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.