Sports

Thumbs down: Cal star held back by hurt hand

BERKELEY -- No matter what DeSean Jackson does on his electrifying punt returns, some fans always want more out of No. 6 Cal's top playmaker.

That includes Jackson's father, Bill, who wondered aloud why his son wasn't getting more touches during a halftime interview in last week's blowout victory over Louisiana Tech.

Jackson's sprained thumb is the biggest reason, coach Jeff Tedford said. The injury has prevented the junior from getting into a rhythm in practice, where he must wear a cast to keep the thumb safe for game day.

But Jackson realizes he's one part of a multi-talented offense that shows off every part of its playmaking arsenal in Tedford's balanced game plans. Even if he doesn't catch more passes than teammate Lavelle Hawkins in Saturday's Pac-10 opener against Arizona, Jackson claims he'll be happy with any role.

"I'm definitely aware of everything that's going on in the offense," Jackson said. "We have a lot of playmakers. There's a lot going into this offense. I know a lot of teams will try to take me away, and it's one of those things where it's going to be like that this year. I just have to be patient and get more chances to make plays."

Jackson has 14 receptions for 112 yards in three games, trailing Hawkins' 19 catches for 220 yards in both categories. Jackson, touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate on a Web site set up by the school, has scored on a 77-yard punt return and a 73-yard run but doesn't have a touchdown catch after collecting 16 in his first two seasons.

Saturday's Games

OREGON AT STANFORD -- Oregon (3-0) opens conference play at Stanford, which is coming off a 37-0 victory over San Jose State. Jim Harbaugh, the new Cardinal coach, is well aware of Oregon's offensive strengths.

"That's what everybody's trying to figure out -- how to slow them down," Harbaugh said.

Last season, the Ducks rushed for 182 yards a game to lead the Pac-10. It was the best rushing average for a conference team since UCLA in 1976.

SOUTH CAROLINA AT LSU -- South Carolina had a chance to beat the No. 2 team in the nation (Auburn) a year ago and let it slip away.

The 12th-ranked Gamecocks are out to finish the job against second-ranked LSU.

"It all depends on who's going to believe it more," Gamecocks running back Cory Boyd said. "Who has the confidence and the strength of themselves, to dig deep?"

LSU better be ready to stop the run, Tigers coach Les Miles said.

"They are known for their throwing game, but the reality is they are running the football as productively and efficiently as they have ever run it," he said.

OTHER GAMES -- Michigan State at Notre Dame: Even when Notre Dame was solid, Michigan State plagued the Irish (the Spartans have won five in a row). Michigan at Penn State: Joe Paterno talked this week about coaching against Fielding Yost. He was likely kidding. No joke is Penn State's six-game winning streak, which ranks fourth nationally.

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