By Jonathan Okanes
Thursday, December 6th, 2007 at 4:22 pm in Mid-week.
OK, there obviously has been a lot of discussion about Nate Longshore lately. I’ve received a lot of e-mails about him and there have been a lot of comments on the blog. So I thought I would just kind of throw everything out there to hopefully answer some questions and let you know where I stand.
I haven’t felt as strongly as some of you that Longshore should be replaced. Granted, he hasn’t played as well as most expected this season, but I also don’t believe he’s been as bad as some people make him out to be.
The most frequent question I get is how Jeff Tedford can continue to play Longshore when he’s injured. First of all, some of you seem to believe the media hasn’t asked this question. But we have. His answer has been consistent. He believes although Longshore may not be 100 percent, he is moving well enough and his experience and grasp of the offense makes up for his lack of mobility. As I’ve stated before, you may not agree with this answer, but the question was asked.
So just how much has the injury affected Longshore’s play? There’s no question it’s been a factor. But it’s not always that simple in some cases. Let’s take the UCLA loss, for example. Don’t forget Longshore was 16-for-19 for 173 yards and two touchdowns at halftime of that game. Some believe the reason why he wasn’t effective in the second half was because he wore down on his ankle. That’s certainly possible. But I felt like the playcalling put Longshore in a bad position. The Bears were moving the ball through the air very effectively in the first half and even in the third quarter, but seemed to go away from it down the stretch. That resulted in too many unmanageable third downs, the last of which resulted in the interception that sealed the win.
That’s not to say Longshore is off the hook for throwing the interception. Of course, it was a very untimely turnover. But perhaps had the Bears stuck with the passing game, in which Longshore clearly had found a good rhythmn, they wouldn’t have been in that position.
Longshore also couldn’t be blamed for the Washington loss. Obviously, the defense was mostly the culprit. Yes, the Bears’ offense couldn’t get going in the second half, but that wasn’t Longshore’s fault. He threw a 42-yard pass to Robert Jordan to the 3-yard line, but Justin Forsett couldn’t punch it in. A personal foul on another possession gave Cal unmanageable second and third downs. A penalty and big loss on a running play gave the Bears a 3rd-and-22 on yet another drive.
Longshore aggravated the injury in the Arizona State loss and he clearly was affected by it. Tedford was asked after this game whether he considered taking him out, and again he felt as though Longshore was moving well enough to execute the offense. Granted, Longshore didn’t play well in this game, but nobody did. The Bears simply played poorly all across the board, on both sides of the ball, with mistakes and penalties haunting them (and yes, I realize Longshore contributed to the mistakes).
There was some question whether Longshore would play against Washington State because he aggravated the previous week against ASU. I recall him actually looking pretty healthy in practice. I’d say he played OK against the Cougars. It seemed like the Bears were really conservative on offense in that game, as they had two really long drives where they nickel-and-dimed their way downt he field.
That brings us to USC. Don’t forget that by this time, nobody really was talking about Longshore’s ankle anymore. It seems like everyone is saying Longshore has been hurt all season. But I think the couple of games before re-injuring it against Stanford, his health wasn’t really an issue. Perhaps this is a reaction to Tedford’s comment recently that Longshore has a chip in his ankle (more on that later).
There’s no question Longshore didn’t play his best against the Trojans and took all the blame for the loss after the game. Again, I’ve never said Longshore has been great. The debate is whether he has been bad as some believe, whether he should be replaced with an inexperienced backup or whether he has been healthy enough to play.
This brings us to the crux of the matter. Should Longshore been benched in favor of Kevin Riley? If Longshore was not healthy enough to execute the offense, then yes. Some might argue that Longshore hasn’t executed the offense well enough, healthy or not. The question is whether Riley would have given Cal a better chance to win. Let’s not forget that Riley has played in one college game and played well for about a quarter-and-a-half. His fourth quarter comeback efforts certainly were impressive, especially for a rookie, but in general he is an uncertainty.
Some may believe that Riley should have been given a chance once the losses started piling up. I can see that a little bit more once the BCS and Rose Bowl were out of the picture. But Tedford still was trying to win every game, and he still felt Longshore gave him the best chance to do so.
Perhaps Tedford was doing what I think I’ve been doing: Giving Longshore a little bit of the benefit of the doubt. This is my first year around the program and all I can base it on is observation, but Longshore had a good year last year. Perhaps Tedford believes that game is still in Longshore somewhere, and each week he believes it’s going to come out.
There is still much more that can be discussed on this topic, and I welcome your comments and questions. I will have more to say about Longshore and other issues with the team as we work our way up to the bowl game.