The thing that struck me the most about Tuesday’s weekly press luncheon is that players were talking about simply winning a game, not what bowl game they want to get to or how they can finish overall. It just illustrated how much the season has changed in the past month. Players don’t want to look ahead to the …Emerald Bowl. Before it was they didn’t want to look ahead to the BCS title game or Rose Bowl.
Much of the discourse Tuesday was about Nate Longshore, about his comments following Saturday’s game how he’s holding up generally. I will have a story about this in tomorrow’s paper, but in general coach Jeff Tedford and the assorted players on hand were staunch in their support for the quarterback.
Many of the players said it was unfair that Longshore has been the target of so much criticism, that everyone makes mistakes and that it is only magnified when you are the quarterback. Tedford reiterated that he thought Longshore did some good things against USC, especially considering the strength of the Trojans’ defense as well as the poor weather conditions, but admitted Longshore would “like to have back” the interception near the end of the game. Tedford said all of the top-notch quarterbacks he has coached have gone through “tough times” like Longshore is experiencing right now.
(For the record, Longshore has class during the press luncheon on Tuesdays; that is why he is unable to make it each week).
In other significant news, Tedford said backup tailback Jahvid Best is out this week. Best suffered a hip injury late in Saturday’s game. Tedford didn’t quite know the severity of injury and said Best will undergo further evaluation. This probably hurts Cal most on special teams, where Best has been the Bears’ best coverage guy on punts and kickoffs.
Tedford also said there’s a chance defensive end Rulon Davis and defensive back Marcus Ezeff could return this week. Tedford said it’s too late in the season to hold players out with a bye week looming. If they can play, they will play.
Offensive lineman Mike Tepper came by and was asked if Oregon will win the national championship. “Yes they will,” he said immediately. “They are going to rock whoever they play. They’re a great football team.” He said it would be a little sense of pride if the Ducks win it all because the Bears are the only team to beat them this season.
Tailback Justin Forsett is a regular on Tuesdays and always worthwhile to say. He talked about running well in the rain Saturday, and looks forward to the possibility of it raining again up in Seattle on this Saturday. Forsett said the USC game reminded him of his time playing youth football back in Florida, where it rained often. “I played in a lot of muddy games, sliding around. Saturday reminded me of being a kid, going back home with all the mud all over my jersey.”
This is a little bit bigger week for linebacker Anthony Felder, who is from Seattle. Felder played at Husky Stadium in 2005, but only for a few snaps near the end of the game. He said he grew up about 10 minutes from Husky Stadium and attended games there as a kid. He also said that USC’s Chauncey Washington has been one of the “few backs that have stuck out in my mind,” since he’s been at Cal.
Felder has quietly been one of the Bears’ best success stories this season. He ranks second in the Pac-10 in tackles with 95.
Backup cornerback Brandon Jones was a teammate of Felder’s at O’Dea High School in Seattle and said he is trying to track down about 30-40 tickets for friends and family on Saturday. Jones’ father, Lyndall, was an NFL defensive back for the Eagles and Falcons. One of the good offbeat stories from last summer was that Jones allegedly ran the 40 in 4.19 seconds. That’s according to Forsett, who was one of a handful of guys holding a stopwatch during conditioning workouts. Strength coach John Krasinski clocked Jones at 4.25, so that’s what goes down in the books. Jones said the fastest he had been clocked in the 40 before that was at the Nike Combine before his senior year of high school, when he ran a 4.43.
On the Washington front, coach Tyrone Willingham said Tuesday that quarterback Jake Locker was day-to-day. Locker had to be taken off the field in a stretcher against Oregon State on Saturday after a helmet-to-helmet hit left him on the field for 15 minutes. But it looked worse than it was. Locker was diagnosed with a neck stinger and strained trapezius. Of course, a neck stinger is what kept Cal linebacker Zack Follett out of a couple games and limited in a couple of others, but it’s hard to compare unless the severity of the injury is known to be similar as well. But Willingham said he was going to be cautious with Locker. A neck stinger is the kind of injury that can create more problems if a player returns prematurely and does more damage.