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BY Ryan Gorcey
FORT COLLINS, Colo.—It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t smooth and at no single time did both the offense and defense play well in concert. But the No. 10 Cal football team limped out of Fort Collins, Colo., fending off a late Colorado State surge to come away with a 34-28 win Saturday. That was no more evident than when the Rams put up two quick touchdowns in a matter of 53 seconds late in the fourth quarter to turn a 20-point rout into a six-point squeaker. “I knew it would be a struggle,” Bears coach Jeff Tedford said.
“If you look at the scores from last year, they play everybody very, very tough. It’s their home field and they played really well last week and let one get away from them. So I knew we were going to get their best shot.” Cal’s defense was porous in the first half, but came on strong in the second. The Bears forced Colorado State quarterback Chris Hanie to turn the ball over twice after the break, including a key interception by linebacker Justin Moye that set up a two-yard third-quarter touchdown run by James Montgomery to put the Bears up 27-14. But after a Jahvid Best 64-yard touchdown scamper on the team’s next drive to increase the lead to 34-13, Cal seemed to let up. With fans already heading for the exits, Hanie hoisted up a 66-yard scoring toss to receiver Damon Morton to beat freshman cornerback Darian Hagan for a touchdown. After an onside kick was smothered by Rams linebacker Curtis Cornelson, Hanie found George Hill for a 44-yard pass to set up running back Kyle Bell’s three-yard touchdown rumble with 2:54 left.
Only by the grace of good timing were the Bears able to run the clock out with short runs by Montgomery and kneels by quarterback Nate Longshore. “It’s a great lesson for us to learn, that the game’s never over,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “We didn’t play well throughout the game. We took turns.” Early in the game, it was the offense that was clicking. Tedford caught the Rams off guard in the first quarter by giving the ball to junior wide receiver DeSean Jackson twice out of the backfield, including a 73-yard scamper down the sideline for a touchdown. “We were losing 7-0, and my coach said ‘I need something to spark our team’ and he threw me in there, and put a reverse in there,” Jackson said. “The corners had the outside covered up so I just stuck my foot in the ground right up the middle and put a move on a couple of DB’s and I did what I do best, and that’s get to the end zone.” The quick drive took only two plays, and the beleaguered defense trudged back onto the field, already weary from Colorado State’s clock-eating drives.
Bell rumbled through the Cal run defense for 102 yards on 26 carries on the game, with 37 of those yards coming on Colorado State’s second drive, on which he scored to put the Rams up early, 7-0. Hanie picked apart the Bears secondary, going 9-for-11 for 95 yards in the first half. On the ground, Bell combined with Gartre Johnson for 104 yards on 19 carries in the first half. After Jackson’s run, Cal scored one more touchdown in the half. Then it was up to junior kicker Jordan Kay help a stalling Bears offense. With the final drive of the half halted, Kay split the uprights with a 47-yard field goal to put Cal up 17-14 heading into halftime. Kay also came up with a 41-yarder in the third quarter and was perfect on point-after attempts. The Bears’ first-half touchdown drives consisted of six plays. The defense was out on the field for 9:48 of the 15-minute period of the second quarter, and faced a pounding from the Rams, leaving many players tired and banged up.
“It’s difficult—you want your offense to move the football,” junior linebacker Anthony Felder said. “We didn’t like really being out there the whole first half, but it’s part of the game. We conditioned all summer, all winter, we condition every day during the week in practice.” Felder was one of the bright spots for the Bears defense, making seven unassisted tackles by halftime and anchoring Cal’s defensive stand in the second half. “I know he was banged up and he was getting up strong a couple of times, so he was really gutting it out and made some plays,” Tedford said. “All of those guys stepped up in the second half with better tackling. We didn’t tackle very well today.” While the Bears’ offense sputtered after halftime, Felder, linebacker Zack Follett and sophomore Tyson Alualu held down the fort on defense, finally getting to Hanie and stopping the run, giving the Cal offense some breathing room. Alualu came up with the first sack of his career in the second quarter, when he assisted Cameron Jordan on planting Hanie for a loss of three yards. Alualu shone brightest in the second half, sacking Hanie for a loss of 10 yards on the first play after the opening kickoff. Alualu registered two sacks on the game, along with Felder, and assisted on three other tackles.
Notes: Bears tailback Justin Forsett left the game in the third quarter with a back stinger after rushing for 59 yards ... Rams tight end Kory Sperry, one of the team’s top offensive weapons, tore a ligament in his left knee in the first quarter and will miss the rest of the season.