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BY Ryan Gorcey
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Cal football team may have looked across the field Saturday and seen the Colorado A&M Aggies uniforms staring back at them, but when the two teams took the field, it was Sunny Lubick’s Colorado State Rams who came to play, and came to play hard. The Tennessee defense was from the big, bad SEC, but the Colorado State defense was coming in hot off of a loss to rival Colorado, and saw the No. 10 Bears as prime upset material in their first home game at Hughes Stadium. On the sidelines the team and the fans were chanting “Remember Appalachian State!” They were primed for an upset. And the Rams played like it. The Colorado State defense played physical, downing Robert Jordan on his first play of the game with a possible rib injury, and special teams linemen bashed the elbow of longsnapper Nick Sundberg. Rams running back Kyle Bell barreled through tackles, banging up linebackers, including Anthony Felder, who kept getting up and making tackles, to his credit.
“It’s a great lesson to say that it’s never over. Colorado State—(you've) got to give them a lot of credit. They never gave up, they made plays,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “We were very fortunate to win today, but we’re going to take away a lot of great lessons.” Make no mistake, Cal was lucky to get out of Fort Collins with a win and with what little health they had. They learned a lot about themselves without the cost of a loss, and did not drop a spot in the rankings. But they shouldn’t have gained one either. Zone running plays and poor pass coverage made for a dismal first half for the Bears defense, not to mention the fact that they were on the field for nearly two-thirds of the half, tiring them out at 5,000 feet. Add to that several key penalties, such as the one called on lineman Mike Tepper to call back a 34-yard scoring catch by Lavelle Hawkins, and you get one close call. The secondary had possibly its worst game since last year’s drubbing at Neyland Stadium. They allowed 301 passing yards, and an average of 14.3 yards per completion.
When the passing defense picked up later in the game, the passing offense fell off a cliff. Quarterback Nate Longshore went 19-for-29 with a meager 146 yards. He missed several receivers late in the game by just under a yard, putting balls just out of reach. There was no question that the altitude at Hughes Stadium kept those passes hanging just a tick too long, one sailing just out of Hawkins’ reach in the end zone. “I’m not one to believe the whole, ‘altitude can affect your passing,’ but there were a few that I thought were going to be touchdowns, perfect balls, and they went a yard too far,” Longshore said. If the Bears can learn anything from this game, it’s that the only way this team will reach a BCS bowl game, as their talent dictates they should, is to play as a unit. The offense needs to let the defense rest. The defense needs to get the offense good field position. The thing about kicker Jordan Kay’s two 40-plus-yard field goals is that he shouldn’t have had to make them. It’s the little things that Cal needs to work on, like execution and timing. Trick plays like the runs DeSean Jackson made are all well and good, but the team needs to execute the easy plays just as well. They got lucky this time. Against the elite of the Pac-10, luck simply won’t cut it.