Well, obviously a lot has happened over the past three games that has changed Cal’s season dramatically. After each of the first two losses, there was a sense that although players were down, there was still hope that a big prize at the end of the season was still in reach. You can’t say that anymore.
I’ll be interested to see what players have to say at tomorrow’s weekly press luncheon. Nobody on this team has ever lost three in a row. How well will the Bears stay motivated? What’s the most realistic bowl game they can get to?
I know there are a lot of questions and concerns. Let’s start off with the quarterback situation. Several people have asked why Jeff Tedford didn’t replace Nate Longshore with Kevin Riley on Saturday. My take is that Tedford believed Longshore, even with his gimpy ankle, still gave Cal the best chance to win. Yes, Riley showed flashes during his performance against Oregon State, but let’s not forget that Longshore is a veteran quarterback who has won his share of games at Cal. And this game was on the road. Riley played his game at home.
There’s no question that Longshore’s interceptions in the fourth quarter were pivotal. Were they a product of his bad ankle? Possibly. He was being pressured on both plays and it seemed to effect his throwing mechanics. Tedford speculated that since Arizona St. was doing a good job pressuring him in the second half, Longshore may have been in a hurry to get rid of the ball.
Tedford wasn’t asked directly if he thought of putting in Riley (don’t forget that the game ended very late and there wasn’t much time for the press to ask questions because of deadlines). But Tedford did say that he asked Longshore how he was feeling and Longshore said he was OK. Obviously, we all could see that Longshore was hurt to some extent. His definition of “OK” must have meant he was well enough to play.
The maddening thing about Saturday’s game was that Cal got off to such a strong start on both sides of the ball and then had it all go downhill midway through the second quarter. The Bears blitzed on third down on each of the Sun Devils’ first two possessions and each time it resulted in a sack of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, the second time causing a fumble which Cameron Jordan returned for a touchdown. Cal blitzed on another third down late in the first quarter and it forced an incompletion by Carpenter.
But after that the Bears couldn’t get as much heat on the quarterback. There were a few times they came close, but Carpenter either eluded the pressure or got a pass off in time. Cal’s defense also appeared to wear down late in the game, probably a product of being on the field too long. It resulted in several missed tackles and some good running by Arizona St. running backs Keegan Herring and Dmitri Nance.
Tomorrow should provide an update on the health of Longshore and defensive end Rulon Davis. Davis looked strong early on in his return from a four-game absence because of a sprained foot, but went down again in the second half. He was wheeled to the locker room on a cart after the game.