Cal State Fullerton has lost its share of games this year, in all manner of situations.
The Titans have lost by huge margins in games they had little business playing (Louisiana State, Florida).
They have lost by large margins in games they could have been expected to lose, but by fewer points (Hawaii, San Jose State).
And they have lost a close, competitive game that they might have won (Fresno State).
After a 22-14 Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. loss to the University of the Pacific in front of a gathering of 3,114 Saturday in Santa Ana Stadium, add one more to the list: They have lost one they shouldn't have.
"Should" is often a very subjective word. Not here. Cal State Fullerton (5-6 overall, 4-3 in PCAA play) amassed 494 yards of total offense to Pacific's 189, made 27 first downs to Pacific's 12 and outdid the Tigers in every significant statistical category.
Unfortunately for the Titans, turnovers and penalties are significant categories. Fullerton quarterback Ronnie Barber threw three interceptions, the Titans lost three fumbles and they were penalized a school-record-tying 16 times for 122 yards.
"It's very disappointing when you dominate a game like that and don't win," said Gene Murphy, Cal State Fullerton coach.
Bob Cope, Pacific coach, saw it a bit differently.
"We really played better than the stats indicate," Cope said. "We kind of bent but didn't break."
He could have just said, thank you.
Fullerton took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on Barber's 12-yard touchdown pass to Todd White. But on Fullerton's next possession, Barber was intercepted by Mark Roberts, giving the Tigers the ball on the Titan 24-yard line. Six plays later, Jon Grim scored on a one-yard run. Mark Gran missed the point-after kick, making the score 7-6.
Pacific (4-6, 3-3) didn't score again until the second quarter, shortly after Greg Koperek intercepted Barber at the Titan 27-yard line and returned the ball to the 6. After a two-point conversion attempt failed, Pacific led, 12-7.
Fullerton took a 14-12 lead--its last of the game--when Eric Franklin scored on a five-yard run, which was set up a few plays earlier by Michael Moore's 75-yard kickoff return.
Another Pacific touchdown made it 19-14.
Among other Fullerton miscues in the first half: Stan Lambert missed a 26-yard field goal attempt, a Titan drive was stifled when Franklin fumbled at the Titan 47, and a catchable pass in the end zone went off the hands of Titan John Gibbs on the last play of the half.
In the second half, there was more of the same.
Fullerton drove to a second and goal at the one in the third quarter, but failed to score. White, the Fullerton punt returner, fumbled a punt at his own 14, leading to a Pacific field goal and a 22-14 lead. And as Fullerton attempted to come back, Barber threw his third interception, this one picked off at the Pacific four by Roberts and returned to the Tiger 33.
One other notable feat--on one penalty-plagued drive, the Titans piled up 106 yards of offense but failed to score.
"This (loss) is worse than all the others," said Tim Byrnes, a Titan fullback who rushed for 84 yards in 12 carries. "This was a game we felt we should have won, but we didn't prove it on the field. We felt going in that we were much better, but today they showed us up."
Fullerton, coming off an emotional 21-17 loss to Fresno State last week, did not appear very motivated for this game against Pacific, a team that had not won more than two conference games since 1981.
The loss to Fresno took the Titans out of contention for a tie for the PCAA title and ended the Titans' hopes of an 8-4 season.
"After the Fresno loss we really didn't have anything more," said Barber, who completed 18 of 26 passes for 209 yards but threw the 3 interceptions. "It hurt us, that game did. We really didn't have any drive this week. Now we'll go back and work hard for next week (against Montana). Maybe we'll get a blowout. Or just get a win."
White, Fullerton's leading receiver, said he could see trouble coming from the way the team practiced last week.
"This whole week we were all relaxed at practice," White said. "We thought just because we lost a tough game at Fresno, we could just go out and blow these guys out. We lost today because of the week's preparation . . . A few people might have wanted to practice and work hard, but it has to be everyone. If not, it's going to be chaos. That's what happened today."
Fullerton's only remaining game, the nonconference one against Montana next week, had seemed somewhat meaningless earlier this week. Now that is different.
The only way Fullerton can avoid a second consecutive losing season is to beat Montana, a Division I-AA team.
"The best we can do now is not have a losing season," Murphy said. "Thank God we have one more game now."
Eric Franklin rushed for more than 100 yards for the fourth straight week, gaining 110 in 20 carries . . . Michael Moore, the Titans' designated kickoff returner and apparent heir to Franklin's tailback position, had a 75-yard kickoff return. Last week, he returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. He also gained 45 yards in six carries, with 25 his longest run. . . . Fullerton, which gained 285 yards rushing, is the first PCAA team to rush for more than 100 yards against the Tigers.