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Northern Illinois Presents a Money Game Fullerton Can Win

October 24, 1987|ROBYN NORWOOD | Times Staff Writer

The series history between Cal State Fullerton and Northern Illinois is neither long nor storied, and--in all fairness--cannot even be called a series until after today.

The last time--the only time--these teams met, Todd White had one duty, holding for field goals. No other current Titan got in the game.

Since then, more than a few things have changed. All but a handful of current players on both teams were still in high school when the teams met in 1983. Northern Illinois had a different coach. And these days, White, a fifth-year senior, is most noted for catching passes, particularly after he set two school single-game receiving records last week in a victory over Nevada Las Vegas.

But despite a short history and a decided lack of emotional appeal, the game against Northern Illinois holds an indisputable spot in Fullerton football history.

The Huskies were the Titans' opponent in their only appearance in the California Bowl, which pairs the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. champion with the champion of the Mid-American Conference.

Northern Illinois, now independent, won the MAC in 1983. Fullerton, picked to finish last in a preseason poll that year, won the PCAA title when Cal State Long Beach scored a touchdown in the final 12 seconds, giving second-place UNLV its second conference loss and making Fullerton the champion with a 5-1 record.

When the teams met in Fresno that December, Northern Illinois came away with a 20-13 Cal Bowl victory.

That game hasn't stirred an intense desire for vengeance in the Fullerton players, only a few of whom were on hand.

"I don't remember that game too well," White said. "That game was a separate thing from this one because so few of us were involved. But I'm looking forward to playing them again. Like the coaches are saying, we really owe them one. I didn't get a chance to do anything against them last time."

Jim Thornton, a fifth-year senior who is now the Titans' starting tight end, watched the Cal Bowl from the sidelines in 1983. He redshirted that year and couldn't play, but he made the trip and dressed out as a reward for the work at quarterback that earned him an award as the scout team offensive player of the year.

"I just think of this game as another chance to go beat some guys up, to go and prove to them that California boys can play some ball. . . . Plus, they are one up on us in the Cal Bowl."

There's a different twist on this Fullerton nonconference game--the Titans get a nice payoff and a chance to win.

Unlike games this season at Louisiana State and Florida, which earned the Titans a total of $400,000 and two humiliating losses, Fullerton is not playing the role of patsy this week.

But the Titans will earn a guarantee of $75,000, making this what Athletic Director Ed Carroll calls the ideal type of nonconference game: lucrative and against a beatable team. The guarantee for PCAA games, by contrast, is $30,000.

It's a pleasant change for everyone, not least of all the team itself.

"We can win," Murphy said. "Realistically, we know we can line up and win."

The Huskies, who run a wishbone offense, rank eighth in the nation in rushing with a 289-yard average. Five players have rushed for more than 200 yards, including quarterback Marshall Taylor, who averages 82 yards a game.

Northern Illinois leads the nation in interceptions with 15 in six games.

Titan Notes

William Robinson, the Titans' second leading rusher, will miss today's game because of a knee injury sustained against Nevada Las Vegas last week. Safety Tom Phillips (broken hand) remains out. Cornerback Tyrone Pope (knee), who has not played for a month, made the trip and may play.

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