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September 26, 2005

Cal's freshman receiving praise

The California offense seemed to have its replacements all lined up after losing a star quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and the nation's leading rusher, J.J. Arrington to graduation.

But after Nate Longshore suffered a season-ending leg injury and running back Marshawn Lynch went down with a hand injury, suddenly the Golden Bears' offense seemed more vulnerable.

Enter DeSean Jackson, the Rivals.com Freshman of the Week.

Jackson struggled to find a niche in the California offense during the first few weeks when Longshore went out and Joseph Ayoob replaced him under center. The former five-star receiver caught only three passes in California's first three games.

After tallying nine catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's game against New Mexico State, though, it's fair to say that Jackson has found his place in the Golden Bears' offensive attack.

But don't expect for coach Jeff Tedford to be surprised. He saw this coming well before the season began.

"We expect DeSean Jackson to get in there and contribute very early," Tedford said at the Pac-10 Media Day in August. "I think Jackson may be one of the most polished young receivers to come out of high school that I've seen, and so I feel like he's going to play a major part in our offense very early."

Though Cal ended up beating New Mexico State 41-13, the Golden Bears were up only 7-3 when Ayoob hooked up with Jackson for a 41-yard scoring strike. Jackson's 130 receiving yards set a freshman record at California. The previous record, set by Greg Woodard with 118 receiving yards, had stood since 1979.

Jackson was the No. 3 receiver in the nation coming out of high school. During his senior season at Long Beach Poly, Jackson caught 43 passes for 821 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Jackson and Ayoob will face a much tougher threat this weekend when the Arizona Wildcats come to Berkeley. Though Arizona is only 1-2 on the season, the Wildcats boast the best pass defense in the Pac-10, allowing only 164 passing yards per game.

Other freshmen of note:
• Kansas State's Parrish Fisher stepped up to fill Thomas Clayton's shoes and did a more than admirable job. He rushed for 169 yards on 21 carries and caught two passes for 59 yards in Kansas State's 54-7 victory over North Texas.

• Michigan's Mario Manningham was a bright spot in the Wolverines' loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. The freshman caught four passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Badgers.

• Virginia's Clint Sintim piled up six tackles, including two for losses and one sack, in a 38-7 thrashing of Duke.

Tyrell Sutton, a previous Freshman of the Week winner, rushed for 112 yards and two scores against Penn State, but Northwestern couldn't hang on for the win.

• Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi caught four passes for 42 yards in a 23-10 win against SEC foe Mississippi State.

• Wyoming running back Wynel Seldon piled up 124 yards rushing and 78 yards receiving in the Cowboys' 24-14 win over the Ole Miss Rebels.

• Penn State's freshman playmakers came through in a big way on Saturday. Justin King caught a 37-yard touchdown pass and rushed once for 43 yards. Derrick Williams caught a 36-yard touchdown pass that proved to be the game-winner against Northwestern.

Previous Freshmen of the Week:
Week 1: James Davis, Clemson
Week 2: Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern
Week 3: Kenny Phillips, Miami

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