Damon Allen, the slight, scrambling quarterback who led Cal State Fullerton to the best season in its history three years ago, had his best day as a professional Sunday, helping the Edmonton Eskimos to a victory over the Toronto Argonauts in the Grey Cup, the championship game of the Canadian Football League.
It was the highlight of the three years Allen has spent with Edmonton. He has been caught in a backup role and has been unable to get the steady experience he seeks.
Even Sunday, he did not expect to play unless things did not go well for the Eskimos. He got his chance in the second quarter, after starter Matt Dunigan was taken out of the game on a hit that resulted in a fumble and a Toronto touchdown that gave the Argonauts a 24-10 lead.
Allen then directed three touchdown drives--passing for two and scoring another on a 17-yard run--plus a late series that helped produce the field goal with 45 seconds remaining that gave Edmonton a 38-36 victory. Allen completed 15 of 20 passes for 255 yards and was named the game's most valuable player.
"All week long, our coaches had been saying, 'Your time is going to come, and just be ready when your name is called,' " Allen said. "I was just very confident that if I did get a chance to play, I was going to get the job done."
Playing in Edmonton has often been frustrating, Allen said, because he has never been able to win the starting position.
"I'm just playing off and on. Playing every week would be a lot more comfortable. I've been battling the last three years. At times, a lot of people have been thinking I should be starting, but that never happened."
Allen, 24, led the Titans to an 11-1 season in 1984 and holds--among other marks--the Fullerton career passing-yardage record of 4,218 yards.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 1984 major league baseball free-agent draft by the Detroit Tigers, Allen chose football and signed a three-year contract with the Eskimos after his senior season. Next year is the option year of his contract, after which he will become a free agent.
"It will be time to renegotiate or move on," Allen said.
Another one-time Eskimo quarterback, Warren Moon, now of the Houston Oilers, has had success in launching an NFL career from the CFL. For Allen, any dreams of such a transition are still in the future.
"Right now, I'm not thinking about going to the States, since I haven't become a starter here," he said. "If I continue to do well, I wouldn't mind playing up here. . . . No doubt about it, though, I'd like to play in the NFL one day. I grew up around it."
Allen's brother is Marcus Allen, the Raider running back.
The future of his playing career remains uncertain, but for now, Allen has something to savor.
"This was the game of my career," he said.
Todd White, Cal State Fullerton's wide-receiver, punt returner and gimmick-play specialist, was voted by conference coaches to the all-Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. first offensive team as a punt returner. He also was selected to the second team as a wide receiver.
Jim Thornton (tight end) and Ed Gillies (guard) also made the first offensive team for Fullerton, and lineman A.J. Jenkins was named to the first team on defense.
Eric Franklin (running back) and Matt Fitts (offensive tackle) made the second team on offense, and linebacker Bill Bryan made the second team on defense.
White also walked away with two top awards at the Titan football banquet Monday night.
White, one of eight fifth-year seniors on the team, was named special teams player of the year by the coaching staff and was chosen as the offensive player of the year (excluding linemen) by his teammates. White set single-season and career records for pass receptions, receiving yardage and punt-return yardage this season.
Other players' awards: Gillies and Thornton (offensive linemen), Jenkins (defensive lineman), Bryan and Mike Schaffel (defensive backs) and Chris Wright (newcomer).
The coaching staff also honored fifth-year linebacker Bryan Riggs, who returned from reconstructive knee surgery (comeback player), and quarterback Herman Evans and linebacker Jamal Jones (scout players).
Jeff Taylor, Kelly Gogerty, Greg Hammond and Chris Miller received Titan Pride Awards.
The Titans will lose 21 seniors from this year's team, which finished 6-6 and tied with three teams for second place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn.
A set of football scheduling guidelines limiting games against top 20 opponents to one per season and requiring a minimum of four home games per season have been recommended by Athletic Director Ed Carroll and approved by the university's Athletic Council.
Carroll, who came under some criticism after Fullerton lost one-sided games to top 20 opponents Louisiana State and Florida this season, has said he thinks two such games are too many in one season.
Carroll makes the schedule.
The guidelines also call for Fullerton to play away games against Division I-A teams only, although it would be permissible to play Division I-AA or Division II teams at home.
The guidelines are not binding.