Gene Murphy knew well before the season started this wouldn't be a good year for his Cal State-Fullerton football team. With 23 graduating from last year's club and a schedule with only three home games, he went back to recruiting high school players and then redshirted nearly all of them , stockpiling for the future.
Once into the season, the Titans began suffering a record number of injuries; they were missing nine regulars last week against San Jose State.Murphy had to know it was no use when cornerback Nuygen Pendleton, one of the few "name" players, was hit by a hit-and-run car after the Pacific game Oct. 13 and went out for the season with a knee injury.
But a funny thing happened.
Some of the Fullerton offensive players have panned out. Junior-college transfer Reggie Yarbrough ranks fourth in the Big West Conference in rushing yards and is closing in on a 1,000-yard season. He's had five 100-yard games. Senior receiver J.J. Celestine, a part-timer last year, is No. 4 in league receiving with 73.8 yards a game. The Titan pass offense ranks third in the league behind Pacific and San Jose, averaging 258 yards an outing, and the punting and kicking games (Phil Nevin) are solid, as expected.
"They're not giving up," says Murphy, calling that the most positive thing he can find. "They have hung together. We're not playing good enough, but we're playing hard.
The results just haven't been there.
The Titans are 1-9. They've lost nine in a row for a school record and could have their worst season record ever if they don't win their last two.
That would mean starting with a win Saturday at 2 p.m. MST in Santa Ana Stadium against 3-4-1 Utah State, which is 3-1-1 in the Big West and still has a shot at the conference bowl bid.
Looking at Fullerton's statistics, Aggie Coach Chuck Shelton says the Titans ought to be a "four- or five-victory team in this conference, and they haven't put it together."
Shelton calls the Titans "the most-talented one-win team I have ever coached against.
"That concerns you because talent can beat you if you let it become a team."
Shelton says he's puzzled at Fullerton's record. "I don't have any clue except they're self-destructive."
They've had as many as seven turnovers in a game and are -13 in giveaway/takeaway statistics, though they were even the last two weeks.