Cal State Fullerton wide receiver Todd White is a player of such versatility that in his years as a Titan he has thrown passes, carried the ball on the reverse, returned punts and kickoffs, held for field goals and played a bit acting role in Fullerton's "forgotten tee" fake field goal play.
But Saturday, he did what he does best--catch the ball--and did it better than any Titan has before, catching a school-record 12 passes for a school-record 203 yards and a school-record-tying 3 touchdowns.
All of which played a major role in Fullerton's 28-14 victory over Nevada Las Vegas in a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. game in front of 6,019 in Santa Ana Stadium.
The previous record for catches in a game was 10, set by Tyrone Perry in 1970, Fullerton's first year of football. The record for receiving yardage was 166, set by Grady Richardson in 1973.
The Titan coaches think so highly of White that he is the player most often designated for the crucial role on the celebrated Fullerton trick plays, such as the one in which White, the holder for field goals, pretends to have forgotten the kicking tee, heads for the sidelines but turns upfield as a receiver. They routinely expect so much of White, in fact, that Murphy's response to his record-setting game was ordinary.
"He's Todd White," Murphy said, as if that were sufficient explanation. "He has the best hands of any receiver we've had at Fullerton. He always has, and always will have."
White caught touchdown passes of 4, 31 and 13 yards Saturday. His five touchdown receptions this year account for half of the touchdowns Fullerton has scored.
Ronnie Barber, the Fullerton quarterback, didn't have a bad day himself, completing 19 of 27 passes for 279 yards--a career high--with 1 interception and the 3 touchdown passes to White.
"Todd and I worked together all summer," Barber said. "I know what he's going to do, and he knows what I'm going to do. But I owe him dinner for that second touchdown pass."
Fullerton (3-4 overall, 3-1 in PCAA play) was not without the sort of mistakes it has made often this season. There were three lost fumbles, 92 yards in penalties and more than a handful of passes the Titans probably should have intercepted.
But for a team that last week was pummeled in a 65-0 loss to Florida, all that seemed secondary with a victory in hand.
"After standing on the sidelines watching the clock against Florida and saying, 'Move, move' . . . When you get humiliated like that, it takes more than being able to block and tackle to come back and win," Murphy said. "We had a great week of practice, but that doesn't mean anything. We just had to wait and see what would happen."
Even the victory over a rival such as UNLV--a team the Titans had not beaten since 1972--took a bit of a back seat.
"You never know what to expect after a loss like we had at Florida," said White, a fifth-year senior. "I'm pretty happy about my record and beating UNLV, but I'm most happy that we won."
For UNLV (2-3, 1-1), the margin was the biggest of the season in either a victory or a defeat.
"We just didn't execute well today," said Wayne Nunnely, Rebel coach. "We had the opportunity for some big plays, but this was just one game that the opportunities didn't work out. We also gave up a lot of big plays."
In spite of the success Fullerton had passing, the Titan offense had to be bailed out by the defense several times, most notably in the second half, after Fullerton fumbled on its 28-yard line while trying to protect a 21-14 lead.
Richard Williams, a former Fullerton High School and Fullerton College quarterback who lost his starting job after he injured his shoulder in the second game of the season, already had directed UNLV to a touchdown that had cut the lead to seven points.
After the Fullerton fumble, Williams drove the Rebels to a first and goal. But on the next play, Fullerton's Sean Fernandes intercepted a pass in the end zone, preserving the lead. It was the first of two interceptions by Fernandes, a walk-on who has five interceptions this season and has become a starter only because of a knee injury to cornerback Tyrone Pope.
Williams got a chance to play because starter Scott Sims, who had led the Rebels to two victories while Williams was injured, had thrown 3 interceptions and passed for only 27 yards.
"That was a critical play in the game," said Nunnely. "We had the ball on the five-yard line and a chance to score. The guy made a good play. Richard made a bad throw, but the defensive back made a good break on the ball and caught it."
The Fullerton secondary held the Rebels' leading receiver, George Thomas, to 3 receptions for 23 yards. A week ago in a victory over Utah State, Thomas caught nine passes.
"Our defense played as well as it can play," Murphy said.
Williams, making a bid to regain the starting position, fared only somewhat better than Sims, finishing 3 of 9 for 60 yards with a touchdown and 2 interceptions.
Titan kicker Stan Lambert, who had made all eight of his field goal attempts, missed a 32-yarder with less than two minutes in the game. . . . Fullerton defensive back Mike Schaffel, who had nine unassisted tackles among his team-leading 12 tackles, also broke up two passes and had an interception. . . . Fullerton nose guard Harold Jones intercepted a very short screen pass. Not surprisingly, it was his first career interception. . . . Titan fullback William Robinson left the game in the first quarter after he strained ligaments in his knee, and he did not return. . . . The Titans dressed in all orange, marking the fifth consecutive week they have worn one-color uniforms as a motivational stunt.