Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Denver Post: Cal punt returner presents special problem

By Natalie Meisler

On the drive back to Fort Collins, Arnold thought there was one special- teams coach in the country who had a worse day than him when he heard Michigan lost to Appalachian State 34-32 on a blocked field goal. Besides the heat exposure and dehydration, Arnold endured a season-opening, 31-28 overtime loss in Denver in which Colorado had three punt returns for 62 yards and five kickoff returns for 145 yards with a   At his weekly news conference, coach Sonny Lubick said of Jackson: "Well, we'll probably punt to him. That's what most of you would like to see. The fans come and pay. I don't want you booing if we punt it out of bounds."   Arnold, however, had other thoughts on the nation's top punt returner. He studied Jackson's five earlier career touchdowns all summer. "If you punt it out of bounds ... Tennessee started punting out of bounds. Sometimes you have to suck up your pride," Arnold said.  As for Lubick's remarks about the booing, Arnold said: "If we punt to him and he runs it back, my headset will be dangling somewhere. He's a challenge, but you face a challenge every week."  Lubick said 12th-ranked California, which visits CSU on Saturday after beating No. 15 Tennessee 45-31, could have the most explosive offense the Rams have faced since 2004 against USC and the undefeated Utah team.

"Their speed concerns everybody who will play them," Lubick said, noting how impressed he was with the Bears' tailbacks as well as receivers.  Arnold insisted on "no excuses." While football coaches across the country are pulling out the time-worn line about the most improvement being made from Week 1 to Week 2, Arnold said it has the most merit in special teams. His reasoning is while teams scrimmage their first offensive units against the first defensive units, there is no way to match two special-teams units and duplicate "game speed."  While there were no injuries impacting the starting lineups, backup linebacker Matt Hendrick, who was on four special-teams units, missed the opener with a knee injury that will sideline him three weeks.  Lubick said a senior "bullet" on the final punt coverage made a gamble on the play and missed badly.  CSU's one special-teams highlight in the opener was a squib kick that bounced off a CU player and was recovered by the Rams' Jermaine Walters.  "I'd like to say it was planned that way," Arnold said, though he had a feeling it might work.


Kyle Bell's 40 carries against CU led the nation on the opening weekend of games. Next were 35 carries by Central Florida's Kevin Smith. Bell tied three others for second place in the Mountain West Conference record book. CSU running-game coordinator Dave Lay said it might not be the only time Bell leads the country in carries. ... CSU will bring out retro jerseys this week to mark the 50th anniversary of the school's name change from Colorado A&M to Colorado State. The Rams' helmets will be repainted. There are plans for an online auction of the jerseys on the csurams.com website, but no photos of the jerseys have been released.

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