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Time to catch our breath

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.

Jonathan Okanes

Jonathan Okanes is in his fourth year covering Cal's football team. Previously, he covered Cal's men's basketball team for four years. He can also be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/OkanesonCal.

  • Dan the Man with …

    My suspicion is that there are several reasons why Tedford is reluctant to pull Longshore, some good and one not so good. I think he is loyal to Nate and concerned about his psyche now and in the future. Cal fans should be glad that Tedford thinks like that. The other reason which won’t illicit much optimism is that Tedford doesn’t seem to see things as clearly and as quickly as other might see things. That has been apparent in both his in-game adjustments, or lack thereof, and in his game-to-game adjustments. In Longshore’s case, Tedford seems to be missing that Longshore has been inconsistent and inaccurate for much of the season, statistics aside, until now. Or maybe he gets it, but doesn’t really have another option this season, Riley’s OSU performance aside. Tedford is just probably just getting what has been apparent most of the season. Aside from all Longshore’s game breaking ints the last 2 games, he is inaccurate and inconsistent to the point that he kills too many drives. Unless Cal moves down the field either with great assistance from the running game or due to one or two long passes, Cal struggles to move the chains for 2 reasons- Tedford’s predictable play calling (ASU game exempt) and Longshore’s inaccuracy. He frequently misses wide open receivers, and even on many completions, they require the receivers to come up with efforted catches and greatly limits their ability to tack on yards after the catch. Although Longshore threw several beautiful throws in the 1st half of the ASU game, he was also frequently WAY off target on many others, and we all saw what happened in the 2nd half.

    I doubt the Coach will pull Longshore unless his injury becomes so bad he can barely move. I don’t think he’ll use it as an excuse to get Riley in there. Let us not forget that Longshore is only a junior. So with 4 games left this season, possibly 5, and a whole season next year, there is a whole lot of Longshore left. Right now, that’s now encouraging. Don’t think that Tedford will replace Longshore unless he has many games in a row where he is completely ineffective. Remember how long it took Tedford to replace Joe Ayoob? Ayoob was clearly not going to get it going, but Tedford stuck with him, probably costing Cal a win or two. But let’s all also remember this is college, not pro, so go easy on Nate. He’s a great kid, a leader and is doing his best. Make sure he is never booed. Don’t ever think about subjecting him to what Ayoob had to go through. That was low class and unacceptable. That is not Cal, nor should it ever be Cal, no matter how frustrating things get. Never boo the kids, unless they don’t try or do something heinous, like a terrible cheap shot, on the field.

    Tedford is the professional, along with his coaches. Criticisms as warranted should be directed their way. They certainly deserve some this season. There are plenty of frustrations, questions and doubts to go their way. But that’s a whole different topic.

  • Go Bears82

    College football coaches are there to help develop kids to be better athletes and students. Tedford’s obligation then is to help Longshore get better. I suspect that Tedford was well aware that Longshore was hurting, but he also knows that great athletes can rise to the occasion and succeed when all thought they would fail. He was giving Longshore that chance to succeed.

    What he should do now is critical. Nate is clearly hurt and his lack of mobility and lack of accuracy are likely related to the same problem. He needs to tell Nate to get himself well, improve his mobility, and his job will be his when he is better.

  • morencsarecoming

    WSU will cover the spread this weekend. Brink should have a field day out there and Tardy will run wild. Mark my words.

  • JSL

    I noticed on offense, Alex Mack always rises up before snapping the ball. This gives the defense a perfect way to time the snap and get a head start. I don’t see any other centers college or pro doing that. Shouldn’t that be corrected?

    On the QB front, Longshore shoudn’t play when he’s hurt to the point where he cannot have proper mechanics. When he’s slightly off, it effects his throws. But if he’s healthy, he’s more than good enough.

  • CalAlum97

    Hey MoreNCs, how does it feel to be a 2 loss team! It looks like NO MORE NCs will be coming for the trojenz! Two losses hmmm? There will undoubtedly be 1 or 2 more. Can you spell “overrated”? Wow, from #1 in the country to #19! Way to go! I could tell all year long that your team was generally talentless and waay overrated. Welcome to the bottom of the pack! Not even a Holiday bowl for you guys this year!

  • Matt

    Thanks for the update!

    Someone really needs to call Tedford on the Longshore thing. I realize that “Tedford probably thought Longshore gave him the best chance to win on the road” is as guess, but there’s tons of evidence out there that Longshore just flat out sucks on the road. Riley is an unknown; Longshore is an obvious problem.

    As for not booing Longshore, I agree, but that’s just another reason Tedford needs to take the lumps: its his job to take out the guy who’s not getting it done and try other options. If Longshore gets booed or put through the wringer, it’s the coach’s fault for continuing to trot him out there when he obviously shouldn’t be.