Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Coloradoan: Rams Hope to Upset Golden Bears


The Colorado State University Rams were still feeling pretty bad about themselves Monday, two days after suffering a 31-28 overtime loss to the University of Colorado. At the same time, they realize they could change their attitude - and that of their fans - by upsetting 12th-ranked California at noon Saturday at Hughes Stadium. "If we can win that game, our morale would definitely pick up," senior cornerback Darryl Williams said. "A win would put that (CU) game behind us. And it's certainly not an impossible task."  Rams coach Sonny Lubick, speaking at his weekly press luncheon, said a win over the talented Bears would be a significant boost for everyone concerned. "Everyone would forget about a lot of things if that were to happen," he said. "This is a formidable California team, and I don't expect them to take us lightly. They are a very good football team."

Cal opened the season with an impressive 45-31 win over No. 15 Tennessee, and comes into Saturday's home opener having won three consecutive games and 11 of 13, with the only losses coming late last season against Arizona (24-20) and Southern California (23-9). The Golden Bears are just the second Pacific-10 Conference team to play at Hughes Stadium and the first since Oregon, which handed Lubick a 23-9 loss in 1993 in his CSU debut. Cal will be one of the highest-ranked teams to play at Hughes, with CU (No. 5 in 1996) and Fresno State (No. 8) enjoying loftier perches when coming to CSU. The bad news is that Lubick, who is 10-13 against ranked teams, has not beaten a ranked team since knocking off No. 7 CU in 2002, and he has not led the Rams past a team ranked in the Top 25 at Hughes in three tries.  Among Lubick's better wins, however, is a 23-21 win at Cal in 2003 when the Rams went ahead on Jeff Babcock's 32-yard field goal with 1:57 to play. Interestingly, the Rams won that game one week after losing a 42-35 heartbreaker to CU.  If the Rams are to win, however, they will have some trouble spots to deal with. Topping the list is the kicking game, which had all kinds of problems against CU. Lubick said the final snafu late in regulation saw the outside "bullet" inexplicably move inside, apparently as a blocker to protect punter Jimmie Kaylor. When Kaylor's punt slipped off his foot short and to the left, the bullet -senior cornerback Joey Rucks - was out of position to tackle CU's Chase McBride, who raced 43 yards on the return to set up the field goal that sent the game into overtime.

"That was devastating," Lubick said. "It's a difficult one to explain when a guy does something for no rhyme or reason." Special teams coach Dave Arnold, who said he is fine after begin taken to the hospital following the game to recover from heat exhaustion and dehydration, said he is reviewing all aspects of the kicking game. Personnel changes could be made this week. Regardless of who plays, the Rams will be facing a huge challenge in DeSean Jackson, perhaps the best return specialist in the nation. He returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee - his seventh career return for a score. "When I saw him do that on TV, I told (wife) Bobbie to take me back to the hospital," Arnold joked. But even though the Rams are considerable underdogs - Cal is favored by 14 points - they are staying positive. They came out of the CU game in good health, and played well enough to get into position to win. "No one expects us to win, but look what happened to Michigan," Williams said, referring to the Wolverines' shocking loss to I-AA Appalachian State. "If Cal comes in a little bit cocky, and we play our best football, we can win this game. We just have to work hard and re-focus on what we need to do to win."



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