When Cal State Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy and defensive coordinator Steve Hall were showing game films to a group of boosters Monday, one thing that bore reviewing was roverback Chris Wright's leaping, exuberant reaction to a fumble recovery by the Titan defense.
"That kind of enthusiasm is one of the things we look for when we watch the films," Murphy told the group.
One of the things. But among Wright's other contributions were many with a more direct effect on a 21-20 victory over Northern Illinois Saturday. Wright, a sophomore, made a career-high 18 tackles--11 of them unassisted. This included the game-saver in which he forced a Northern Illinois ball carrier out of bounds at about the 1-yard line on a two-point conversion attempt with no time remaining.
Another yard, maybe less, and Northern Illinois would have won the game.
It was a performance that has earned Wright Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. defensive player of the week honors.
Murphy and his staff have been impressed with Wright, who was academically ineligible last season, almost from the first day of fall drills.
"Look at the his speed on the field," Hall said, watching the film. "Look at the way he closed on people. With him, you just say go tackle the man with the ball and he does it."
Wright and lineman A.J. Jenkins, a community-college transfer, have helped bolster a defense that was one of Murphy's biggest preseason concerns.
"If you look at the games we've won this year, it's been because of the defense," Murphy said.
Wright, who played tailback and linebacker at Loara High School, also was a wrestler in high school.
Already at Fullerton, he ranks second in total tackles this season (56) to junior linebacker Bill Bryan (64).
Wright's 18 tackles were more than any Titan has made in a single game this year. But he was only one of several Fullerton defenders to have big days as the Northern Illinois wishbone offense ran an incredible 97 plays (81 of them rushes), more than any opponent ever had against the Titans.
Noseguard Harold Jones had 14 tackles, and lineman Jenkins, linebacker Bryan Riggs and safety Mike Schaffel each had 10.
Maryalyce Jeremiah , women's basketball coach, thinks she has quite a find in Eugenia Miller, a little-recruited center from Crenshaw High. Jeremiah, a 6-foot 3-inch, 140-pound freshman, was a two-time City Section high jump champion.
Five starters are returning from last year's 12-16 team, but there isn't a true center among them.
"We're looking at her as somebody who can start very soon, a lot sooner than we had thought," said Jeremiah, who said Miller is making remarkable progress. "She came from a run-and-gun program. They didn't go inside to her, and she got most her points off of the boards. She has a lot to learn, especially about defense. But I would say that when she gets the ball within three feet of the basket she's going to score. The vast majority of her best basketball is ahead of her."
Jeremiah expects Miller to share playing time with Cathi Hall and Amy Torczon, both of whom also will play forward.
When you play in the intensely competitive PCAA volleyball conference, you take your victories where you can. For Fullerton, that meant rejoicing for taking a mere game from second-ranked and two-time defending NCAA champion Pacific in a 15-7, 15-2, 7-15, 15-6 loss.
It was the first time in Coach Fran Cummings' seven years at the school that the Titans have won even one game from Pacific.
Fullerton is 9-16 overall, 1-12 in the PCAA, which is led by Pacific and nationally top-ranked Hawaii.