Sunday, September 09, 2007

SF Chronicle: Hanging on For Dear Life

Here is the link.


Rusty Simmons

Having recorded his first collegiate carry and touchdown earlier Saturday, Cal redshirt freshman tailback James Montgomery already was having a pretty special day.  But it wasn't until he burst over the left side for a 12-yard run, allowing the Bears to run out the clock on a 34-28 gut-checking win over Colorado State, that the day became one he would never forget.  "I might have never seen the ball again if I would have fumbled," Montgomery said. "Even if they had ripped my arms off, I wasn't fumbling. It made for an amazing day."  The previous five minutes had been anything but amazing for Cal, which allowed two touchdowns in a 53-second, fourth-quarter span as Colorado State cut the Bears' lead to six points. About a quarter of the 27,805 fans at Hughes Stadium left early and missed a flurry of events that led to the Rams' bizarre comeback attempt. But mostly, it was Cal getting beat in the secondary.  With its reserve defensive players in the game and backup quarterback Kevin Riley warming up on the sideline, Cal gave up two long passes. The first was a 67-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Hanie to Damon Morton, and the second was a 44-yarder from Hanie to George Hill that set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Kyle Bell.

"Giving up those deep balls is inexcusable," Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said. "It has to be addressed. We're trying to play relatively safe and smart and keep things in front of us, but we didn't play with as much intensity and focus as we did for most of the second half.  "The last five minutes were just absolutely terrible." The Bears also allowed Colorado State to recover an onside kick in between the touchdowns. On the Rams' second onside attempt, they tried to bloop the ball in an uncovered area, but the ball went out of bounds. "That was my coaching for the day," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "We probably would have been better off with (a normal) onside kick. There was one guy back there, and he was supposed to lob it and have it be a foot race for the ball." Instead, Cal got the ball back and relied on its brawn to clinch the win. Montgomery, who was playing in the clutch role because starter Justin Forsett got a back stinger in the third quarter, ran five times for 25 yards on the drive, eating up the final 2:47.  The close win over less-talented Colorado State (0-2) probably won't help No. 10 Cal (2-0) in the polls, but it may end up being just the kick in the pants it needed.

"It teaches the guys that, in college football, any game can be close," said Cal linebacker Anthony Felder, who had 13 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. "You can't look down on or underestimate your opponents, because they can come up or give you a real run for your money. It was good to get that under our belts without losing a game."

Receiver/returner DeSean Jackson kept his Heisman hopes alive, recording 117 of Cal's 391 yards of total offense and darting for a 73-yard, first-quarter touchdown run. He took the pitch on a reverse, got a great block from tackle Mike Gibson, put a video-game-like move on Joey Rucks and sprinted into the open field, where he's never caught.

Freshman tailback Jahvid Best added a highlight reel, 64-yard touchdown scamper, on which he ran into Jackson, ran through three tacklers and stiff-armed a fourth on his way to the end zone. Overall, however, it was an underwhelming offensive performance from a group with such an array of weapons.  Quarterback Nate Longshore completed 19 of 29 passes for just 146 yards and no touchdowns, Lavelle Hawkins led the receivers with a quiet five-catch, 43-yard afternoon and Forsett was limited to 59 yards on 13 carries.

"We had guys open, we just couldn't make plays," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We just weren't in sync today." The defense forced three turnovers and stopped Colorado State on seven consecutive drives, spanning the second through fourth quarters. It, too, had its moments of topsy-turvy play. "We didn't play well throughout the game," Tedford said. "We took turns. Defensively, we didn't tackle very well in the first half, and they drove the ball too much on us. In the second half, the defense got them off the field and gave the offense good field position, but we shot ourselves in the foot."


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