The elements of excitement were abundant in Cal State Fullerton's football game against New Mexico State Saturday.
There were a 63-yard touchdown pass play, a blocked punt returned for a touchdown and a touchdown scored on a fake field goal.
There were an individual record and a school record. And there was a particular motivation--the Titans' desire to pay back New Mexico State after being upset by the Aggies last year.
In the end, though, it was simply a Titan victory, and little more.
Fullerton shut out New Mexico State through three quarters before winning, 48-14, in a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. game played in the rain at Santa Ana Stadium. The announced gathering of 2,031 was the smallest crowd to attend a Fullerton home game in the 1980s, according to Fullerton officials.
"Kind of boring, wasn't it?" said Gene Murphy, Cal State Fullerton coach.
Fullerton (5-4 overall, 4-1 in the PCAA) won its third straight game and went above the .500 mark for the first time in nearly two years. The Titans took a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game when Ronnie Barber completed a short pass to tight end Jim Thornton, who ran about 45 yards on the 63-yard scoring play.
The Titans added four more touchdowns in the second quarter--including one by defensive back Mike Schaffel on a fake field goal and another by linebacker Jeff Hipp, who blocked a line-drive punt at the nine-yard line and carried it into the end zone. Fullerton led, 35-0, at halftime.
Any remaining suspense depended on whether the Titans would get their first shutout of the season and whether Fullerton's Todd White would break the school record for career receptions.
They didn't, but he did. White needed four catches to break Roy Lewis' record of 81, and that was the number he made. White broke the record when he caught a 10-yard pass from backup quarterback Carlos Siragusa in the third quarter.
"It feels pretty good," said White, who began the season in fourth place with 44 receptions. "I knew at the start of the year I had a long way to go. I knew there were a lot of people to catch."
The larger part of Fullerton's offense was on the ground, however, and tailback Eric Franklin rushed for a career-high mark for the second straight week. Franklin finished with 136 yards and 2 touchdowns in 21 carries. Last week in a victory over Northern Illinois, he rushed for 133 yards.
As much as the Fullerton coaches and players sought to downplay it, though, this was a game that had a lot to do with revenge. New Mexico State, which went 1-10 last year, got its only victory of the year and its first PCAA victory ever against Fullerton, which finished 3-9.
Murphy said it was as if the Aggies (2-6, 0-4) were any other team--"nameless and faceless"-- but Friday night, at the players' request, there was a special showing of last year's game film.
"That inspired me," said Schaffel, who intercepted a pass in the end zone to thwart a New Mexico State drive in addition to scoring on the fake field goal, his first touchdown since high school.
White, like Murphy and the other players, chose his words carefully. "You're told not to talk after you beat someone," White said. "But last year they simply beat us, and we felt they rubbed it in our faces a little bit."
This time, it was different.
Fullerton amassed 495 yards on a field so wet that there were numerous slips and nine fumbles between the two teams. But it was never a matter of running up the score. Three more quarterbacks played after Barber completed 7 of 12 passes for 127 yards, and the two touchdowns the Aggies scored late in the game came against a defense that included second-stringers.
"I think that we, collectively as a team, did a lot of things to not be successful today," said Mike Knoll, New Mexico State coach.
Murphy said he had felt certain Fullerton would win.
"I knew before the game that we would win some way, by one point or whatever," Murphy said. "That's important, the win. Now we're 4-1 in conference. We lost control of our destiny when we lost at San Jose State (the Spartans are undefeated in the PCAA). Now our goal is to go 8-4 and see what happens."
Should the Titans, who have three games remaining, win at Fresno State next week, they will assure themselves of finishing no worse than .500.
"We've got an opportunity to be 8-4," said center Phil Benson. "That would be a pretty darn good record, 8-4, losing to LSU, Florida, San Jose State and--who's the other one?--Hawaii."
Tight end Jim Thornton may be out as long as two weeks with what appeared to be a knee injury sustained late in the game. "That's a big-time hurt," Coach Gene Murphy said. . . . The Titans continue to have trouble with penalties. This game, they were penalized 16 times for 156 yards.