FRESNO — Cal State Fullerton can't say it didn't have its chances Saturday night against Fresno State.
Trailing by four points, the Titans ran five plays from the three-yard line or closer in the third quarter. And five times, the Fresno State defense stopped the Titans.
In the end, the Bulldogs stopped Fullerton short not only of the goal line but also ended any Titan hopes of getting a share of the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. title.
Fresno State's 21-17 victory in front of 33,522 fans in Bulldog Stadium, combined with San Jose State's victory over Pacific Saturday gave the title to San Jose. Fullerton (5-5, 4-2), is left in a scramble for second with Fresno (5-4, 3-2).
Fullerton, which once led, 10-0, got a first down at the Bulldog three after Ronnie Barber completed a 29-yard pass to John Gibbs. On the next play, running back Eric Franklin moved to the one. On second down, Barber fumbled and recovered the snap, but the Titans got the play back because of an encroachment call against Fresno.
Franklin was stopped for no gain on the next play. After a timeout, Barber threw an incomplete pass under heavy pressure on third down. On fourth down, his pass to the right corner of the end zone fell incomplete off the fingertips of tight end Bill Brennan.
"We created our own adversity," Titan Coach Gene Murphy said. "We got to the one-yard line and couldn't score. You ought to be able to (score)."
Fresno stopped Fullerton in Titan territory on fourth down and once again in the fourth quarter, and Fullerton's last possession ended in a fumble by Barber.
The game looked as if it would be high-scoring when the teams combined for four touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half. But in the second half, things were very different--no one scored at all.
Fullerton took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, largely on Barber's passing and scrambling. Barber threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Todd White, and Stan Lambert kicked a 26-yard field goal that was set up by an interception by Chris Wright that gave Fullerton the ball at the Fresno State 37.
Fresno twice missed opportunities, first when Barry Belli missed a 44-yard field goal attempt and later when Darren Emery blocked Belli's attempt from 18 yards.
Dave Telford, who finished with 324 passing yards on 20 of 36 attempts, found Ron Jenkins wide open behind the Fullerton defense, and Jenkins carried the ball in for a 50-yard touchdown play to make it 10-7.
Fresno took its first lead of the game on its next possession, again on a long pass play as Brock Smith outran Fullerton cornerback James Howard to catch a 34-yard pass in the end zone, making it 14-10 with 1:15 left in the half.
But Fullerton's Michael Moore took the kickoff at the 7-yard line, sprinted down the left sideline before cutting back to the middle, where he spun free of several defenders and ran for a 93-yard touchdown.
That took all of 14 seconds. When Fresno got the ball back, Telford completed four quick passes--three of them to Smith--and then Dean Collins scored on a 22-yard run on a draw play to give Fresno a 21-17 lead with 25 seconds left in the half.
That, and a lot of defense, would be all Fresno needed.