ball 14 times for 74 yards. Running back Heikoti Fakava provided another hunk of offense, rushing for 157 yards on 11 carries.

Billy Stephens scored two touchdowns on short runs as Hawaii put the game out of reach in the third quarter, taking a 34-0 lead after the kick failed after the second touchdown.

A 21-yard field goal by Rodrigo Valverde and a 32-yard touchdown pass from Garrett Gabriel to Pat Gordon wrapped up the scoring in the fourth quarter.

"What ran up the score was our inadequacies," said Murphy, whose team will play at sixth-ranked Louisiana State Saturday. "I hope (the Rainbows) are as good as they looked to us tonight, because if not, we're really going to get beat up when we go down to Baton Rouge."

Hammond, making the long walk across the field after the game with far less resistance than the Titans faced during it, looked to the rest of the season as well.

"The world has yet to see the real Titans," he said. "They weren't here tonight."

Titan Notes

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