Friday, September 07, 2007

AP: Grind-it-out Rams hope to slow down speedy California

The city and Colorado State University are working to improve game-day traffic flow to Hugh Stadium beginning Saturday. Funny, because inside Hugh Stadium the Rams will try Saturday to snarl No. 10 California and keep the speedy Golden Bears from zooming up and down the field. The most prominent of Cal's sensational dashers is DeSean Jackson, the Pac-10 special teams player of the week after tallying 143 all-purpose yards on just six touches in Cal's 45-31 trouncing of Tennessee last week. The highlight was an electrifying 77-yard punt return for a touchdown, his sixth career score on just 27 returns and one which will likely raise his profile in the Heisman Trophy race. Tennessee's remaining punts were directed well away from Jackson, a tactic Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick has to consider. "We'll probably punt to Jackson," Lubick insisted. "Isn't that what the fans are coming to see? I don't want them booing if we punt it out of bounds." Jackson isn't just a special teams star. The junior wide receiver had four catches for 45 yards and added a career-long 21-yard run on a reverse.
"We were taking care of the little things, it's all technical," Golden Bears wide receiver and fellow speedster Robert Jordan said. "If everyone's doing they're part, then we will be successful like that every week." While the Golden Bears have speed and depth at running back and wide receiver, the Rams counter with a grind-it-out approach behind 235-pound running back Kyle Bell, who suffered a knee injury that wiped out his 2006 season. In his return last week, he carried a career-high 40 times for 135 yards and a touchdown in the Rams' 31-28 overtime loss to Colorado. The Rams' first two touchdown drives chewed up nearly 14 minutes and covered 29 plays. Colorado State can strike quickly, too. Caleb Hanie hooked up with tight end Kory Sperry three times for touchdowns, including a 37-yarder -- and they would have connected for a 54-yard score had Hanie's pass not been thrown over the wrong shoulder on another drive. The Rams have lost eight straight games, but nobody should expect a letdown from the Golden Bears even after they so thoroughly avenged last year's letdown at Tennessee.
"There's one thing that I've always been impressed with our team, and that is whether we're successful or not, they always take the field the next day with the same workmanship," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "They don't get giddy with wins and they don't get overly down when we don't win. I think we'll be fine. I think our guys will take confidence out of it, which is a good thing, but I don't think they'll be overconfident." The Golden Bears have bigger things on their minds than just relishing their revenge.
"When you have a national championship on your mind, you have to compete and win every week," Cal safety Brandon Hampton said. "Saturday was great, and we were happy about that, but now we have to prepare for the Rams .... We have a new task at hand." Tedford really doesn't have to preach to his players about the dangers of overlooking the Rams, who upset Cal 23-21 in their only previous meeting in 2003 on Jeff Babcock's 32-yard field goal with 1:57 left. Nor does he worry about their mind-set after moving into the top 10.
"It does nothing for the team as far as I'm concerned. We'll practice the same way, we'll prepare the same way," Tedford said. "We've already had that talk about what's going to be the biggest question. I asked everybody on the team, 'Guys, what do you think the big question is going to be exactly?' They all said, 'Letdown.' "There's enough leadership that this team understands last week's over and this is a whole new week. Colorado State is a football team that came here and beat us a few years ago on our home field. So, they're a good football team and we're going to have to play our best to be successful."

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