In the years to come, Northeastern University will hold a special place in Chris Goetz' memory book.
As a redshirt freshman quarterback, age 19, he started his college career against the Huskies in Brookline, Mass., and as a senior, age 22, he will end that career at home against the same school Saturday afternoon.
That first game, on Sept. 12, 1987, turned out be almost a microcosm of his college career -- enough good to prove he could play, enough bad to know he still had a lot to learn.
"Really, it's still that way," Goetz, 6 feet 4, 220 pounds, said before practice yesterday. "When things are going good, it's nice, and when things are bad, you still have to get up and keep going. I believe I have matured because of the things that have happened to me in football.
"I guess the most important thing is never to be satisfied with your per- formance. There is always room for improvement, whether it's college football or a lifetime career."
It was a virtually untested high school player who checked into his first Towson State preseason camp. "I was a defensive back and quarterback of a wishbone offense in high school [Gateway Regional in Wenonah, N.J.], and I don't think I threw 30 passes as a senior. In that Northeastern game alone, I threw more than that.
"I could have walked on at a couple of places, but Towson State offered me a chance and I took it. I came here not really sure what I wanted to do and wound up getting a good education [education major] and playing four years of football.
"Ahead of time, the big question in my mind was, 'Am I good enough to play?' I knew I could throw the ball, but I didn't know the things that went with it. I had athletic ability, but I didn't know whether I had football ability."
Down, 10-0, at the end of the quarter in the Northeastern opener, the Tigers rallied for 22 points and a 22-10 halftime lead. Northeastern came back to win, 39-22.
In that second quarter, Goetz capped the scoring with a pass that Dale Chipps turned into an 82-yard touchdown play, still a school record for the longest touchdown pass. Goetz finished with 21 completions in 43 attempts for 320 yards.
In the middle of that season, Towson State won three games in a row, then came undone against Delaware State, a 40-17 loss. "They had defensive players running all over the place, and I didn't know what to do," Goetz recalled.
That seems a long time ago to the athlete who goes into his final game owning at least a half-dozen school passing records, including attempts, completions, interceptions and yards, plus total offense.
His 7,639 passing yards are more than 1,500 ahead of the previous record-holder's (and more than 1,000 ahead of any other college quarterback's in state history), and his 7,342 yards of total offense are more than 1,300 ahead.
"You have to evaluate yourself as you go along," Goetz said. "Everything happens so fast, you can't let anything bother you. The great ones throw interceptions, too, but they come right back. The defense gets the ball back, and you have to be ready to go.