BERKELEY, Calif. (AP)—Justin Forsett didn’t think much about tearing through Louisiana Tech’s defense for 152 yards and a career-best three touchdowns.
The California tailback only dwelled on that play where he tackled himself by tripping over his own feet—and the other play where he ran smack into the back of Brian De La Puente, his own offensive lineman.
The No. 8 Golden Bears are both unbeaten and unsatisfied after finishing their nonconference schedule with a 42-12 victory Saturday.
Lavelle Hawkins returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, and Cal (3-0) had flashes of excellence in a one-sided win. But coach Jeff Tedford led a chorus of disappointment in the Bears’ lack of overall smoothness, from spotty tackling to quarterback Nate Longshore’s inconsistency.
It’s both a motivational tool and a genuine concern for a team with lofty aspirations.
“We didn’t get a rhythm going at all,” said Forsett, who had the eighth 100-yard game of his career. “We have big goals set for ourselves, and today wasn’t a big step towards reaching them. We have a confidence level, but we’re still getting better.”
Craig Stevens and Jahvid Best caught TD passes from Longshore, who passed for 230 yards as Cal won its ninth straight at Memorial Stadium. Forsett had another outstanding game behind Cal’s offensive line, finishing with a 1-yard stroll over the goal line with 9:46 left.
DeSean Jackson had just five catches for 28 yards and didn’t come close to breaking loose on a punt return while nursing a sprained thumb. But Hawkins showed the Bears’ special-teams acumen isn’t confined to Tha Chosen 1, as return wizard Jackson calls himself.
Hawkins, who also had seven catches for 87 yards, began his return with a fake reverse handoff before sprinting across the width of the field and down the opposite sideline.
“I saw a lot of guys falling,” Hawkins said. “My guys downfield made a lot of great blocks, and all I had to do was run. I said, ‘I better not get caught, because if I get caught, I’m going to hear about it all week.”’
Cal hadn’t returned the opening kickoff for a score since Deltha O’Neal did it in the Aloha Bowl in 1996, and hadn’t returned any kickoff for a score since 2002.
“You could put a tent on our kick-return coverage team,” Louisiana Tech coach Derek Dooley said. “It looked like a circus.”
Zac Champion passed for 149 yards with two TDs and two interceptions for Louisiana Tech (1-2), which took Hawaii to overtime last week. The Bulldogs stayed close against Cal until two turnovers shortly before halftime allowed the Bears to take control.
“Cal is a great football team, and any time you play a top-10 team and then spot them seven on the kickoff, it’s hard to recover,” Dooley said.
Though Cal showed more fire and precision than in last week’s narrow road victory over Colorado State, not everything went well for the Bears. Longshore, the junior in his second full season as Cal’s starter, had one of his worst performances, missing several open receivers and throwing an end-zone interception while going 22-for-33.
“I thought we had some guys open today, and we didn’t hit some of the balls we needed to hit,” Tedford said. “Nate’s doing a great job with the huddle and running the offense. It wasn’t his best day, but he was still very efficient.”
Cal also lost three defensive starters to injuries, testing the Bears’ depth before Pac-10 play. Linebacker Zack Follett developed a neck stinger in the first half, while defensive linemen Matt Malele and Rulon Davis hurt their feet — with Davis possibly incurring a stress fracture.
Cal’s offense struggled to move until midway through the second quarter, when Champion’s fumble left them with a short field. Forsett, who rushed for 127 yards in the first half, scored from 2 yards out.
“We had a lot of young guys in there, and a lot of them were kind of nervous,” said Champion, who took several brutal hits from Cal’s defense. “We got things going later on, but it’s too late when you have a team like that.”
Louisiana Tech finally got moving with a no-huddle offense, a strategy that also worked against Cal in the Bears’ season-opening win over Tennessee.
Joe Anderson caught his first TD pass for the Bulldogs late in the second quarter, but Forsett scored again on a career-long 39-yard run before Brandon Hampton’s interception return set up Stevens’ 17-yard TD catch across the middle for a 28-6 lead 2:36 before halftime.
Best, Cal’s prized freshman tailback, took a screen pass 16 yards for his first career TD reception midway through the third quarter.