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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | NORTHRIDGE NOTEBOOK

Going Gets Tougher for Matadors

September 21, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A bye week might be just what the doctor ordered for Cal State Northridge (1-2) after an embarrassing loss to Northern Arizona in a Big Sky Conference football opener Saturday at North Campus Stadium.

Three second-half turnovers contributed to a 49-26 Northridge loss after the Matadors held a 24-21 lead in the third quarter. Players and coaches clearly were frustrated, fumbling for words to explain the collapse.

What went wrong?

"Everything," defensive lineman Erik Gardner said.

All maintained it was a game the Matadors should have won. Or shouldn't have lost.

Who's to blame? It starts at the top.

"I stand to be held accountable," Coach Jeff Kearin said. "I'm not going to yell and scream and berate because that's not my style. I've asked [players] to meet a certain standard and I don't know if we're challenging them enough."

Translation: it's time for coaches to get tough.

"We always talk about raising the bar," Kearin said. "It all comes down to a certain level of discipline."

Intensity already has increased at practice. Players walked from the field Tuesday visibly fatigued. The going figures to get tougher.

No one will ever mistake the affable Kearin or members of his staff for Mike Ditka or Bill Parcells.

Foster Andersen, defensive coordinator and elder statesman of the Northridge staff, said Kearin simply isn't one to play ogre at practice. But that's where Andersen comes in.

"I play the villain," Andersen said.

*

Forward Jeff Parris, who successfully petitioned the NCAA for another year of eligibility, should help Northridge contend for a Big Sky basketball title.

Northridge, which opens the season at home against Howard on Nov. 19, came within a missed last-second layup of reaching the NCAA tournament last season.

The Matadors (20-10) lost only one starter, forward Hewitt Rolle, to graduation.

Parris, 6 feet 5, the first player recruited by Coach Bobby Braswell four years ago, lost an appeal with the NCAA during his freshman season. He earned a degree in psychology last spring and is working toward a master's.

Parris, who averaged 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds, is the team's "X factor," Braswell said. He was plagued by foul trouble but made an impact when he played.

"When you talk to all the teams we play, he's the one they talk about because he is so difficult to guard under the basket," Braswell said. "He's 6-5, but he plays like a 6-9 guy in the post. We are very excited about having Jeff back."

Northridge plays in two tournaments in December. The Matadors are at Marquette Dec. 1-2 and in Hawaii for the Nike Festival Dec. 21-23.

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