Monday, September 03, 2007

Rocky Mountain News: Good signs for CSU obscured by loss, next foe

Randy Holtz

Rams better, but Cal will be favored to make them 0-2

Glass half-full: Despite the lingering bummer of a bitter, come- from-ahead, here-they-go-again overtime loss to their rivals, the Colorado State Rams looked far superior Saturday to the team that dropped its last seven games in 2006.  

Glass half-empty: California looms.

Glass half-full: Caleb Hanie,  Kyle Bell and Kory Sperry appear poised to lead an offensive renaissance that could make CSU a legitimate Mountain West Conference contender.

Glass half-empty: California looms.

Glass half-full: CSU, for a goodly part of Saturday morning and afternoon, looked like a confident, poised, experienced team ready to produce a nice bounce-back season.

Glass half-empty: California looms.   If there were any doubts about the quality of the Rams' next obstacle, those were summarily dismissed Saturday night when the 12th-ranked Golden Bears spent the evening in Berkeley joy riding to a 45-31 win against perennial Southeastern Conference power Tennessee.  So when the Bears come growling and roaring onto Sonny Lubick Field on Saturday for CSU's home opener, with kickoff at noon on CSTV, there's an extremely strong chance the Rams will emerge with their ninth consecutive loss.  The Rocky Mountain Showdown on Saturday morphed into a Rocky Mountain Bringdown for the Rams when CSU tried to hold on for dear life instead of going for the Buffaloes' jugular after impressively going out to a 28-17 lead early in the second half.  And if there's one thing that must disturb CSU fans the most, it's this: Their heroes persist in finding new and creative ways to lose winnable football games.  Pretty much everything that could go wrong in the fourth quarter and overtime did for the Rams. Crucial special-teams gaffes. A gargantuan pass-interference penalty. An ill-advised overtime pass into the end zone thrown by Hanie, whose performance all day had bordered on brilliant.  Back in the day - and that day keeps getting smaller and smaller in the Rams' proverbial rearview mirror - CSU won games exactly like this one. Not anymore. Sonny Lubick's staggering program now has lost 30 of its past 51 games, many of them a lot like the one Saturday. When it comes to winning time, CSU does just enough to lose.  And now here comes Cal, with its all-American receiver/return man already in proud possession of a powerful head of steam. DeSean Jackson scorched Tennessee with a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown.  Remember the Rocket at Notre Dame? Jackson is the Rocket of 2007.  Lubick and his staff must decide whether to kick to him, which is football's version of deciding between a rock and a hard place. Kick to Jackson, and you risk being on the bad end of a SportsCenter Play of the Day. Kick away from him, and you risk giving up precious field position.

Hemlock or cyanide?

The Rams already feel plenty bad about themselves. Think how bad they'll feel if Jackson is doing Heisman poses in the end zone of their house.  But that's not Lubick's mind- set. Admirably, he put on a brave face in the aftermath of the collapse Saturday.  "Our guys are not going to go downhill," he said, his jaw set, his eyes boring through those of a questioner who asked how the gnarly circumstances of the CU loss will affect the rest of the season.  "Caleb Hanie's going to come out next week and do the same good things he did (Saturday).  Kyle Bell's going to do his thing. We lost, but our kids are walking out of here with their heads up. That's football."  Football has been painful at CSU lately. There's a good chance more pain will be inflicted Saturday.

California at Colorado State

• The game: Noon on Saturday, Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium (34,400 capacity), Fort Collins.

• The records: CSU is 0-1; Cal is 1-0.

• The series: CSU leads 1-0.

• TV/radio: CSTV; KLZ-AM (560) in Denver.

• Who's favored: Cal by 14 1/2.

• Injury update: CSU linebacker Matt Hendricks is doubtful because of a knee injury. California's regulars are healthy.

• Noteworthy: Cal beat Tennessee with the help of a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by All-American receiver/return man DeSean Jackson. . . . CSU won the only previous meeting between the schools, 23-21 at Cal in 2003. . . . CSU junior running back Kyle Bell carried the football a career-high 40 times against CU.

No comments: