Sunday, September 09, 2007

Contra Costa Times: Cal 'D' comes up big in 3rd quarter

Here is the link.

Jonathan Okanes

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — When Cal's defense wasn't stopping Colorado State's offense on Saturday, it was making sure the yards it did allow wouldn't hurt by forcing a series of crucial turnovers.  The Bears intercepted Rams quarterback Caleb Hanie twice and recovered a fumble during their 34-28 victory at Hughes Stadium.  "They were huge," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "Anytime we get turnovers, we can get our offense back on the field. Those are just big plays."  Cal's first turnover came late in the first quarter when defensive tackle Derrick Hill picked off Hanie in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Hill, who was expected to contend for a starting spot this season, missed most of training camp with back spasms and didn't play in the season opener against Tennessee.  "The time off both energized my batteries and gave me a new look at football," Hill said. "I've learned to look at it as an opportunity, not a choice. It's an opportunity to show my talents."  Hill's return was good timing because the Bears were without starting tackle Mika Cane, who didn't make the trip because of a concussion. Cody Jones started in his place, but Gregory substituted his defensive personnel liberally to keep players fresh.

"With Mika being out, (Hill) did a nice job of coming in and spot-playing and providing some depth for us," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "Of course, the big interception was a big play for him and the team. We just look forward to him contributing for us."   After allowing 222 yards of offense and 13 first downs in the first half, the Bears started the third quarter by shutting down the Rams. The Bears also forced turnovers on back-to-back possessions late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.  First, linebacker Anthony Felder sacked Hanie and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Cal's Tad Smith. Later, linebacker Justin Moye picked off a pass from Hanie and returned it 27 yards to the Rams 27. James Montgomery scored on a 2-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession.  "We came up with some key turnovers," Tedford said. "That was the difference."

GUT CHECK: Several Cal players said it was good they had a game like this, where they didn't play their best, almost blew a big lead and still escaped with a win on the road.

"Every game is important, but definitely the games that test you are crucial," Cal quarterback Nate Longshore said. "Games like this you can learn a lot from."

INJURY REPORT: Cal wide receiver Robert Jordan suffered a kidney injury on the third play of the game and didn't play after the Bears' first two possessions. Tedford didn't know the severity of the injury, but Jordan was on the sideline the rest of the day.   CSU suffered a big blow when tight end Kory Sperry suffered a left knee injury early in the second quarter after being tackled by Marcus Ezeff. Initial indications are that Sperry suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Sperry caught three touchdown passes in the Rams' season-opening loss to Colorado.

EXTRA POINTS: Ezeff started at rover in place of Bernard Hicks, who was limited in practice last week because of a hip pointer and the lingering effects of a concussion. Hicks still saw playing time as well. ... Cal defensive lineman Tyson Alualu had two sacks. ... The Rams punted away from Cal All-American returner DeSean Jackson only once, and they still kept him under control. Jackson had two returns for 24 yards. ... Kicker Jordan Kay, filling in again for starter Tom Schneider, nailed field goals of 47 and 41 yards. ... Justin Forsett moved into Cal's top 10 for career rushing touchdowns with 13.




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