FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- DeSean Jackson is spectacular from scrimmage and on special teams. If only he could play defensive back, California might not have to worry so much. The junior wide receiver scored on a 73-yard reverse and 10th-ranked Cal held off scrappy Colorado State 34-28 on Saturday.
Jackson, who opened the season with an electrifying 77-yard punt return TD against Tennessee, again flashed his Heisman Trophy credentials when he circled left, deked cornerback Joey Rucks at midfield and raced all alone down the Rams' sideline for Cal's first touchdown.
"My coach said, 'I need something to spark our team,' and he threw me in there, put a reverse in there," Jackson said with a shrug. "The outside corners had that covered up, so I just stuck my foot into the ground, hit it right up the middle and put the move on a couple of DBs. And I did what I do best, which is get into the end zone."
Jackson, who had 143 all-purpose yards on only six touches against Tennessee, collected 141 all-purpose yards against the Rams despite a throbbing thumb that resulted in a couple of drops. He gained 78 yards on two carries, 39 yards on five receptions and 24 on two punt returns.
The Golden Bears (2-0) needed all of his talents and more to fend off the Rams, who scored two touchdowns 53 seconds apart against backups to turn a 34-14 deficit into a 34-28 nail-biter with 2:54 remaining.
"It's a great lesson for us that the game's never over," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "We put some backup guys in that let some (receivers) get behind them. It's just a lesson that you have to practice hard every day to be prepared because you never know when your opportunity's going to come."
Instead of another onside kick, however, Jason Smith tried to pooch the ball down the sideline but it sailed all the way to the Rams' bench on the fly, giving the Golden Bears the ball at their 35.
"I was trying to pooch it high in the air and get it down field," Smith said. "I just took a bad angle."
Freshman running back James Montgomery picked up a key first down and the relieved Golden Bears ran out the clock.
Rams quarterback Caleb Hanie turned the ball over three times, including an interception by Justin Moye that set up Montgomery's 2-yard TD run to make it 27-14. Two plays after Hanie was hurried into a fourth-down incompletion, Jahvid Best scored on a 64-yard run to make it 34-14.
"We had a chance to do something special, but couldn't get it done will all the mistakes," Hanie said.
With the student stands emptying, Hanie tossed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Damon Morton over freshman cornerback Darian Hagan with 3:47 remaining.
Rams linebacker Curtis Cornelson collared the onside kick and George Hill's 44-yard grab against sophomore Marcus Ezeff set up Kyle Bell's 3-yard run with 2:54 left.
Then came another in a long line of mistakes that prevented the Rams from repeating their upset of Cal four years ago.
"We probably should have kicked another onside," CSU coach Sonny Lubick said. "But you're lucky to get one in a game, not to mention two. But we should've done it again."
Jordan Kay kicked field goals of 47 and 41 yards, the first of which gave Cal a 17-14 halftime lead.
That score came after the Rams drove 71 yards in 13 plays to tie it at 14, a drive that was particularly impressive because Bell was on the sideline getting a breather and tight end Kory Sperry was sidelined with a season-ending ACL injury to his left knee.
Sperry hopped off the field after a twisting tackle by Ezeff early in that drive.
The Rams (0-2) went ahead 7-0 on Bell's 8-yard rumble that capped a 74-yard drive, but it took the Golden Bears just 12 seconds to tie it on Jackson's career-long 73-yard run.
Colorado Sate unveiled its own speedster on its next snap, sending Morton on a reverse that gained 44 yards to the Bears 21.
The Rams drove down to the 2 and Hanie had Sperry wide open in the back of the end zone but linebacker Zack Follett pressured Hanie, who lofted the ball into defensive lineman Derrick Hill's arms at the 3.
Jackson even hurt the Rams when he didn't touch the ball.
Jimmie Kaylor was backed up deep and punting into the wind to Jackson when he shanked the ball out of bounds at the Rams 47, leading to a short touchdown drive for Cal.
"When they try to punt it away from me, it messes up their mind," Jackson said.
The Associated Press News Service