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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Northridge Finds Lump in Throat

Big Sky: Elusive Roberts has 231 yards, three scores as Matadors fall, 35-21.

October 18, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Just when Cal State Northridge believed it had the Big Sky Conference by the throat, a perennial patsy sent the Matadors crashing to earth.

Northridge, apparently basking too much in its newfound success, lost to Cal State Sacramento, 35-21, in a Big Sky Conference game Saturday night before 5,947 at Hornet Stadium.

The Matadors (4-2, 3-1 in Big Sky play) virtually gave away the game, losing four of six fumbles and chasing running back Charles Roberts all over the field without a clue on how to stop him.

"There's no excuses," Northridge Coach Ron Ponciano said. "Those guys took the ball from us. . . They outplayed us, it's very simple."

The Matadors joined Idaho State as the only Sacramento victims in Big Sky play the last three years. The Hornets (3-4, 1-3) are 2-18 since joining the conference.

Roberts, a 5-foot-6 sophomore with an uncanny ability to change direction instantly, carried 41 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his third game this season rushing for more than 200 yards.

"We just didn't wrap up," Matador strong safety Vito Clemente said. "I don't know if we underestimated him or what."

Ponciano wouldn't say the Matadors looked past Sacramento and toward next Saturday's clash against Montana State (4-2, 2-1), which began the day tied with Northridge for first place in the conference but lost to Portland State, 34-31.

"The sense of urgency wasn't there," Ponciano said.

Sacramento dominated Northridge in the first half but the Matadors rallied to within 28-21 with five minutes to play in the third quarter on a four-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Brady to Aaron Arnold.

Then Brady's fumble, his second of three, on a snap early in the fourth quarter with the Matadors at the Sacramento 24-yard line and gaining momentum, ended the threat and turned the tide again.

Sacramento marched 71 yards in 10 plays and pulled ahead, 35-21, on a four-yard run by Roberts with 9:58 to play.

Ironically, Northridge went into the game with a 1.40 takeaway margin, best in the conference.

The Matadors scored on their second possession, taking a 7-0 lead on Melvin Blue's 18-yard run. Blue finished with 20 carries for a season-high 117 yards after gaining only 290 yards in the previous five games.

Roberts then took over with his razzle-dazzle bag of tricks.

He struck often and devastatingly in the first half, tying the score, 7-7, on a 27-yard reception from A.J. Bernhardt.

Roberts gave the Hornets a 14-7 advantage on a 31-yard run with 13:02 to play in the second quarter.

On their next score, the Hornets pulled off a fake field-goal attempt on fourth and 10 at the Northridge 20, with Roberts taking the ball from Bernhardt on a Statue of Liberty play and scampering 11 yards to set up a touchdown by Garrett White.

Roberts' 24-yard run early in the third quarter gave Sacramento a 28-7 lead and Blue's 15-yard run got Northridge within 28-14 about two minutes later.

"I guess we felt like they were supposed to let us win," said Brady, who completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards. "We've got to look at it as a wake-up call."

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