Saturday, September 22, 2007

Contra Costa Times: Forsett has answer for 'jeopardy'

Banged-up back lifts Cal

By Jonathan Okanes

Here is the link.

BERKELEY -- Cal was enjoying a big lead against Arizona on Saturday when wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins pleaded with banged-up tailback Justin Forsett to take a seat. After the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points, Hawkins had another plea.

"I told him, 'Please get up,' " Hawkins said.  Forsett re-entered the game after the Bears' hefty lead had been trimmed to 11 points, and led No. 6 Cal on a 74-yard drive that ended with his 2-yard touchdown run that helped secure a 45-27 victory in the Pac-10 opener in front of 56,021 at Memorial Stadium.  Forsett already was nursing an ankle injury when he suffered a quadriceps contusion late in the second quarter. With a 31-10 lead, Cal coach Jeff Tedford decided to sit Forsett down in favor of backup James Montgomery, whose 3-yard touchdown run made it 38-10 with 10:53 left in the third quarter.  But the Wildcats (1-3) scored a pair of touchdowns to make it 38-24, and after Montgomery's fumble at the Cal 21 led to a 32-yard field goal by Arizona's Jason Bondzio to make it 38-27 with still over 13 minutes left, Tedford had no choice but to put Forsett back in the game.  "At that point, we need to run the football and there is no way we can trust guys putting the ball on the ground," Tedford said. "They were making a serious comeback. Justin was ready. We were trying to keep him out because he wasn't healthy, but he was good enough to come back in and play."

Forsett, who scored on a 9-yard touchdown run during an explosive  first quarter in which the Bears built a 28-3 lead, carried five times for 39 yards during the game-clinching drive.  "He really gave us a spark when we needed it down the stretch there," Tedford said. "He is so reliable and solid as far as hanging on to the football. He has great vision and runs so hard. He's a warrior."  Forsett, who entered the day leading the Pac-10 in rushing at 122.3 yards per game, gained 117 yards on 23 carries despite sitting out four possessions in the second half. "Nothing was going to stop me from getting into the end zone," Forsett said. "It was getting too close. The win was in jeopardy. I had to go out and do my part."

It didn't appear there would be any nervous moments after the Bears (4-0) scored on three straight possessions in the first quarter and defensive end Tyson Alualu returned a fumble recovery 4 yards for another touchdown. The defensive score was set up by a sack and forced fumble by free safety Thomas DeCoud. But Cal's offense stalled a bit in the second half and the Wildcats' spread offense began to wear down the Bears' defense. Quarterback Willie Tuitama, who was 42-for-61 for 309 yards, led Arizona on a couple of sustained scoring drives to make the game competitive once again. The 61 pass attempts were an Arizona record. "There was urgency, but there wasn't any panic," Cal middle linebacker Worrell Williams said. "When you let them drive on you like that, it gives them a little confidence. We just had to regroup and pull it together." The Bears enjoyed this victory a little more because it avenged last season's 24-20 loss in Tucson, a defeat that knocked Cal out of the race for a Rose Bowl berth. Saturday morning, Tedford showed the team a video of the end of last year's game, complete with the dejected look of Cal's players and the Arizona crowd rushing the field.

"Even now, after we just beat them, if I watched that video, it would make me mad," Williams said. "We knew we couldn't let that happen again." As expected, the Bears played without starting defensive lineman Matt Malele (foot) and Rulon Davis (foot) as well as starting strong side linebacker Zack Follett (neck stinger). Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory mixed and matched his defensive front with players such as Cody Jones, Tad Smith, Derrick Hill, Cameron Jordan and John Allen. The Bears had success early on pressuring Tuitama, mostly when they blitzed with their linebackers. For the most part, Arizona's offensive line was able to protect Tuitama when it was just Cal's defensive line providing pressure.

"I think those numbers are kind of skewed when a kid throws 60 times," Gregory said. "Certainly, I don't want to have the quarterback throwing for 300 or 400 yards. But in the grand scheme of things, maybe it's not that bad."  Cal quarterback Nate Longshore got off to a hot start. Each of his first five completions went for at least 10 yards, including big plays to Hawkins for 27 yards and tight end Cameron Morrah for 49 yards. He also threw an 18-yard scoring pass to Hawkins. Longshore finished 16-for-30 for 235 yards while Hawkins continued his strong early-season play with six catches for 95 yards. DeSean Jackson continues to be the subject of a lot of attention from opposing defenses and had just three catches for 39 yards.


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