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Is Cal Having Refund Yet? It's Nine Deposits, No Returns


Kicking (to) a team when it was down, USC's Cole Ford put foot to ball nine times Saturday and took his place in the annals of incidental but remarkable data involving 61-0 blowouts.

Punctuating a day when USC drop-kicked California with a first-half special teams ambush at the Coliseum, Ford kept reminding the Bears what kind of day it was as he launched kickoff after kickoff deep into the end zone.

Ford booted nine kicks so far they could not be returned. Nine has got to be the NCAA record, doesn't it? No one was sure how to check.

First off, your team has to score enough times to make such a thing possible. Then, you have to go out and actually do it.

"Phenomenal, phenomenal," USC Coach John Robinson said of Ford's kick-fest. "He's really developed into a big-time kicker."

Tell it to Cal's Tyrone Edwards.

After each USC touchdown--there were nine--Edwards waited helplessly in the end zone, received Ford's kick, took stock of his position, then handed the ball to an official.

Edwards entered play as the Pacific 10 Conference's leading kick returner, averaging 26.2 yards per attempt.

Ford figured Edwards eventually would try to return one of his kicks, no matter how deep, simply to spite him.

"I thought he would get frustrated and say 'the hell with it,' " Cole said.

Edwards didn't. The Trojans kept scoring and Ford kept adding punctuation marks.

"Coach Robinson said, 'Why don't you kick one short so that the other guys can have some fun,' " Ford said. "He was joking."

Ford was given the rest of the night off after his ninth kickoff without return. Besides, Ford had kicked seven extra points.

To prove USC wasn't trying to run up the score, a reserve, Eric Rogers, botched USC's last two extra-point attempts and squibbed the final kickoff out of bounds with seconds left.

Special teams set the tone. It started when Cal kicker Ryan Longwell slipped on the opening approach and set the Trojans up at their 44, leading to an opening-drive touchdown.

Then, the onslaught. Late in the first quarter, a 42-yard field-goal attempt by Longwell was blocked by Jerald Henry, who crashed through from the left side, and Sammy Knight. Henry scooped up the ball and outran holder Kerry McGonigal to the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown.

It was a redeeming moment for Henry, a senior who lost his starting cornerback position after USC's loss to Oregon.

Henry, obviously, took his demotion like a man.

"I rededicated myself to doing everything I can to help us win," he said. "When things go wrong, you can't sit down and cry about it. You have find other ways to help the team."

Henry found another way in the second quarter, when he broke through again and blocked Longwell's 48-yard attempt.

There was no stopping these special teamers. Ken Grace went 75 yards with a punt return to set up USC's fourth score, a four-yard scoring pass from Brad Otton to Terry Barnum.

With 3:10 left in the half, USC's Brian Haas pounced on a John Stonehouse punt that deflected off the leg of a Cal return man. The Trojans took over on the Cal 28 and scored four plays later.

Not to be outdone, Stonehouse averaged 44.3 yards on four punts.

"Special teams were huge," Henry said. "It was the key to victory. We made plays to help the team totally."

The game already decided with USC leading by 35-0 at halftime, the only post-intermission drama remaining involved Ford.

How many unreturned kicks could he deliver in a row?

Robinson has always fancied himself a motivator but outdid himself this week.

"Cal has a great kick returner," Robinson said. "We worked all week to make sure we didn't give him anything."

Ford, a senior, has long awed teammates with his practice kicking exhibitions.

"Cole has a great leg," Henry said. "He does that regularly in practice."

Henry thought Ford's performance completely demoralized Cal.

"Especially when you get down early," Henry said of Cal. "You want the big play for your special teams. But when your kicker kicks keeps kicking it the end zone, it messes that up."

Safe to say, Cal was messed up.

Ford was not disappointed when Robinson sent Rogers out with the tee after USC made the score 61-0.

Ford could have made it a perfect 10 for 10.

"Let someone else play," he said. Ford had made his point. Nine times.

"A lot of scouts are looking for that, especially with kickoffs in the NFL (at the 30-yard line, instead of the 35)," Ford said. "I was perfect. I had a perfect day and it was a good feeling."

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