By Jason Anderson
BERKELEY - Senior wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins celebrated along the sideline as a mighty roar rose from the mouth of Strawberry Canyon. The Edison High graduate had 177 all-purpose yards and a touchdown to help No. 12 Cal beat No. 15 Tennessee 45-31 before a capacity crowd of 72,516 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Bears avenged last season's 35-18 loss and upheld the Pac-10's reputation against a powerful opponent from the Southeastern Conference. "We had to do what we had to do - we had to win," said Hawkins, who had seven receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown, and four kick returns for 87 yards. "Tennessee thought we were soft. I took that real personal, and I think my team took it real personal. We had to hit them in the mouth and show them that Pac-10 ball." Junior quarterback Nate Longshore completed 19 of 28 passes for 241 yards, and senior tailback Justin Forsett rushed for 163 yards in the day's only battle between ranked teams. The anticipation grew in the hours leading up to the game as Cal and Tennessee fans walked the streets surrounding the stadium. A group of Cal students ambled along Channing Avenue chanting "Go Bears." They didn't get far before a woman in a Tennessee jersey launched into a profanity-laced tirade made only slightly more charming by her Southern drawl.
Hundreds hiked up Tightwad Hill for a free view, while many thousands more converged on the gates. Upon entering the stadium, one of the first things they noticed was a single-engine airplane, probably paid for by one of Tennessee's boosters, towing a banner that read: "SEC RULES PAC-10 DROOLS." All the excitement created an electric atmosphere, and the game lived up to the hype. Cal linebacker Zach Folletthit Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge on the Volunteer's first possession, causing Ainge to fumble. Linebacker Worrell Williams scooped up the loose ball and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game. The Vols responded with a 70-yard touchdown drive to tie the game, but Hawkins gave the Bears excellent field position with a 30-yard return on the ensuing kickoff. Cal capitalized on the short field, going 54 yards in nine plays to take a 14-7 lead. "Lavelle made some big catches and did a nice job with kick returns," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "I thought he played very hard tonight."
Tennessee quickly answered with another touchdown, but the Bears reclaimed the lead when DeSean Jackson kicked off his Heisman Trophy campaign with a spectacular punt return. Jackson fielded the ball at the 24-yard line, sidestepped a defender, danced around another and sprinted for the far sideline. He picked up a big block, cut back across the field and raced to the end zone for a 77-yard touchdown. The Bears led 31-21 at halftime, and Hawkins helped them extend the lead early in the third quarter. He hauled in a 25-yard pass inside the Tennessee 5, setting up his own 3-yard touchdown reception with 13:36 to play in the third. The Volunteers cut the lead to 38-31 with 14:17 to play, but the Bears scored again to start the celebration. "This is football at Cal right now," Jackson said. "The fans are pumped up, and they went crazy out there tonight. Hopefully they keep expecting big wins from us."