FRESNO — If Saturday night's Big West Conference opener against Fresno State was "the game of the year," as Cal State Fullerton coaches and players had said it would be, then the Titans won't have much to look forward to in 1990.
Fresno State routed Fullerton, 38-3, in front of 33,624 in Bulldog Stadium, seriously damaging what little hopes the Titans had of winning a conference championship.
The 24th-ranked Bulldogs (5-0) threw everything they had at the Titans (1-4), leaving Fullerton practically defenseless.
Quarterback Mark Barsotti, who is 26-3 as a Fresno State starter, completed 12 of 24 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns to lead an offense that amassed 521 total yards.
Tailback Aaron Craver, who didn't play football at Compton High School but developed into a standout running back at El Camino College, rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and fullback Lorenzo Neal added 112 yards and a touchdown.
Punter Brad Seagle even ran 47 yards with a fake punt in the first quarter, prolonging a drive that ended with a field goal.
And to add injury to insult, Fullerton's best defensive player, linebacker Clarence Siler, went down with a knee injury midway through the third quarter and had to be carried off the field. Siler suffered a partially torn ligament in his right knee, sprained his right ankle and will be out for three to four weeks.
Fullerton gained 402 total yards but turned the ball over six times, four on fumbles and two on interceptions. The Titans had eight turnovers in last week's 48-17 loss to Akron.
"We got beat by a better team," Fullerton Coach Gene Murphy said. "They're a top 20 team. We thought we could do some things against their defense and we did. We moved the ball in the first half, but it all came down to turnovers."
For Fullerton to have any chance of winning the Big West title outright, conference favorites Fresno State and San Jose State must each lose to a Big West team before their Nov. 17 meeting. That's not too likely, given the strength of the Bulldogs and Spartans and the weakness of the remainder of the conference.
So now, it appears Fullerton will be playing for what it played for in the second half Saturday night--pride.
So much for Titan pride Saturday night. The Titans failed to score a touchdown in a conference game for the first time since 1985, when Nevada Las Vegas beat the Fullerton, 10-6.
They came close on their final offensive play of the game when reserve quarterback Terry Payne hit Danny Pasquil with a 25-yard pass to the Fresno State one-yard line. But Pasquil, who never appeared to have possession of the ball, dropped it in the end zone. The officials ruled it a fumble, and the Bulldogs recovered.
Not that a touchdown at that point would have mattered. This game was virtually over at halftime.
Fresno State took advantage of two Fullerton turnovers and several penalties--the bane of the Titans' existence in two of three previous losses--to take a commanding 24-3 lead after two quarters.
The Titans had driven from their 28-yard line to the Bulldog 9 on their first possession, 43 of those yards coming on a pass from Paul Schulte to J.J. Celestine, but Schulte fumbled the snap on a first-and-goal play from the nine, and Jeff Thiesen recovered for Fresno State.
The Bulldogs then drove 88 yards in 11 plays, with Barsotti hitting Marty Thompson on a 20-yard, play-action pass for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead. Fifteen yards of the drive came on a Fullerton cornerback Lionel Denman's pass interference penalty.
Another pass interference call, this one on safety Terry Tramble, who was playing his first game in three weeks, hurt the Titans on Fresno State's next possession, which ended with Derek Mahoney's 24-yard field goal and a 10-0 Bulldog lead.
The Titans scored early in the second quarter on Phil Nevin's 22-yard field goal, but Fresno State dominated the remainder of the period, scoring two touchdowns. A personal foul penalty on Lorenzo Hailey (late hit) and Darrell Bruce's pass-interference penalty accounted for 30 yards of the Bulldogs' 75-yard drive.
Barsotti, scrambling to his right, drilled Chris Gawley in the right rear corner of the end zone with a 17-yard touchdown pass, and Mahoney added the extra point for a 17-3 lead with 5:27 left in the half.
Schulte went back to pass on the Titans' next possession and fumbled after being hit by Judd Foell. Thiesen recovered again for Fresno State on the Fullerton 47, and it took the Bulldogs eight plays to reach the end zone, with Aaron Craver scoring from one yard out for a 24-3 lead.
Fresno State added two more touchdowns in the third quarter, the first on Craver's 11-yard run and the second on Neal's one-yard run. The Bulldogs intercepted Schulte twice in the fourth quarter.
Fullerton, which hasn't defeated Fresno State in their last six meetings, was led by Schulte's 201 yards passing on 10 of 24 attempts. Payne completed 8 of 13 passes for 92 yards in the fourth quarter, and Reggie Yarbrough finished with 74 yards rushing.