Well, a new month is upon us, and with it will probably come a Cal victory. The Bears went 0-for-October and watched their season change dramatically in the process. It seems like a long time ago that Cal pulled off the win up in Eugene and ascended to No. 3 in the country (then to No. 2 the following week when the Bears had a bye). That Oregon game came on Sept. 29 and the Bears haven’t won since.
Conventional wisdom says Cal will win tomorrow. The Bears are undeniably better than Washington State. The Cougars don’t have the type of talent as Cal, and they will be without starting running back Dwight Tardy.
Still, for some reason tomorrow’s game doesn’t seem like a slam dunk. Maybe it’s because of the uncertainty at quarterback. Maybe it’s because of the defense’s struggles. Maybe it’s because, no matter how much the players say the motivation is still there, it’s hard to believe it’s as strong when the goal now is the Sun Bowl or Emerald Bowl.
Even though there seems to be a lot of support for Kevin Riley at quarterback, I think Cal needs Nate Longshore to get back on track. Yes, Longshore has been hurting and has thrown a couple of bad interceptions lately, but Riley is no sure thing. Even though he looked good leading Cal back against Oregon State, he’s still played in only one college game. Longshore still has made some plays even with the ankle problem and the Bears need his experience and savvy to stop their losing skid.
It will be interesting to see what the Cougars try to do on offense now that their top two running backs are out. There’s no doubt WSU can throw the ball, and it might do it a lot against the Bears. Cal defensive coordinator Bob Gregory hypothesized as much on Thursday. The Cougars certainly have the weapons in the passing game. Alex Brink, a four-year starter, is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in Pac-10 history and WSU has a strong group of receivers. We will see how Cal’s defense responds.