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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Northridge Plans Another Field Day

Football: Matador receivers don't like blue turf despite success in 63-23 victory last year.

September 05, 1998|FERNANDO DOMINGUEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOISE, Idaho — They claim to dislike artificial turf, even if it's a pretty blue.

They subscribe to the theory of Dick Allen, the former major leaguer, who said he didn't want to play on anything horses wouldn't eat.

"I'm not a big turf man," Drew Hill said.

"You're tentative [on turf]," Aaron Arnold said. "We're used to being on grass."

The two Cal State Northridge receivers might consider being more open-minded, especially about Boise State's Bronco Stadium, site of America's only blue football field.

It was on that surface, where the Matadors play Boise State in an opener tonight, that Arnold and Hill were instrumental in Northridge's 63-23 nonconference rout in the opener last year.

The Matadors later forfeited the victory because they used an ineligible player, but the splash made by Arnold and Hill didn't pass unnoticed.

Hill, playing one of two slot positions in Northridge's run-and-shoot attack, made eight receptions for 115 yards. Arnold, on the outside, had six catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns.

More importantly, it gave both a jolt of confidence. Hill was a junior coming off a redshirt season and Arnold was a sophomore with nine receptions in his career.

"I was a nervous wreck before the game," Hill said. "I was petrified. I didn't feel like I wasn't ready, but just playing in front of 30,000 people in that big stadium, it was quite a way to open your [Division I-AA] career."

Instead of a jittery Hill or his equally apprehensive teammates, what the 26,824 people at the stadium saw on that blistering August night was a football game turned into a track meet. Hill and Arnold provided much of the sprinting.

With Northridge trailing, 16-0, early in the second quarter, Hill helped set up the team's first score.

On third and six from the Northridge 24, Hill caught a pass from Aaron Flowers and raced 57 yards along the left sideline. The Matadors pulled to within 16-7 a few plays later.

Late in the third quarter, with the Matadors scoring at will, Arnold flagged down a pass from Flowers and ran 59 yards for a touchdown and a 42-23 lead. The two hooked up again in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass that increased the advantage to 56-23.

Flowers, Northridge's leader in most passing categories and now a graduate assistant with the Matadors, had six touchdowns and 442 of the team's 511 passing yards.

Hill doubts the Matadors will see the same defense from Boise State tonight. The Broncos have a new coach, Dirk Koetter, and a new defensive coordinator, Brent Guy. They no doubt have been watching film of last year's debacle.

"Last year they ran a zone [defense] and they blitzed a lot," Hill said. "This year they'll be ready."

Said Arnold: "I don't think they'll be that dumb this year."

Regardless of what defense Northridge faces--Boise State uses multiple schemes--Arnold believes the Matadors have enough depth at receiver to counter effectively.

"If they're going to try to double team Drew or myself, they'll leave somebody else open," said Arnold, a former quarterback at Monroe High. "It's a matter of us executing."

It's also a matter of whether quarterback Marcus Brady, a redshirt freshman, can get them the ball. Flowers was precise and unshakable. Brady is unproven and untested.

"We hope he can get the job done," Arnold said.

The game at Boise State last year set the tone for Hill and Arnold, the top returning receivers in the Big Sky Conference. Hill, who finished with 69 receptions, and Arnold, who had 58, are eager for another good start.

Even if it's on artificial turf.

"The college football atmosphere [at Boise State] is tops," Arnold said.

Cal State Northridge vs. Boise State

What: Football season opener

When: Tonight, 6:05 p.m. PDT

Where: Bronco Stadium

Fast fact: Division I-AA Northridge opens at Division I-A Boise State for second consecutive year.

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