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Sunday update

As disappointing as Saturday’s loss was for the Bears, most people would have probably figured Cal may have had a hard time beating the Trojans before the season. Granted, USC clearly isn’t the team everybody thought it would be, but based on what we have seen this season, the Trojans still likely are the better team. The fact that they are still nationally ranked and were favored in Saturday’s game speaks to that.

Still, as the game moved into its final stages Saturday, you got the feeling Cal was right there on the same level as USC. Neither team dominated the other. Each team was able to run the ball well in the soggy conditions. Neither team could get much of a passing game going. Each team committed crucial turnovers.

That’s what made Saturday’s loss a little more hard to take for the Bears, especially for the seniors. The Bears had the game tied in the fourth quarter and appeared to have seized the momentum.

Obviously, there has been a lot of negative feedback about Nate Longshore and the passing game. It does seem a little disturbing that this late in the season that the quarterback and receivers aren’t on the same page. On three different throws, a receiver appeared to break in a different direction that Longshore expected. After each play, Longshore and coach Jeff Tedford appeared to have an animated discussion on the sideline. After the game, Longshore took full blame for those plays and the rest of the team’s performance on offense. He said the receivers were doing their job on those plays, which implies Longshore made the wrong reads. That’s something that obviously shouldn’t happen with an experienced quarterback.

Also, Tedford said Longshore’s second interception slipped out of his hands because of the wet weather. Longshore said he simply made a bad pass. I’m not sure if Longshore is just trying to face the music and avoid making an excuse, but obviously the wet weather does make it hard to throw the ball as effectively as usual.

That is one of the couple of things I will say in Longshore’s defense. It’s not like John David Booty tore it up either. The Trojans didn’t have much of a passing game themselves. I think both teams’ aerial attack struggled in the wet weather. I will also say that we shouldn’t forget that USC entered the game ranked third in the nation on defense.

That being said, Longshore certainly made some poor passes, and again, the miscommunication with the receivers is a bit disturbing. Longshore did make a good read on the touchdown pass to Lavelle Hawkins that tied the game. Yes, Hawkins had to stretch to make the catch, but Longshore did put it in a place where it couldn’t be intercepted.

Despite Chauncey Washington’s career night in rushing, I thought Cal’s defense actually played pretty well. A lot of Washington’s yardage came on big plays sprinkled in throughout the game, and then he just wore the Bears down with 62 yards on the game-deciding scoring drive. The rain may have had something to do with it, but Cal obviously held Booty and the passing game in check.

I think the last two regular season games will say a lot about the legacy the 2007 team leaves behind. Saturday was the Bears’ last real chance to show the world it is an elite team. Wins over Washington and Stanford won’t do that. But what they will do is demonstrate that Cal still wants to have the best season possible.

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.

  • GoldenBearGirl

    I disagree that USC was the better team. Minus one Nate Longshore and Cal would have owned that game in the rain. Time for Riley.

  • Big D

    It was raining just as hard for Booty as it was for Longshore, (not to mention all of us CAL fans). Anytime an opposing RB gets 200 yds, the Defense didn’t play well.
    Something is missing in our offense. All year it was missing, but we were winning, so nobody mentioned it. I realized this during the CSU game, but hoped that we would progress as the season went on, but that never happened. We actually got worse. Maybe Tedford needs to reorganize the offensive coaching staff and hire another OC. Hell, we won ten games with Longshore at QB last year when Dunbar was here calling the plays. Something is not right…

  • CalBearister99

    Nate Longshore is a classy and good kid that we should be proud to have at Cal. No better evidence of that exists than him calling himself out for his performance lately, even if everyone else on the team is willing to rally around him.

    That being said, Nate Longshore needs to shut it down for the rest of the season. Either his ankle is keeping him from being effective, or he lacks what it takes to be an effective clutch QB in the Pac-10. It is tragic that we effectively wasted the last seasons of the best receiving trio in Cal history – look at what Tony Romo and T.O. did to the New York Giants last night. With the receivers we have, we need to be able to throw deep. Longshore simply can’t. Longshore may have the physical tools (like an Eli Manning), but Riley strikes me as the kid with the fire (like a Tony Romo). This game isn’t about how tall you are or how strong your arm is. It’s about heart and grit – just look at Justin Forsett.

    So rather than wait to see if Longshore undergoes a mental revival for 2008, I think it’s time to let Riley see what he can do. This season is a carbon copy of 2005 – a 5-0 start leading to an inflated national ranking followed by four conference losses in which our offense could not move the ball effectively in the air. Steve Levy came in and provided the competitive fire that neither Ayoob nor Longshore seem to have. Then make Longshore compete for his job in the spring, and may the best QB among he, Riley and Mansion win.

    What’s the worst that can happen? We continue to lose?

    Go Bears.

  • J

    That dumbass Ratto had an article about how USC was clearly the superior team. I don’t know what game he was watching. Cal was in the game the whole night and the teams were basically evenly matched. Once again, it was mistakes from the quarterback that decided the game in the opponent’s favor.

  • Frustrated

    J.O. your reasoning(excuses?) for some of Nate’s problems sound good. I think the problem, however is that when you look at his two year trend of playing poorly in the 4th quarter of big games then that reasoning becomes rather weak. It sounds like just more justification for having a bad game. One touchdown and 11 interceptions in the 4th. That is the body of work we are looking at. Hard to defend that. He’s a great kid who has struggled. Why can’t that be accepted?

  • Go Bears82

    We’ve seen it all year. The team does considerably poorer in the second half. They regressed further after Longshore’s injury. I like Nate and think he’s a great kid, however he and the coaches have to recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong. Top caliber players get better as the game and season progresses. Misreading routes and underthrowing passes is not a mark of improvement.

  • tc

    When do you hear any defense playing well when you give up over 200 yards rushing to an opponent? When you compare this defense to past defenses in the last few years, it appears that this year’s team lacks passion or fire. No clear leader in the mix either. Is it Worrell Williams? Is it Zack Follett? Who is it? I can’t tell. They lose confidence very easily anytime when an opponent marches down the field for an easy score. And plus, this “preventive” defense that Bob Gregory utilizes is quite painful to watch. There were a number of passes the scrambling Booty threw to his receivers where they were just wide wide open and they ended up getting the first down. How do you let a receiver get that wide open? What kind of preventive defensive scheme is that? If you continuously give the opponent 8, 9, 10 yards on any given down, they are going to eventually march down the field and score. Also, I clearly remember we had more pass rushing, sacks, hurries because there was at least 1 or 2 guys going after the opponent quarterback. I hardly see that this year. At the end of the year, I think Tedford needs to revisit the defensive coaching staff and change the defensive theme or personnel. Whenever a team gives up 300+ yards per game, that is not good defense. I don’t care how good the offense is when you give up that many yardages per game. I actually will not be surprised that Cal will not win the next two games because the way they are playing defense, sad to say. We are not making the opponent make mistakes, we simply look like we are waiting for them to make mistakes. And when that happens, the offense particularly this year’s offense can’t take advantage. I hope Bob Gregory makes changes soon, those opponent’s yardages look awfully huge.

  • Norwalk Dave

    tc -

    I can’t say that I disagree with you on many of your points. I’ll have to go back and (masochistically) watch the game again to get more insight. However, one point that you, and many other Cal fans keep making is that we have a bend but don’t break defense. That may have been the case in other games this season, but I saw a lot of blitzes called against USC. I don’t think that was the problem. The problem was that our defense could not bring down a slippery Washington consistently enough. Their running game peppered in some long runs between many 2, 3 or 4 yard gains. I for one think it was the offense, not the defense that lost it for us this time. We’re on their 30-yard line with 3 minutes to play and tie up the score. YOU CAN NOT TURN THE BALL OVER.

  • Bear’s r finished

    The reason for Cal’s woes are obvious, Nate Longshore. I am so tired of hearing all the excuses, especially from Tedford. If Riley had been allowed to play the last five games I think we would have probably won at least two of those games. Nate has lost all confidence in himself and continuing to play him has only made things worse. Tedford has show that he has learned NOTHING from 2005. Knowing Tedford we will not play Riley at all this year. When does it become OK to put this blame on the coach? In Tedford’s case I guess it is never OK. How sickening.

  • Will Lee

    Longshore is a great kid and tries his best, no doubt. But he just doesn’t make plays during crunch time, whether his ankle is 100% or not, whether the ball is wet or not. Booty was pretty moribund too, but guess what, when he had to make a play on 3rd and 12, did he make it? Jonathan, can you please ask Coach, “what is so bad about Riley that you are able to tolerate brutal mechanics in your quarterback?” Why isn’t anyone asking JT why throwing off your back foot is acceptable?

  • Carter

    The statistics are pretty clear – Longshore gets worse as the game goes on. In fact, he’s gotten worse as his career goes on, having started hot in the first half of last year, and never been that hot again.

    Career 4th quarter stats: 1 TD, 11 INT’s. I don’t know the fumble stats, but there have been several in the second halves of games.

    Tedford is supposed to be a developer of QB’s, but what we’re seeing here is regression. I think it is fair to call out criticism at the coach, not at Nate, for not giving him a break. Plenty of other big time college coaches do this regularly – Spurrier, Les Miles, Saban, Urban Myer last year. Really, it is not the end of the world to pull a struggling QB.

  • R

    Concerning everyone’s woes (including mine) with Nate Longshore, I have to admit that he’s a good kid who tried to take the blame for his performance. It takes a lot of heart to do that. Plus, I’m glad that he’s still trying (even if its not producing), it shows that he’s not giving up.

    With that said, I love Tedford and what he has done for our program but it is his responsibility for taking Longshore out, not Longshore. At first, I blamed Longshore for a lot of his performance but now I’m starting to think Tedford needs to take more responsibility. If Longshore is trying, what more can we ask from him. It’s Tedford that needs to accept that his mechanics are just not ideal and that change needs to be made.

    I think the Washington State game has saved Cal a lot of face. It was an ugly game but it provided a win. Had we lost that game (which we could have very easily) Cal would be under some pretty harsh criticism right now. The scary thing is, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. It’s hard to argue not trying a new QB had you lost the past 5 games.