No roses, just thorns

Being a Cal fan this week is going to be tough. You are going to be sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table and your USC relatives are going to shove stuffing into your face. Same old Cal, they will say. No guts, no glory. Get an offense.

You will be pushing your corn around your plate, and thinking what to say. The correct response should be, “Pass the turkey.”

No, Cal didn’t get it done on Saturday. The main bone of contention eating at Cal fans was the Bears fairly conservative offensive plan.

Cal should have taken a few more chances. I think that is clear. Whether it means going on fourth and an inch, calling a pass on third and an inch, faking a field goal, having the offense on the field instead of trying a 55-yard field goal, or whatever, a few chances were in order.

Of course, there was another team on the field and no one seems to realize it just happens to be in midst of one of the most dominant runs in the history of college football. USC took away most of Cal’s running game by playing better at the line of scrimmage than Cal’s offensive line, they doubled DeSean Jackson most of the game and dared Cal quarterback Nate Longshore and the Bears’ other wide receivers to beat them. That didn’t happen.

But as disappointing as the loss was to Old Blues, they have to realize a few other things. Cal had knocked on the door of the Pac-10 title in two of the past three seasons. The Bears have five consecutive winning seasons, four consecutive bowls. They are being talked about on the East Coast.

It is a new day and age for Cal football. Those guys who say Cal will never beat USC aren’t paying attention. Those were two pretty evenly matched teams out there in terms of talent. While inferior teams often have to trick better teams to win, Cal had the talent to slug it out with USC through most of that game. An inch or two here or there could have meant a different outcome.

USC remains, at this time, a better team. But Tedford has stockpiled talent and that factor is evident. There is no “Same old Cal” in play here. This is a different Cal team, heading in a new direction.

Cal fans, who used to wait for the Big Game to save the season, are now having their emotions crushed when the Bears fail to win a Pac-10 title. The next step is coming. It’s not an easy one.

It will take a quarterback who can take over a game, and Cal hasn’t had that happen the past two seasons (in a big game). But Longshore is developing. He will be a different quarterback next year than he was this season. If you wonder about that one, look at history.

Cal’s biggest problem this season? In my opinion, Cal never did establish an identity on offense. The Bears, as a team, were a great running team, and they never established any consistency in their passing game. Their line pass blocks well, but doesn’t blow open holes. Short yardage has been a pain. Maybe losing those three NFL players off the offensive line meant more than anyone was ready to admit.

Coach Tedford never did develop Cameron Morrah, and that’s too bad. This guy could have been slipped into the lineup on an obvious running play with two tight ends, then sent deep. He might not be the best blocker, but he can run.

The tricks never seemed to work very well this season, for whatever reason. Maybe that’s why Cal played it so close to the vest on Saturday.

The bottom line is that the program has turned into a contender in a relatively short period of time. That being said, it’s obvious there might be considerable pain before the next step is taken.