For one brief, shining afternoon, California Lutheran College returned. Good old CLC, the scourge of the NAIA, the perennial District III powerhouse.
The team that ran up and down Valley Field on Saturday looked the part, thoroughly dominating Azusa Pacific, 27-9, before a crowd of about 2,300.
But it was an aberration, a glimpse of a time long past. CLC now is CLU, Cal Lutheran University. The juggernaut of the NAIA is now just another struggling member of the NCAA Division II. Saturday's victory, against a 2-8 team, only improved the Kingsmen's record to 4-6 in a season headed nowhere.
But they won't throw it back.
Especially the way it began.
"I don't know what it was," CLU Coach Bob Shoup said. "But we definitely started flat."
Maybe it was the lingering memory of last week's bitter 16-15 defeat to UC Santa Barbara, but the Kingsmen definitely needed a wake-up call. They got it from defensive back Fred Buchman.
With about 10 minutes to play in the first quarter and the Cougars stuck at their own 17-yard line facing fourth down and 32, Ivan Kacalek's punt was blocked by Buchman. He knocked the ball down at the five and chased it into the end zone where he grabbed it for a touchdown.
Any doubts the Kingsmen might have had about this being their day were erased later in the quarter.
Starting at the Azusa Pacific 46, CLU quarterback Tom Bonds completed a short pass to fullback Dan Smeester, who carried to the 35 before fumbling after being hit.
As the ball bounced away, there was Bonds, an innocent bystander in the right place at the right time.
He scooped up the ball and ran down the sidelines, 35 yards untouched to the end zone.
Just the way it was diagrammed.
"Bonds did his usual thing," Shoup said with a grin, "making up plays."
Bonds, too, couldn't discuss his run without cracking a big smile.
"I've never even seen that before," he said. "My momentum carried me over there and I saw the ball laying there. I picked it up to just try for the first down, but there was nobody there."
It was the beginning of a successful afternoon for Bonds, who produced two more touchdowns, throwing a 10-yard scoring pass to John Bankhead in the third quarter and a 21-yard scoring pass to Noel Chesnut in the fourth.
In all, Bonds completed 19 of 28 for 219 yards. He also had three picked off.
Smeester, pushed into extra duty because of Tracy Downs' knee problems, had his best day. The sophomore was the game's leading rusher with 66 yards in 10 carries and also the leading receiver with seven catches for 81 yards.
The highlight for the Cougars was provided by a former Kingsman. Mario Riveros, who transferred to Azusa Pacific and became an All-American track star, showed his speed after CLU's third-quarter touchdown when he returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.
Azusa Pacific could muster just 102 total yards, including a feeble 33 yards rushing in 29 carries. The Cougars' top rusher, Jay Johnson, gained three yards in eight carries.
"We needed a win," Shoup said. "I'm not going to worry about how the bull was killed. We'll take an ear or a tail or whatever they give us."