Eagles 21 - Ayala 21

FULLERTON, CA., September 6, 2001 – Marshall Tharpe's two-point conversion run on the heels of Ashton White's five-yard Td jaunt with 4:23 left in the game helped the Eagles post a 21-21 tie with the Ayala Bulldogs before an estimated 4,000 at Cal State Fullerton. The tie with Ayala, ranked No. 4 in Division II, not only extended the Eagles Week 1 unbeaten streak to seven games, but marked the second year in a row that the Eagles opened up at Cal State Fullerton against the Bulldogs and found themselves down early before coming back and avoiding defeat. Last year, the Eagles rallied from a 17-0 deficit to win 22-17.

Early on the Eagles had difficulty adjusting to the Bulldogs option attack and were held in check offensively mostly by miscues and dropped passes that forced punts on their first three possessions. Despite being outgained 206-45, mostly as a result of Robert Meza's 85-yard run via an option play, the Eagles were down only 7-0 entering the second quarter. After Meza returned a punt 52 yards to the Eagle 16 early in the second quarter, sophomore LB Jack Meehan registered the first of four Eagle turnovers by picking off a pass at the Eagle 14 leading to a Santa Margarita's first sustained drive of the night. Unfortunately the ten-play drive stalled at the Ayala 31; however, the defensive momentum continued on the next series as senior LB Kyle Rutenbar returned a Charles Douglas pass 50 yards for a Td at the 2:19 mark of the second quarter tying the score at 7-7. With under 1:00 left in the half, Ayala capitalized on an Eagle fumble at their own 27 leading to a 5-yard Td pass from Douglas to Jim Johnson with 0:01 left on the clock.

The Eagle defense came out firing in the second half limiting the Bulldogs to 15 yards on 16 plays and only two first downs - one by penalty - in the third quarter. On the first series, a botched snap on an Ayala punt set up a four-yard Td run by White at the 10:05 mark to close the gap to 14-13; however, the PAT by Jason Graban was missed. Chaz Brewer's 53-yard run on a wing reverse early in the fourth quarter set up his own 13-yard Td run with 10:00 left in the game giving Ayala a 21-13 lead. From there the Eagles went on a 12-play drive consuming nearly six minutes culminating with White's Td run and Tharpe's conversion. Santa Margarita regained possession at their own 26 with 1:16 left but managed only one completion before punting and settling for their first tie since a 7-7 deadlock with Santa Maria in 1991.

White, who finished with 100 yards on 25 carries including four key third down conversions, posted his fourth career 100-yard game and third in five weeks while cracking the 1,000 yard mark for his career in only his 13th varsity game. Defensively, the Eagles were led by Jack Meehan's 10 tackles, interception and fumble recovery while Johnnie Walker (forced fumble) and Mike Leiter (1/2 sack) added 10 tackles themselves.

Santa Margarita 0 7 6 8 21
Ayala 7 7 0 7 21

AYA – Meza 85 run (Halcovich kick)
SM – Rutenbar 50 interception return (Graben kick)
AYA – Johnson 5 pass from Douglas (Halcovich kick)
SM – White 4 run (kick failed)
AYA – Brewer 13 run (Halcovich kick)
SM – White 5 run (Tharpe run)

Rushing: AYA - Brewer, 15-115, Meza, 5-95; SM - White, 25-98, McWhorter, 3-10
Passing: AYA - Douglas, 7-12-2-145; SM - Tharpe, 8-16-0-69
Receiving: AYA - Brewer, 2-14, Meza, 1-42; SM - Widner, 3-21, DeVitis, 2-24


By Adrian Peters
Sports Information Director