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Northridge Set Back to the Sixties : College football: Northern Arizona adds to the Matadors' disastrous season with 60-7 victory.


NORTHRIDGE — Here's to the third-stringers, or whatever they are. Third-rate, they aren't.

Pressed into emergency service Saturday because of disciplinary action taken against several of their Cal State Northridge teammates, tight end Travis Hall and receiver David Romines started in the defensive secondary.

The pair and some of their mix-and-match mates almost pitched a shutout during their moment in the sun. It wasn't a complete return to one-platoon football, but this pair definitely earned their stripes.

"We did pretty good," said Hall, who caught four passes. "They never threw the ball to our side."

When the regulars returned after one quarter, though, the other side threw often and effectively as Northern Arizona chalked up a 60-7 blowout in a nonconference game before 2,018 at North Campus Stadium.

For the starting defense, it was fun while it lasted, which pretty much describes the early flow of the game. With the ad-lib lineup in place--a handful of Northridge starters were held out because they boycotted practice Tuesday--Northern Arizona managed only a 7-0 lead after one quarter.

"It was fun for the first series, but then I started getting tired," said Romines, who caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. "Then it wasn't fun anymore."

His teammates would echo the latter sentiment. Northern Arizona quarterback Jeff Lewis threw five touchdown passes and ran for two more as Northridge (3-6) surrendered 60 points for the first time since 1985, the season before Bob Burt took over as the coach.

Northridge, which lost its fourth game in a row, allowed a season-high 504 yards and the Lumberjacks averaged 6.6 yards a play. Hard to believe, but with the patchwork defense on the field for the entire first quarter, Northern Arizona managed 101 yards.

In the secondary, only Jim Rose, a regular at cornerback, started. Linebacker Joe Pierro started at safety. Romines, a junior, hadn't played defensive back since his senior year at Simi Valley High. Hall worked out at safety in preseason practice before moving to tight end.

"I still needed a refresher course," Hall said.

The starters needed an oxygen tent. All of Northridge's benched regulars were inserted to begin the second quarter and Northern Arizona (7-4) started rolling.

Lewis, who completed 25 of 39 for 307 yards, threw a three-yard scoring pass to Jesus Reyes for a 13-0 lead only seven plays after the defensive starters returned.

Trailing, 19-0, Northridge scored on a 51-yard pass play from J.J. O'Laughlin to Romines with 6 minutes 9 seconds left in the half. O'Laughlin, pressured repeatedly, completed 16 of 44 for 209 yards and had two passes intercepted.

Things were looking up. One play after Romines' score, senior safety Joseph Vaughn intercepted Lewis' pass and returned it 10 yards to the Northern Arizona 35-yard line. In the process, he set an NCAA Division I-AA single-season record for return yardage. He expanded the record to 265 yards with an interception and six-yard return in the second half.

The celebration didn't last a heartbeat in either instance. After Vaughn's first theft, Northridge fullback Shaun Coleman fumbled the ball away on the second play.

Vaughn picked off his second pass early in the third quarter to tie the school single-season record of nine interceptions, set by Danny Garrett in 1975. Again, the Matadors had a look at the game. Again, they blinked.

Darren Walton lost a fumble at the Northridge 29 on the next play. Northern Arizona scored 43 seconds later on a one-yard keeper by Lewis for a 26-7 lead with 10:07 left in the third quarter.

The deluge was unstoppable.

Tailback Len Raney scored on a 68-yard screen pass for a 33-7 lead on Northern Arizona's next offensive play. Rod Alexander scored on a seven-yard pass from Lewis on the Lumberjacks' next possession.

During the horrific third-quarter stretch, Northern Arizona scored three touchdowns on seven offensive plays.

The defense chipped in moments later. Dereck Williams, who played at Crespi High, intercepted his second pass of the game and cruised 14 yards for a touchdown and a 53-7 lead with 12:30 left. Northridge committed six turnovers.

"What can you do?" Hall said. "We did everything we could. Everything happened."

In a distraction-filled season, truer words were never spoken.

Matador Notes

Northridge was held to six yards on the ground. Freshman tailback DeWayne Johnson, who started because of the benchings, gained three yards in nine carries. No rushing play accounted for more than five yards and Northridge averaged 0.21 yards in 28 carries. . . . Senior quarterback J.J. O'Laughlin has passed for 2,095 yards over nine games to become the first Matador quarterback since Chris Parker (1985) to reach the 2,000-yard mark.

Joseph Vaughn also broke the Matador career record for interception return yardage--and he did it in one season. Vaughn, a transfer from Cal State Fullerton, did not intercept a pass as a junior. The record of 258 interception return yards was held by Danny Garrett (1975-76). . . . Northridge has been outscored, 155-43, over the past four games and has been limited to one touchdown in three of the losses.

Northern Arizona defeated American West Conference members Northridge, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Southern Utah by a combined score of 163-49. . . . With his five scoring passes, junior quarterback Jeff Lewis set a Northern Arizona record with 26 this season.

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