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Northridge Is Expecting Another Numbers Game

College football: Matadors have pointed history against Big Sky Conference opponent Eastern Washington.

October 28, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About the only thing left for Cal State Northridge to play for this season is self-respect. And a little excitement.

The Matadors might get a little of both today with a Big Sky Conference game against Eastern Washington at North Campus Stadium.

Although Northridge (2-5, 1-4 in conference play) is out of the Big Sky race, the Matadors, coming off a 24-12 victory at Montana State, have rallied in recent weeks. They also have a history of waging exciting contests with Eastern Washington (4-4, 3-2), which clings to title hopes.

Since joining the Big Sky in 1996, Northridge has split four games with the Eagles, with each team winning at home and scoring at least 38 points. Last season, Eastern Washington defeated the Matadors, 48-41, in a game that began with Terrence Jones of Northridge returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and Marcus Brady posting career-high totals in yards passing and touchdown passes.

Brady completed 36 of 49 for 484 yards and five touchdowns while amassing a school-record 513 yards offense. Nine of Brady's completions went to Drew Amerson, who leads the Matadors this season with 30 receptions, including three touchdown catches against Montana State.

First-year Coach Paul Wulff of Eastern Washington, an Eagle assistant last season, expects an air assault from Brady and the Matadors.

"Marcus Brady is a great quarterback, and one of the quality players we'll face," Wulff said. "He's a threat running the ball and is a really good thrower. They're coming off a win, and I'm sure they've gained some confidence."

The Eagles' course this season has been the opposite of Northridge. After starting 3-1, they have lost three of four, winning only against Montana State, 20-14.

Jesse Chatman, who rushed for more than 200 yards against the Matadors last season, is the catalyst of an offense with a weak passing attack.

Junior Fred Salanoa has thrown for only 705 yards and the Eagles rank eighth in the Big Sky in passing.

The threat of rain could dampen the offensive fireworks, although precipitation hasn't seemed to bother the Matadors.

Northridge posted victories amid snow at Montana State and in the rain at Southwest Texas State.

Northridge is 0-3 at home this season, losing close games against Idaho State and Montana.

A downpour could brighten the Matadors' homecoming.

"We're mudders," Northridge Coach Jeff Kearin said.

Several Northridge players are nursing injuries, most seriously defensive end Erik Gardner, who broke his right hand against Montana State but remained in the game. Gardner's hand is in a cast and heavily bandaged, but he is expected to play.

Despite a disappointing season, a fresh opponent each week has kept players involved.

"Bad as we've been playing, I haven't seen anyone giving up," Kearin said. "These guys just want to win, and they want to win the homecoming game. These guys will play anybody, that's why they're such a pleasure to practice with."

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