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Losing No Option for Matadors

College football: Northridge contains Southern Utah's potent running game in 44-17 victory.


NORTHRIDGE — All week, Cal State Northridge players heard repeatedly from coaches about Southern Utah's feared multiple-option attack, an offense the Matadors never see in the pass-oriented Big Sky Conference.

After routing the Thunderbirds, 44-17, on Saturday in a nonconference game in front of 3,317 at North Campus Stadium, Northridge might want to face similar teams more often in the future.

"We got a little soft in the second half, but that happens when guys relax a little bit," Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano said. "I thought we were going to shut them out."

Northridge (3-1) was on target until Southern Utah (1-3) broke through with a touchdown late in the third quarter to pull to within 37-6.

By then, only the clock stood between the Matadors and their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Matadors, on a three-game winning streak, have not won that many in a row since reeling off seven straight in 1990.

True, the Matadors didn't exactly stuff Southern Utah's option, allowing 372 yards in 62 carries for a 6.0 average. But they kept the Thunderbirds out of the red zone most of the game, partly because penalties killed several Southern Utah drives.

The Thunderbirds had 18 penalties for 200 yards, Northridge 11 for 94.

Ponciano said Northridge focused on stopping the Southern Utah scheme, not a particular ballcarrier, and dared the Thunderbirds to throw.

They did early, passing on their first play and three times in the fruitless drive, but finished with 43 yards on 11 passes and interceptions by strong safety Vito Clemente and cornerback Donnell Day.

The Matadors sacked three quarterbacks five times, including three by linebacker Brennen Swanson, who leads the team with 4 1/2.

"They didn't have any deep-throw receivers, so it was real easy to read the pass," said free safety Jeremy Golden of Northridge, who tied Clemente for the team high in tackles with 10.

Northridge has numerous deep threats, including junior Aaron Arnold, who scored on pass plays of 59 and 38 yards.

The first came from Marcus Brady and gave the Matadors a 34-0 lead early in the third quarter.

The second arrived from Josh Fiske and put Northridge ahead, 44-6, with 16 seconds to play in the quarter.

Arnold had five receptions for 128 yards.

Brady, who completed 20 of 24 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns, had one pass intercepted, ending a streak of 114 passes without an interception.

Fiske, making his first appearance this season, was four of five for 69 yards.

Northridge's other scores came on two one-yard runs by Melvin Blue, a two-yard pass from Brady to Anthony Ramos, an eight-yard pass from Brady to Mike Ogas and Manny Marquez's 27-yard field goal.

Blue had 43 yards in 14 carries, including a 31-yard run, his longest of the season.

Ramos finished with seven receptions for 78 yards, mostly on screen passes.

Quarterback Matt Cannon of Southern Utah entered the game with 421 yards rushing and averaging 8.1 yards per carry, but was held to 68 yards.

"It's always nice to beat an option team and beat them the way we did," Ponciano said.

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