Ron Agostini

Agostini: Turlock QBs have grip on college scene

Portland center Greg Oden, right, showed he was the real deal in his preseason opener
against Sacramento.
Portland center Greg Oden, right, showed he was the real deal in his preseason opener against Sacramento. AP

Facts taste like hors d'oeuvres, but The Truth is the main entree.

Fact: Two Turlock products, Fresno State's Tom Brandstater and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, have become starters for NCAA Division I teams.

The Truth: The 2008 season may set the bar at a new level for valley football stars. Think about it: Take away the knee injury by Hilmar's Nate Costa only days before Oregon's season opener, we would have watched three starting Division I quarterbacks raised barely 20 miles apart. That would have been arguably a once-in-a-lifetime autumn, because Kaepernick (14 total touchdowns) and Brandstater (nine total touchdowns) aren't exactly embarrassing themselves. We are entitled, however, to a "What if ... "

Fact: The Kings opened their preseason by losing 110-81 to Portland.

The Truth: The Trail Blazers appear to be the next monster rising from the Western Conference, if Greg Oden and Rudy Fernandez are as good as advertised. Granted, it was a preseason game, but the Kings have no one who can guard Oden, the No. 1 draft pick of 2007, and anyone who counters with "Brad Miller" automatically forfeits all TV rights for the season. The opener wasn't promising for Sacramento, which didn't pick up the option on coach Reggie Theus' contract for 2009-10. If you seek a comfort zone, you won't find it this year at Arco Arena.

Fact: The Cubs bombed again in the playoffs after winning 97 games.

The Truth: It seemed so karma-friendly that the Cubs finally would break through 100 years after their last World Series victory. Then again, we're talking about the Cubs, losers of their last nine playoff games. In 2003, they were five outs away from the World Series until they were Bartmaned into the winter. Last year, they were swept in the first round, much like this year's result against the Dodgers. They were competitive against Los Angeles in only one of the three games. Either they're truly cursed or they're buying into their fans' death-wish attitude. Their only way out is to look to the East, toward Boston, for hope.

Fact: Modesto's Erin Cafaro and her women's eight crew teammates, the Olympic gold medalists, were welcomed this week at the White House.

The Truth: Cafaro has received the key to the city, thrown out the first ball at a Giants game and, this week, was honored by President Bush. Still, such spoils of victory never have motivated Cafaro. She and her teammates are pure athletes -- there's no pot of gold awaiting rowers -- in ways Tiger Woods and Alex Rodriguez never can understand. Which makes it no surprise why Cafaro already is aiming for the London Olympics in 2012.

Fact: The Longs Drugs Challenge begins today at Blawkhawk CC in Danville.

The Truth: If local interest translates into ticket purchases, the tournament should be a sellout. Northern California rolls into the East Bay with an honor roll of talent: Juli Inkster of Los Altos, Paula Creamer of Pleasanton, Christina Kim of San Jose, Pat Hurst of San Leandro, Dorothy Delasin of South San Francisco and Natalie Gulbis of Sacramento. These six have accounted for 51 LPGA Tour victories, 31 by Inkster. More important to the valley, several cut their golfing teeth in junior tournaments and other events here. We remember Inkster's attending the dedication of The First Tee of Modesto chapter five years ago this month.Fact: The 49ers are 2-3 with their schedule upgrading in difficulty.The Truth: Perhaps the most amazing development thus far is the adequacy of their offense, a shock after last season's incompetence. They probably would have scored more than three touchdowns last week against New England had they been given more than 19 minutes of possession time. The issue is defense, supposedly the strong suit of coach Mike Nolan. He's emphasized defense via draft picks and coaching expertise for four years, yet the unit on the field can't stop a third-down play. Nolan is fighting to keep his job for that reason.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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