SAN JOSE — In a game in which Cal State Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said his team would need to be "meticulous" to win, the Titans dropped passes, fell for a fake field goal and gave up a safety when a snap sailed over the head of the Fullerton punter in the end zone.
Meticulous they weren't.
That Cal State Fullerton led, 7-3, in the early going and trailed by only five in the third quarter seemed long forgotten by the time it was over.
In the end, San Jose State, the defending Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. champion, took a 46-19 victory Saturday in front of 13,197 in Spartan Stadium.
The Titans (2-1, 2-3) had taken an early lead in the PCAA race, largely because they were one of only three teams that had played a conference game, and they were the only one with a victory. Now, with the Spartans (1-0, 4-1) involved, the race begins in earnest.
The Titans needed to play their best to win, and they didn't. That leaves San Jose State--already the self-proclaimed Bay Area champion after victories over California and Stanford--a step ahead in the pursuit of a more acknowledged title, the PCAA championship.
San Jose State rolled over Fullerton largely without the help of quarterback Mike Perez, who led the nation in total offense last year and was ranked second before Saturday's game.
Perez, who sustained a muscle strain in his right shoulder in the victory over Stanford last week, did not play in the second half Saturday, complaining of stiffness in his neck. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 166 yards.
It didn't seem to matter much. San Jose State's lead was 34-19 before its first possession of the second half, then backup Tony Locy completed 12 of 16 passes for 192 yards and 2 touchdowns and turned it into a blowout.
Locy, an Anaheim native, played his prep football at Mater Dei in Santa Ana, the same city in which Fullerton plays its home games.
Saturday, he led the Spartans past the Titans for the second straight year.
Last season, also filling in for the injured Perez, he passed for 278 yards in San Jose State's 48-24 victory at Santa Ana Stadium.
"There's a little added incentive against them," Locy said.
Guy Liggins was San Jose State's leading receiver; he caught 8 passes for 128 yards. Kenny Jackson led the Spartans in rushing with 68 yards and scored 3 touchdowns, one running and two on receptions.
Fullerton's Ronnie Barber threw for 163 yards, completing 12 of 34 passes, although several of his passes were dropped.
John Gibbs led Fullerton with 8 receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Fullerton's running game was stifled, even though the Titans countered San Jose State's blitzing defense with a three-running-back formation.
Tailback Eric Franklin, who finished with 62 yards in 14 carries, accounted for all but 14 of the Titans' rushing yards.
"We couldn't put it together," Barber said. "Our offense fluttered. We were inconsistent. They would score a touchdown and then we would get disappointed, and disappointment can't make you win."
Fullerton had the ball only 26 minutes, well below its season possession average of more than 35 minutes.
For a team that attempts to keep its ball-control offense on the field in hopes of keeping the other team's offense off the field, that spelled trouble.
"We couldn't establish anything," Murphy said. That the offense couldn't sustain long drives, as it had in other games, caused problems for a defense hampered by numerous injuries.
"Any time you put your defense on the field with inexperienced people, you're going to be in a world of hurt," Murphy said.
Fullerton held San Jose State to a field goal on the opening possession after Chris Wright sacked Perez at the Fullerton 16 on third down. The Spartans settled for a 46-yard field goal by Sergio Olivarez.
Fullerton took a 7-3 lead, scoring on its first possession on a seven-minute, 17-play drive keyed by Franklin's 27-yard run to the one-yard line, which set up the touchdown on a sneak by Barber.
After that, the Titans blew several chances--first by failing to score after James Howard intercepted Perez at the San Jose State 34, and later by fumbling twice. One fumble at the Titan 35 set up a San Jose State touchdown; another just before the half prevented a probable Titan field goal.
By halftime, San Jose State had a 24-13 lead.
Fullerton staged a brief comeback on the first possession of the third quarter when third-string quarterback Rich Sheriff threw a halfback pass to Barber, the quarterback, who used his scrambling ability to take it into the end zone, making it 24-19.
But the Spartans used some tomfoolery of their own, setting up a touchdown with a fake field goal attempt on their next possession.
After that, it was never close again. "That was the point where guys started getting down," said linebacker Bryan Riggs. "Before that, we thought we could beat these guys."
So did Murphy.
"Through the first half and early in the third quarter, we played at a level that we thought we could win," Murphy said. "But after that touchdown, we just sputtered."
Fullback Tim Byrnes (hip pointer) and wide receiver Mark Hill (shoulder) were injured in the third quarter and did not return. . . . Stan Lambert, the kicker who had not missed a field goal or an extra point in four games, missed an extra point attempt, although the kick was from the 35-yard line rather than the 20 because of a personal foul against the Titans. . . . San Jose State scored its final two points on a safety when Rich Sheriff's snap sailed over punter Jim Sirois' head into the end zone. . . . Fullerton's two fumbles lost were a season high, and its six penalties were a season low.