There comes a point in most football seasons at which a team's focus changes.
For Cal State Fullerton, that change came this week, after last Saturday's emotional 21-17 loss to Fresno State in a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. game that ended the Titans' hopes of tying San Jose State for the conference title.
After the Titans' conference finale against the University of the Pacific at Santa Ana Stadium at 1 p.m. today, Fullerton has only one game remaining--a nonconference season-ending contest against Montana. "This means consolation," said Gene Murphy, Cal State Fullerton coach.
Fullerton, which began the season 0-2 and lost by margins of 44 or more to Hawaii, Louisiana State and Florida, had a three-game winning streak before losing to Fresno State.
There is something left to play for, it's just that it no longer involves a share of the conference title or a possible 8-4 season.
A victory against Pacific would guarantee the Titans, 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the PCAA, at least a tie for second place and keep them on track for a winning season while guaranteeing they will avoid a second straight losing season. A loss would end the possibility of a winning season.
And then, as they say, there is next year.
"If you don't win the conference championship, then you want to win toward the end of the year to build for next year," Murphy said.
In Pacific (3-6, 2-3), the Titans face a troublesome wishbone team that has a tendency to play close games--particularly against Fullerton. Three times in their last seven meetings, the game has been decided on the final play.
Last year, in Fullerton's final game of the season, the Titans needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion with a minute to play and Pacific's missed field-goal attempt on the last play to escape with a 39-38 victory. It prevented the 1986 team from becoming the first in the school's football history to lose 10 games. Instead, they finished 3-9.
Despite Pacific's losing record, Fullerton likely has found it difficult to take the Tigers lightly: Pacific's biggest win this season was a 23-22 victory over Fresno State.