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Rusty Simmons, Chronicle Staff Writer
During halftime of their 31-24 win over then-No. 11 Oregon on Saturday, the text messages started. "We knew all about it," linebacker Anthony Felder said. "With the technology today, nothing is (unknown)." The Cal players found out that Oklahoma had lost at Colorado. West Virginia had lost at South Florida the previous night. Here they were, down 10-3 with a seemingly lost chance to move into the top 5. "That may have motivated us," Felder said, "but it probably had more to do with how we were playing." The Bears found some way to outscore the Ducks 28-14 in the second half, but treated the big road win like business as usual, according to coach Jeff Tedford. The "as usual" stopped when the text messages started again. During the bus ride back to Berkeley, players became aware of Florida's loss and their impending move to No. 3.
A quiet trip turned into murmuring. A little buzz turned into absolute elation. "It was exciting, but nothing had really changed," center Alex Mack said. "We still have to go to practice today and get better. I think our team understands that." They also understand this: "We're making history over here," cornerback Brandon Hampton said. "It's nice. I'd rather be No. 1, but it doesn't mean much until we go 13-0."
First-timer: Zack Smith started at fullback for the first time, but he represents more than a replacement for Will Ta'ufo'ou, who partially tore his MCL. Smith is one of the last players to be allowed to transfer after graduating early. Last season, offensive lineman Tyler Krieg came to Cal; this year, it was Smith from Duke. "I was kind of grandfathered in," he said. "For me, it really rewarded good students, who also happen to be athletes. It would have been a travesty to not have been able to transfer. I worked my butt off to graduate in three years, and I was really pursuing academics instead of athletics. "The NCAA is there to protect the sanctity of the students, and I think that was a rule that promoted good academics."
Briefly: ESPN ranked Memorial Stadium as one of the top 10 scariest places to play in the country. ... Quarterback Nate Longshore will be a featured guest on an ESPN.com Live Chat at 10:30 a.m. today. ... Tailback Justin Forsett will be caught between home and homeboy Monday night. The Arlington, Texas, native wants the Dallas Cowboys to win, though he wants former Cal back Marshawn Lynch to run for about "200 yards."