BY Steffi Chen and Gerald Nicdao
Heisman Trophy hopeful DeSean Jackson was named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week following his electrifying 77-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Cal football team’s 45-31 victory over then-No. 15 Tennessee. It was the sixth punt return for a touchdown in Jackson’s career, breaking the Pac-10 record and coming within two of Wes Welker’s NCAA career record of eight, which was set while Welker was a return man/wide receiver for Texas Tech between 2000-03. “I remember thinking that if we can just get this guy going, he can take it to the house,” said Greg Van Hoesen, who laid a key block in Jackson’s punt return. “Everyone on the team knows that—everyone knows how big of a weapon he is. If we can just give him the slightest chance that he can do something wild, then he’s going to every time.” Right before the Bears kicked off their season opener against the Volunteers, wide receiver Robert Jordan got a text message from his cousin Marshawn Lynch. For the first time since Jordan joined Cal in 2004, he was about to step onto the field without Lynch, who was taken as the No. 12 overall pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2007 NFL draft.
But Lynch wasn’t about to let Jordan enter the game without a few words of wisdom. “It feels different with Marshawn not being here,” Jordan said. “When I was getting ready to go onto the field, the phone rang and it was him saying ‘Go get them.’ He sent me a text at halftime too. As long as he’s watching, being real supportive, that keeps me strong right there.” Additionally, Jordan, who is also the distant cousin to NFL quarterback JaMarcus Russell, has the inside scoop on the status of Russell’s contract situation with the Oakland Raiders. “When we talk, honestly, we leave football aside. We just chill and talk about family and stuff,” Jordan said. “The only thing I can tell you though is that he said he’ll get his contract done real soon.” There has only been one game, but after the Bears' victory over Tennessee on Saturday, comparisons are being made between this team and the 2004 team. That squad three years ago can probably be considered as the watershed of coach Jeff Tedford’s tenure at Cal, especially offensively.
The Bears led the Pac-10 in total offense in 2004 and were second in scoring thanks to the talents of future NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, 2,000-yard rusher J.J. Arrington, tight end Garrett Cross and wide receivers Chase Lyman and Geoff McArthur. Cal also garnered a No. 4 national ranking before heading into the Holiday Bowl that year. “I think our 2004 team was pretty explosive as far as the same kind of team—tight end, receivers, two running backs,” Tedford said. “We’re pretty similar to that team.” But the one difference between that team and this year’s edition of the Bears may be team speed. “Without a doubt we have a lot more talent,” said Jordan, who was a true freshman on that 2004 squad. “Not to knock the ‘04 team, that’s just the truth. Our team’s speed, the ‘04 team couldn’t even compare to that. ” Because Saturday’s game against Colorado State is at 11 a.m. PST—12 p.m. in Fort Collins, Colo.—Tedford is emphasizing how important it is that the players get into the routine of waking up early every day this week. The Bears have already begun acclimating their bodies to early wake-up times with 6:30 a.m. wake-up calls throughout camp.
“It’s really important that this week the players continue to wake up early so that their body chemistry and their clocks stay the same because our wake-up call is going to be somewhere (around) 6:45, 7 o’clock when we get there on our body clocks,” Tedford said. “So it’s important that this week ... if they don’t have class, they don’t sleep in until 11.” Projected starting place-kicker Tom Schneider injured his quad in pregame warmups before the start of Cal’s season opener against the Vols. Tedford said that Schneider is doubtful for the Bears' contest against the Rams. Schneider’s backup, Jordan Kay, made good on all six of his extra point opportunities and converted on a 27-yard field goal in the Bears’ win over Tennessee.