Say what you want about the intelligence of Cal State Northridge running backs--Cal Lutheran Coach Bob Shoup certainly has--but they were smart enough to pick a school with a dominant offensive line.
The Matador front line cracked the Kingsmen defense as if they were Humpty Dumpty. And even quarterback Tom Bonds couldn't put the Kingsmen back together again.
Northridge defeated Cal Lutheran, 36-14, in the Western Football Conference opener for the Matadors Saturday night at North Campus Stadium. And give an assist to the Cal Lutheran head coach.
No, he didn't blow a call. He simply flapped his mouth once too often.
The quote from Shoup: "The last five running backs at Northridge couldn't get in here. The standards are too high. You need either a 1,000 on the SAT or a 3.0 GPA out of high school."
Shoup said it 10 full days before Saturday's game, but the impact was lingering.
The Matadors (4-1, 1-0 in conference) rushed for 334 yards and the final score was, uh, academic, by the end of the first half.
"Our running backs--I don't know how smart they are, but they can count yards--over 300 I think," Northridge Coach Bob Burt said after the game. "Our kids may not have 3.9 grade point averages, but they know when they're insulted."
Freshman tailback Albert Fann led the Matador ground game with 133 yards and two touchdowns. Richard Brown, CSUN's 5-10, 180-pound fullback, added 127 yards and a touchdown.
They had the last word on the field, but couldn't resist a jab of their own at Shoup afterwards.
"I'm smart enough to know my plays, know my blocks and know how to score and win the football game," Fann said.
Said Brown: "The team as a whole took it as an insult, but the backs took it stronger."
Burt attributed his team's performance in part to some of Shoup's comments.
"That's the first time this year I've felt an electricity in the locker room before the game," he said.
And it was the Kingsmen who were shocked.
One to save for next season: Asked about what he thought of having to face Fann three more years, Shoup said, "Yeah. If he stays in school that long."
This man is a glutton for punishment.
Bonds completed 23 of 39 passes for 180 yards. He was sacked five times, including once for a safety--the final indignity--in the fourth quarter.
His favorite target, receiver John Bankhead, who entered the game with a 27.9 average, caught one pass for nine yards.
"They covered our wideouts real well. The key to us moving the ball is to get it to John Bankhead," Bonds said.
Cal Lutheran's only points of the first half came after Northridge turned the ball over deep in its own territory.
Ted Briscoe recovered Lance Harper's fumble at the 24-yard line, and three players later, Bonds hit tight end Mark Jones with a four-yard pass for the touchdown.
That was it for Kingsmen highlights until late in the game.
Cal Lutheran (2-3, 0-3 in conference) was outgained, 233-46, rushing in the first half and Bonds passed for only 99 yards in completing 13 of 21 attempts.
Bonds chose to throw deep or to his backs with equal ineffectiveness.
Of his completions, eight were to running backs for a total of 38 yards.
Northridge, which has won four in a row, tied the score on its next possession, using its two most dependable weapons, Fann and split end Keith Wright.
Fann, who broke the 100-yard barrier for the third time this season, returned the kickoff 33 yards to the Matador 45 and rushed twice for 18 yards before the Matadors turned to Wright, who seems to have a magnetic attraction to the end zone.
Wright made a leaping catch at the goal line of a 37-yard pass by Rob Huffman for his fifth touchdown of the season on only his eighth catch. And you thought Tony Gwynn had a high average.
Northridge took the lead for good, 14-7, on its next possession, driving 51 yards on 10 plays with Richard Brown bursting up the middle from 12 yards out for the touchdown.
It was showtime for the Matador running backs.
Fann took the stage on Northridge's first possession of the second quarter, turning up a sweep play and racing 81 yards for a touchdown.