There is obviously so much to hash over about Saturday’s loss. But, in general, I buy the argument that the game wasn’t decided when Kevin Riley made his ill-advised decision to run with the ball on the final play.
There’s no question Riley simply got caught up in the moment and had a brain freeze. You could see it in his eyes during that final drive how much intensity he had. Unfortunately for him, I think it ultimately got the best of him.
So why was this the game that the Bears made some mistakes they hadn’t earlier in the season? Why did they make three turnovers after only having four all season? Why was this the game that Justin Forsett couldn’t produce at the goal line when he has all year? Or the game that he committed his first fumble of the season?
The loss can’t be pinned on Kevin Riley, but I do wonder if there is some kind of trickle-down effect when a team knows it is missing one of its most indispensable players. I thought Riley overcame a bad start and played pretty well, especially down the stretch, obviously. It’s hard to imagine much better play on the game’s final drive, especially from someone essentially playing in his first game.
But is it possible that a team is just kind of out of sorts when it is shaken up so much by the loss of a starting quarterback? This is just a theory, but I think one worth discussing. Maybe if Nate Longshore is in the game, that usual crispness and sharpness is there.
This may not be as plausible when talking about the defense. I asked two defensive players this question tonight after practice and they each said they didn’t think there was an effect. In fact, Worrell Williams said the defense kind of used Longshore’s absence as motivation, that they thought they had to play even better because there might be some uncertainty with the offense.
Speaking of practice, the guys seemed pretty loose and ready to move on Sunday night. Of course, they are all disappointed, but they acknowledge it doesn’t do anybody any good to harp on the loss. What I think makes it easier for the players to move on is the fact that there is so much parity this season in college football, and because of that there is still a chance to climb back up the national ladder.
Coach Jeff Tedford said the team will continute to evaluate Longshore. He couldn’t say at this point who will play Saturday at UCLA.
He also said that wide receiver Robert Jordan and tight end Cameron Morrah each suffered a second degree AC sprain in their shoulder. I’m pretty sure Jordan’s injury came on the long pass play during the game’s final drive. You could see Jordan land on his arms to make sure he held on to the ball. A gutsy catch. Tedford said the injuries aren’t serious and both players could maybe even play Saturday. They will be held out of practice Tuesday, though.
I talked to Riley tonight and he said he’s simply trying to move on as well. The guy was sore. You could tell it was the first time he had been knocked around in a college game because he was creaking across the field as he headed back to the locker room. As a reporter, I have to say I am very impressed how he handled things Saturday night. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he declined to be interviewed, but he came into the press room and answered every question bluntly with all of the mikes and notepads in his face. Overall, I thought he had a prettty good game, too. To make the plays he did at the end of the game as Cal came back was special stuff considering it was his first game.
Talked to Longshore, too. He said he felt like he could have played Saturday but had to go with the “boss’ decision,” as he put it. He also thought Riley played a great game.