By Natalie Meisler
Fort Collins - Colorado State is making a big fuss over retro jerseys Saturday to celebrate a half-century of its name change from Colorado A&M. Players won't see them until they arrive at Hughes Stadium. Fans won't see them until the players come out on the field. To defuse No. 10 Cal's multiple offensive threats, the Rams' defense will need to figure out an equally clandestine method. CSU coaches are calling the Bears the best offensive opponent since the 2004 misfortune of playing at Matt Leinart-Reggie Bush-LenDale White USC (553 yards, 49 points) and at Alex Smith-led Utah (534 yards, 63 points). "We definitely have some room for improvement after last week," CSU defensive backs coach James Ward said. Even if the Rams improve off the 31-28 loss in overtime to Colorado, which gained 330 total yards, how will anyone be able to tell against a Cal arsenal that dropped 45 points on then-No. 15 Tennessee last week? "We have to correct the mistakes we made and get our guys playing technique football," CSU defensive coordinator Steve Stanard said. "Those things have to be corrected or it will haunt you all season regardless of who you are playing."
Cal quarterback Nathan Longshore, a 6-foot-5 junior, has the makings of becoming the seventh first-round draft pick produced by Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who also coached at Oregon and Fresno State. And there is more: Justin Forsett, who gained more than 1,600 yards in two seasons as a backup, ran for 156 yards against the Vols in his first start. And junior wide receiver DeSean Jackson is a preseason All-America. As much as Cal's sophisticated passing attack worries CSU, it's the running game that has Stanard most concerned. "Cal came out and just punched Tennessee in the mouth and ran the football," he said. "They have a quality running game you have to stop first." CSU punter Jimmie Kaylor practiced his out-of-bounds directional kicks all week in anticipation of Jackson's return ability (he had a 77-yarder for a touchdown against Tennessee). Tedford insists the only difference between this team and his second-year squad in 2003 that Colorado State beat 23-21 is team speed. "We're a faster team than we were then," he said this week. The Rams sneaked up on Cal four years ago, a week after a similarly heartbreaking defeat to Colorado. Stanard recalled stopping the running game as the key then, too. The Bears finished 8-6 that season and have appeared in the top 10 every season since.
As of Thursday afternoon, there were 3,000 tickets available for the game. ... Former Mullen star Chris Guarnero is a Cal redshirt freshman listed at backup center. ... Cal backup cornerback Darian Hagan Jr. is the son of the CU running backs coach.
NO. 10 CALIFORNIA (1-0)
Player to watch | WR DeSean Jackson
CSU might not punt the ball to the junior (6-0, 172) who has six career TDs on punt returns, but count on veteran quarterback Nathan Longshore to find Jackson in the Rams' secondary.
Key to win for Cal | Versatile offense
The Bears might be able to do it on special teams alone even if Jackson doesn't handle a single punt. Then there's an offense with as much pass-run balance from premier players as any in the country. The Rams tried to disrupt a freshman QB in his first career game last week. Longshore won't be flustered.
COLORADO STATE (0-1)
Player to watch | TE Kory Sperry
He is coming off John Mackey national tight end of the week honors; it's another chance for the senior from Vineland to make a national name for himself.
Key to win for CSU | The run
More Kyle Bell. When the ball is in the CSU running back's hands, Cal's offense won't be on the field. At the same time, CSU can't go into the conservative shell it did a week ago against Colorado.