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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Payday Takes Northridge Into Unfriendly Skies

College football: Matadors open season as heavy underdogs at Air Force, where school will earn $125,000.

September 02, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — It will be another one for the money for Cal State Northridge, a matchup with a foe the Matadors seemingly have no business being on the same football field with--except, of course, for business.

Northridge opens the season today with a road game at Air Force--and may the force be with the Matadors. Surely, they will need something to avoid another disaster against a Division I opponent.

On paper, Air Force, despite coming off a 6-5 season and a seventh-place finish in the Mountain West Conference, figures to blast Northridge.

On paper, Northridge, a middle-of-the-pack member of the Division I-AA Big Sky Conference, stands to gain. Maybe on the field, too.

Northridge will receive $125,000 from gate receipts, a handsome sum for a financially strapped institution pressing an agenda of athletic expansion that includes building an on-campus stadium.

But the Matadors might be in for another lopsided defeat.

Last season, undermatched Northridge played two road games against Division I programs, and both times the Matadors came home with the final score tattooed on their shoulder pads.

Kansas 71, Northridge 14.

Southern Methodist 58, Northridge 16.

Of course, the payoff was the payday. Northridge received $200,000 for playing Kansas, $100,000 for taking on SMU.

Such lucrative opportunities are not easily overlooked, and Athletic Director Dick Dull of Northridge continues to seek Division I opponents. With Northridge scheduled to begin competing as an independent in football next season, scheduling opponents will be more difficult.

Last season, Dull made a half-hearted approach to Nebraska, of all teams. One can only imagine the outcome of a matchup between the Matadors and Cornhuskers, who are favored by 50 points today against San Jose State.

Air Force is far from that kind of juggernaut. And Northridge Coach Jeff Kearin is ready and willing.

Are these games worth it?

"There's no question," Kearin said. "I really believe these games are a win-win situation. Barring injuries, I don't think there is a negative side to these games.

"Last year, nobody got hurt against Kansas or against SMU. Our egos were a little bruised, but we came back with nothing broken and won some football games."

Northridge held its own in the Big Sky, going 4-4 on the field and later being credited with a forfeit victory over Northern Arizona.

Competitively, the Matadors haven't failed in four seasons in the Big Sky, except maybe financially.

Travel expenses will be considerably reduced next season, when Northridge plays closer to home.

Critics say that's where Northridge belongs--in its own backyard, not taking on the titans of college football.

But for Northridge, the benefits of being underdogs cannot be overlooked.

"It's great exposure for the program, for the university," Kearin said. "We're on TV and in front of 50,000 people. A lot of it is about how the kids are going to react to everything there. But I don't think Kansas or SMU had a negative effect on whether we won or lost in the Big Sky.

"There's no question we can win this game."

Northridge enters the season with question marks, particularly at running back. And a lack of depth could be a problem.

Tailback Alan Taylor suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week. Replacements Terrelus Wright, Bruce Molock and Matt Hicks have yet to log a carry in a game.

As traditionally is the case with Northridge, substitutes are few. Injuries could quickly spell doom.

That's especially true of quarterback Marcus Brady, among the top players in the Big Sky and the Matadors' offensive catalyst.

"We've always been the underdogs since I've been here, so let them talk," Brady said. "I couldn't care less what people think. We just gotta play.

"Athletically, we can match up with [Air Force]. We've got the athletes."

Added linebacker Cos Abercrombie: "We'll hold our own. We just gotta be able to stop them. We're used to being underdogs. We're always underdogs, even in the Big Sky."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

CS Northridge vs. Air Force

Today at 10:05 a.m.

Colorado Springs, Colo.

CS NORTHRIDGE SCHEDULE

Today Air Force, 10:05 a.m.

Sept. 9 Southwest Texas, 6 p.m.

Sept. 16 Northern Arizona, 3:05 p.m.

Sept. 30 Idaho State, 3:05 p.m.

Oct. 5 Weber State, 6:35 p.m.

Oct. 14 Montana, 3:05 p.m.

Oct. 21 Montana State, 12:35 p.m.

Oct. 28 Eastern Washington, 3:05 p.m.

Nov. 4 Sacramento State, 6:05 p.m.

Nov. 11 Cal Poly, 3:05 p.m.

Nov. 18 Portland State, 2:05 p.m.

Home games in bold

CS NORTHRIDGE ROSTER ON PAGE 12

CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE ROSTER

No.: 1

Player: Cos Abercrombie

Pos.: LB

Ht.: 6-1

Wt.: 225

Yr.: Jr.

Hometown/School: Los Angeles/Verbum Dei HS

*

No.: 2

Player: Jason Stone

Pos.: WR

Ht.: 6-5

Wt.: 210

Yr.: Jr.

Hometown/School: Santa Barbara/Dos Pueblos HS

*

No.: 3

Player: Jamaal Perry

Pos.: WR

Ht.: 5-10

Wt.: 180

Yr.: Fr.

Hometown/School: Artesia/Gahr HS

*

No.: 4

Player: Cory DiSanti

Pos.: TE

Ht.: 6-3

Wt.: 225

Yr.: Sr.

Hometown/School: Montclair/Mt. San Antonio College

*

No.: 5

Player: Marcus Hardrick

Pos.: WR

Ht.: 6-2

Wt.: 188

Yr.: Fr.

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