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THE PREPS : University Coach Looking Beyond the Record Start : Football: Trojans beat Saddleback, 29-7, to go 5-0 but Cunningham wants to build on this rather than savor it.

October 08, 1995|DAVE McKIBBEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — University's 29-7 victory over Saddleback on Saturday night gave the Trojans their first 5-0 start in school history and gave them more victories than they had all last season. But once the game ended, University Coach Mark Cunningham was already trying to erase it from his memory.

"I'm absolutely happy as hell, but we didn't play with a lot of emotion and we didn't play as a team," Cunningham said. "Many times in the past, we lose a game like this."

But it's hard to lose when your opponent turns the ball over seven times, six times in the second half. Tenth-ranked University trailed, 7-0, in the first quarter, was tied, 7-7, at the half and led only, 10-7, after three quarters, but that was before Saddleback self-destructed.

The Roadrunners (1-4) fumbled three times and saw two passes intercepted in the last 12 minutes to end any chance they had at an upset. Even though they fumbled only once in the first half, it was costly. Running back Joseph Tagaloa, who ran for 92 yards in the first half, fumbled before going into the end zone with less than three minutes left in the second quarter. University's Robbie Gostanian recovered in the end zone.

University took the second-half kickoff 72 yards in 13 plays before quarterback Damian DeFeo threw a pass that Jesse Lachuga intercepted. Two plays later, Saddleback gave the ball back when quarterback Danny Rodriguez fumbled and Faatuise Roberts made the first of his two fumble recoveries. Brett Lockwood's 25-yard field goal put University ahead, 10-7.

Saddleback fumbled again two plays later. University couldn't capitalize on the miscue, but it didn't matter because Rodriguez threw a pitch that Roberts fell on at the Saddleback eight. Two plays later, University's Gerson Contento scored on a two-yard run to make it 16-7 with 10:45 left to play.

University scored again when DeFeo ran in from 15 yards. The touchdown was set up by a Fred Roberts interception of a Rodriguez pass. Two plays later, University closed out the scoring when Rodriguez's pass was picked off by Adam Fuller and returned 38 yards for a touchdown.

Cunningham said he was impressed with the Roadrunners despite their propensity for turnovers.

"They did exactly what we thought they were going to do," Cunningham said. "Everybody thought we were just going to walk on the field and beat these guys, but that's bull. There's nobody in Orange County you're going to be able to do that to."

Cunningham was reminded of all his team has accomplished, but he wasn't in the mood to celebrate.

"If we lose next week, everybody will forget this," he said. "Your next game is everything. Nobody remembers what you did last week."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Trojan Breakthrough

University's 5-0 record improves upon the school's previous best start of 4-0 in 1974, when the Trojans were upset, 8-0, by San Clemente in their fifth game. University's record after five games, and final record, over the last decade:

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5-Game Final Year Record Record 1994 2-3 4-6-1 1993 0-5 1-9-0 1992 0-5 1-9-0 1991 3-2 7-6-0 1990 2-3 4-6-0 1989 2-3 2-8-0 1988 2-3 4-5-1 1987 3-2 4-6-0 1986 3-2 6-5-0 1985 1-4 1-8-1

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