BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Although Lavelle Hawkins loved it when the whole nation watched California beat Tennessee in its season opener, he's hoping the No. 8 Golden Bears will stay out of the spotlight for the rest of their nonconference schedule.
That's because the senior receiver figures only an upset loss could draw attention to the Bears - and they barely avoided just such a stumble in last weekend's trip to Colorado State.
``What happened with Appalachian State and Michigan, even South Florida and Auburn, anything like that can happen at any moment,'' said Hawkins, the Bears' leading receiver with 12 catches for 133 yards. ``This past weekend showed us that it could happen to us. We just had a bad day. I'm glad it happened early instead of late.''
The undermanned Rams controlled the first half and nearly made a fourth-quarter comeback before Cal's 34-28 victory. The Bears returned to Berkeley scared straight for their mental preparation for Saturday's home game against Louisiana Tech, starting with a full-contact practice Tuesday.
Despite their out-of-breath performance in high-altitude Fort Collins, Colo., the Bears advanced two spots in the latest polls. Cal's convincing win over Tennessee showed much of the best in coach Jeff Tedford's squad, while Colorado State exposed some of the flaws - or perhaps the Bears simply worked out a few mental issues before Pac-10 play.
``It's hard to be so prestigious,'' said sophomore safety Marcus Ezeff, who made his first career start at Colorado State. ``We have a lot of players getting a lot of recognition. It's good to remember that any weekend, we can be upset. We know we're a better team than what we showcased out there.''
Tedford got plenty of fodder for practice out of Colorado State, which outgained Cal 458-391 and trailed the Bears by just six points with 11 minutes to play. The Rams' defense limited quarterback Nate Longshore to 146 yards passing, and the offense needed two long touchdown runs by DeSean Jackson and freshman Jahvid Best to stay in front.
Though Tedford repeatedly spoke to his players about avoiding a letdown in their two remaining games before the Pac-10 opener against Arizona on Sept. 22, the Bears clearly lost their edge in the thin air.
``We don't want any letdowns, no matter who we're playing, no matter what time of year,'' left tackle Mike Gibson said. ``We're going to come out and play a lot harder and a lot faster than we did last week. ... We won, but it was frustrating the way we won. We expect more than that out of our offense.''
After a light week of contact following the physical Tennessee victory, Tedford will put his players in pads for two days this week to regain that aggressive edge. Receiver Robert Jordan (bruised ribs) and running back Justin Forsett (stinger) won't take as much punishment so they'll be ready to play Saturday.
Cal's offense rarely struggles at home, but the visit from Louisiana Tech will be an important opportunity to work on the problems in an inexperienced defense. The Bears have yielded 59 points in their first two games, including two long TD passes by Colorado State when Cal's second-stringers entered in the fourth quarter.
The Bears will need better play from their depth defenders in conference play, according to linebacker Justin Moye, a longtime backup who made his first career interception in the fourth quarter last week.
``It's good for a football team to be in a close game so we know what it feels like,'' Moye said. ``Not every game is going to be a 30-point blowout. We have the talent and the execution to know that we can pull it off.''
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