Saturday, September 08, 2007

SF Chronicle: No. 10 Cal at Colorado State

Rusty Simmons:
Four years ago this week, Cal battled back from a 20-7, fourth-quarter deficit only to see Colorado State hit a field goal in the final minutes to clinch a 23-21 victory. Although that outcome was unclear until the very end, the opening moments of today's game should go a long way toward deciding the winner of the rematch. "Coming out and playing hard from the get-go is very important," receivers coach Dan Ferrigno said. "We can't wait for things to happen. We have to make things happen by playing hard from the start." Setting an early tone is a weekly mantra for most teams, but it's more than coach-speak this week. The Bears will have to adjust to the early kick-off time and the altitude, and they'll have to avoid an emotional letdown after opening the season with a 45-31 win over ranked Tennessee. "The best way to answer all of those questions is to put it on them fast," receiver Lavelle Hawkins said. "We can't get caught up in what we've done." During training camp, Cal had early wake-up calls, but for two weeks, it has practiced from 4 to 6 p.m. to schedule around classes and acclimate to the night games. Coach Jeff Tedford stressed the importance this week of waking up early, even if the players don't have morning classes.
"They have to make sure their clocks are the same," he said. Receiver Robert Jordan, who said he plays better under the lights, offered only, "Man, we're gonna have to wake up at like 6 in the morning." The players tried to not make much of playing about 5,000 feet above sea level. Some remember playing at Air Force in 2004, when they won 56-14. "You will feel gassed a little bit, but you can't worry or panic, because you will recover," Tedford said. "If you're in good shape, you can recover quickly, and we're in good shape." Coordinators Bob Gregory and Jim Michalczik said they may have to substitute more in the early going until the players adjust. Michalczik was the offensive line coach at Montana State from 1992 to '98. "I think Jerry Tarkanian handled questions about altitude the best," Michalczik said. "When he was asked about taking his basketball team to play in New Mexico, he said, 'The altitude won't matter; we're playing inside.' "That's kind of how you have to deal with it. You just can't let it bother you." A day after beating Tennessee, Tedford asked the players what the most popular topic of interviews would be during preparations for Colorado State. He recounts that they all responded, "a letdown."
"I have a lot of confidence in the leadership of this team and that they know what it takes to win," Tedford said. "They understand that last week is over, and it's time to focus on this week."
Cal is favored by 14 points. Even if they do get off to a slow start, the Bears' talent-level and speed should eventually be enough to win. "That concerns everybody who will play them," said Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, who is 70-16 when scoring first. "I was surprised with how fast their tailbacks were also. The speed would be a concern, and I would try to keep them from hitting the crease, and that's hard to do after 80 plays. "If they hit the crease it could be a 50-yard gain." Cal had eight offensive plays by five different players that went for at least 20 yards in Week 1. It could use a couple more of those in quarter one of Week 2.
Cal today
Who: Cal (1-0) at Colorado State (0-1) When: 11 a.m.
TV: CSTV Radio: 810
Story line: The way opponents choose to approach Cal dynamo DeSean Jackson will, at the very least, be a subplot each week. Colorado State has turned the subject into a sitcom. Coach Sonny Lubick said Monday, "Well, we'll probably punt to him. That's what most of you would like to see, right? I don't want you booing if we punt it out of bounds." A day later, special teams coach Dave Arnold returned home from an emergency room visit and saw Jackson's 77-yard return from Week 1. "I told my wife to take me back to the hospital," Arnold said. The right decision here could be the difference between getting the last laugh and being a laughingstock.
What's CSTV? CSTV is a college sports network found on Channel 418 for Comcast customers who have a cable package that includes the sports tier. The more basic Comcast plans don't include CSTV. Satellite customers should check their plans to see if they get CSTV.

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