BERKELEY, Calif. — Last year’s Cal-Tennessee game still leaves Cal wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins speechless. “I just want to say …,” he began. “I really can’t say what I want to say.”
That’s as close as a Cal player came to providing bulletin-board material for the Vols this week. But just when Cal’s senior wide receiver seemed on the verge of proclaiming payback against UT, he restrained himself. “I’m just looking forward to this game,” he said with a big smile. Tonight’s game at California Memorial Stadium is Cal’s chance to atone for a 35-18 loss to UT in last year’s season opener at Neyland Stadium. “I still can’t watch that game,” Hawkins said. “I’ll watch the first quarter (then stop). It just hurt so bad. “The whole world was watching. We were supposed to be one of the best teams in the nation. It was embarrassing.” He has watched the worst of that game. Coach Jeff Tedford didn’t give him a choice.
A week before Cal began spring practice, Tedford had the players watch a video he compiled from the UT game. “It was about 10 minutes of bad plays for everybody,” Hawkins said.
Some of the lowlights included dropped passes and missed blocks by the wide receivers. “I just don’t think we prepared ourselves well enough,’ Hawkins said of the receivers.
Cal’s receiving corps bounced back from that game to have an outstanding season. Preseason All-American DeSean Jackson led the Golden Bears with 59 catches for 1,060 yards. Robert Jordan had 46 catches for 571 yards. Jackson, Jordan and Hawkins all return this season. So does tight end Craig Stevens, who had 17 catches for 239 yards.
Calling Cal Fans: Tedford challenged Golden Bears fans to turn up the volume tonight against UT. “I’d like for our fans to make it the same type of environment we faced last year at Tennessee,” Tedford said. “Our fans have always answered the bell when we asked them to step up. “We need to make sure we make it difficult for them when they’re on offense.”
Fast Recovery: Cal fullback Will Ta’ufo’ou was expected to be out for three to six weeks after suffering a preseason knee injury. Now, he’s listed as “day-to-day.” Although his recovery is ahead of schedule, he’s not expected to play against UT. Zack Smith, who transferred to Cal after graduating from Duke in only three years, and Brian Holley are expected to share the fullback duties until Ta’ufo’ou is healthy.
Very Special: Cal has some of the best special-teams players in college football. Jackson led the nation in punt-return average (18.2 yards) and returned four punts for touchdowns.
Thomas DeCoud, a starting safety, has blocked six kicks in the last three years. Punter Andrew Larson averaged 42.6 yards and made second-team All-Pac-10 last season.
Placekicker Tom Schneider hit all 52 of his extra-point kicks and made 15 of 20 field-goal tries last season. He tied a school record for the longest field goal with a 55-yarder against Stanford and ranks fourth all-time on the school’s career scoring list.