Cal Tramples Rams but Loses Best to Elbow Injury

Photo: Safety Bryant Nnabuife sprints towards the end zone for Cal's first touchdown of the day. Nnabuife scored after scooping up a blocked punt-his second such touchdown of the season.
Salgu Wissmath/Staff
Safety Bryant Nnabuife sprints towards the end zone for Cal's first touchdown of the day. Nnabuife scored after scooping up a blocked punt-his second such touchdown of the season.

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Photo: Cal tailback Jahvid Best dislocates his elbow on a carry in the third quarter of Saturday's 42-7 win over Colorado State.    

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By the time Jahvid Best came down awkwardly on his outstretched left arm in the third quarter, the Cal football team was already well on its way to its third win of the season.

The Bears led 28-0 and, although the passing game was finding new ways to struggle, Colorado State's defense couldn't do a thing to stop Best and the Cal rushing attack.

But then Best went down, and what ended up being a dominant 42-7 victory at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon was suddenly a little less sweet.

After the game, coach Jeff Tedford said that Best dislocated his elbow while trying to break his own fall after being tripped up on a three-yard carry.

"There's no fracture, X-rays are negative, so he'll get an MRI tomorrow and we'll go from there to find out the length of recovery," Tedford said.

Pressed further about a possible timeline for Best's return, Tedford said that the team doesn't have those answers and probably won't until tomorrow.

"I don't think we know anything until after we get the MRI to see if there's any soft tissue damage or what have you in there," he said. "But the good news is there's no fracture, so that's positive as a dislocated elbow can be, I guess."

In the first half, Best was unstoppable, carving up a Colorado State defense that prides itself on not giving up big plays, but didn't seem to have an answer for intermediate ones. Best had 85 yards on just 11 carries and the Bears averaged 6.3 yards per carry as a team.

Shane Vereen carried most of the load in the second half and sounded prepared to step into the starting job during Best's absence.

"I'm excited, definitely excited to carry the ball a little bit more," Vereen said. "But I mean, all in all, we're just going to continue to do what we've been doing. Jahvid went down, hopefully he'll be back soon, so we'll just keep rolling."

Quarterback Kevin Riley also left Saturday's game early, though under different circumstances. Although he exited the game with a 28-point lead, Tedford made it clear afterward that the Nate Longshore sighting midway through the third quarter was not a result of the game being out of reach.

"Nate played because Kevin was missing too many open receivers," Tedford said.

Riley was 6-for-13 and did account for the only offensive touchdown in the first half on an 11-yard pass to Nyan Boateng, but he badly missed open receivers on several occasions. That opened the door for Longshore, who took full advantage by completing nine of his 13 throws for 100 yards and two touchdowns, one each to Jeremy Ross and Cameron Morrah.

"Obviously it feels good," Longshore said. "It's always good to contribute to the team in any way that you can, and sometimes you contribute by playing, other times you give feedback on the sideline and help out that way."

Tedford said that Longshore played well and made smart decisions in a game situation that didn't require him to make many big plays.

When asked if the senior's performance might reopen the competition for the starting spot at quarterback, Tedford said: "We'll see."

Perhaps the only other remarkable part of Saturday was simply how unconventional the win really was.

Bryant Nnabuife scored the first touchdown of the game by returning a blocked punt for 30 yards in the first quarter. In fact, Cal's defensive backs scored as many points (21) as the Bears' offense. Brett Johnson intercepted a tipped pass from Billy Farris on the Rams' next drive and brought it back 43 yards to the end zone to put Cal (3-1) up 14-0 in the first quarter, and Syd'Quan Thompson's first career punt return for a touchdown made it 28-0 with 12:53 left in the third.

Colorado State (2-2) was held scoreless until late in the fourth quarter, when a 36-yard pass from backup quarterback Klay Kubiak to Dion Morton set up John Mosure's one-yard touchdown run.

"I thought our defense did an excellent job, stopped the run for the most part, pressured the passer pretty well," Tedford said.

"Darian (Hagan) did a nice job, Syd did a nice job. I thought the linebackers played well. (Rams tailback Gartrell Johnson) is not an easy guy to tackle. I think we could've done better in some cases, but for the most part, not to let him spring free, I thought our guys on defense did a really nice job."

The Bears held Colorado State's rushing tandem of Johnson and Kyle Bell to a total of 107 yards on 28 carries. They also put consistent pressure on Farris, who threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.

Thompson recorded nine tackles-including a couple tough ones in the open field-and Hagan pitched in with seven tackles and his first career interception against a team that picked on him with success in 2007.

"This was one that I had circled," Hagan said. "I knew that I had to come out and have a good game and I feel like I did that today."

Even defensive end Cameron Jordan got in on that action, recording his first career interception on Kyle Bell's wobbling halfback pass late in the game.

"(We're) just playing good defense," Thompson said. "It's not just about the offense scoring points. We should be able to score points in all three phases of the game."

The defense allowing just seven points was even more impressive considering the starting field position that it had to work with for most of the game. Cal's kickoff team continued to be a glaring weakness, as the Rams started from their own 40-yard line on three drives as a result of kickoffs by David Seawright and Jordan Kay that bounced out of bounds.

"We tried to give them an opportunity to try to iron out some kinks with it, but obviously that didn't happen," Tedford said.

"We may put it out on the campus, find out if we have any soccer players who can kick the ball in bounds or something."


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