By Natalie Meisler
When special-teams coach Dave Arnold walked into the Colorado State football office Sunday morning, it was the first welcome sight for the staff since Saturday's 28-17 third-quarter lead on the Invesco Field scoreboard. In rapid succession, Colorado rallied to hoist the Centennial Cup trophy that CSU owned for a year; Arnold was briefly hospitalized for heat fatigue and dehydration; CSU's next opponent, Cal, handled Tennessee 45-31 on national television; and then there was the gory game film of CSU's meltdown. The last time the Rams mismanaged a game that badly was at Air Force last mid-October, when CSU neglected to finish off a 21-3 halftime lead. That loss ignited its current eight-game spiral, with 12th ranked Cal coming to Fort Collins on Saturday. Instead of the usual tears after a close loss to the Buffs, the Rams spoke of an immediate resolve to get the season turned around.
"We still have 11 games," tight end Kory Sperry said after his career-high three touchdown catches. "They beat us. They are good, but we are not going to have a season like we did last year (4-8)." Defensive tackle Erik Sandie, a northern Californian who has some friends at Cal, said: "It's really redemption week for us. What better way to do it than to beat Cal? Hopefully they beat Tennessee and they think we're going to be a joke. We'll come out swinging." ABC's Brent Musburger, working the Tennessee-Cal contest, called Cal's date with CSU a potential "trap game." There were any number of plays, not to mention CSU's conservative late game plan, as targets for blame. The most obvious was Joey Rucks' pass interference call on fourth-and-4 when the ball was caught out of bounds. Just as critical was yielding three third-and-long conversions on an 86-yard third-quarter drive when CU pulled within a field goal. Nearly overlooked was the lack of any defense on a successful two-point conversion pass. CSU's final-play interception may be debated for years. Everyone shouldered responsibility in some way. Linebacker Jake Pottorff recovered a fumble and broke up a goal- line pass on CU's last drive in regulation, but wished he had an interception instead. "I had three or four plays like that - that if I get it done it's a whole different ballgame," he said. On the interference penalty, Rucks said: "The ref said I pushed him out of bounds. Was I supposed to push him inbounds? It was called after the play was called incomplete. If it was pass interference, he would have called it right away." Rucks couldn't dwell on the call. Cal's DeSean Jackson, widely regarded as the top receiver in the country, is coming to Hughes Stadium. "We respect him," Rucks said. "We're not scared of him."
EYE ON ... THE BEARS
CALIFORNIA AT COLORADO STATE, Noon, Saturday, CSTV
For the record: Cal is 1-0 and ranked No. 12 nationally.
Streaking: Wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins has caught a touchdown pass in four straight games, dating to 2006.
Who's hot: DeSean Jackson assured himself of a season-long place in highlights packages with a 77-yard punt return, the sixth return for a TD in his career.
Who's not: The defense was lukewarm against Tennessee, allowing 31 points and 382 yards, but came up with a key goal- line stand late in the game.
Key stat: Cal was balanced on offense, with 230 rushing yards and 241 passing yards in the 45-31 win over Tennessee.
FYI: This is the return game for a CSU appearance in Berkeley in 2003. The Rams upset Cal 23-21 a week after losing to Colorado. ... After waiting his turn behind Pac-10 player of the year and 12th overall draft pick Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett rushed for 156 yards on 26 carries. His backup, true freshman Jahvid Best, averaged 11.5 yards a carry on four attempts.
Coach speak: "We have good team speed from special teams to our backs to our tight ends. It's nice to have playmakers. Everyone got involved in the game. When that can happen, we're pretty hard to catch. We're pretty fortunate." - Cal coach Jeff Tedford