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Immediate aftermath

By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, January 1st, 2008 at 10:50 pm in post game.

Reflecting on the season is much different than I thought it would be after what transpired in the Armed Forces Bowl. Obviously, there are still a bunch of issues to be resolved following a disappointing season, but the incredible play of Kevin Riley as well as the adjustments made by defensive coordinator Bob Gregory suddenly put a new perspective on where the program stands.

There’s no question much went wrong during the year and Jeff Tedford has some major evaluating to do. But he also now knows, if nothing else, he will have some major competition at quarterback in the spring. To do what Riley did against Air Force _ to pick apart an opponent after not taking a snap in a game for almost three months _ was downright surreal. I was hesitant most of the season to jump on the Riley bandwagon because he was an unproven commodity, but it’s hard to imagine anyone could doubt he is at least ready to compete for the starting job in 2008.

Riley entered a game that was the climax of Cal’s season, on national television, and pivotal for setting the tone for the offseason. His team also was down 21-0 when he took the field. He proceeded to throw just three incomplete passes, one of which was a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. Not counting the possession that ended with the Hail Mary, the Bears scored on each of the first six drives Riley led.

You can tell Cal’s players really like Riley, also. They were hooting and hollering while he accepted the MVP trophy on the field after the game, and while he did a live ESPN interview.

For the record, Nate Longshore didn’t do anything wrong yesterday. He only was on the field for two possessions and completed 5 of his 8 passes, and one incompletion on 4th-and-16 should have been caught by Sam DeSa. Speaking of DeSa, don’t forget that Longshore didn’t have the services of DeSean Jackson and Robert Jordan. They were replaced by DeSa and LaReylle Cunningham for the first quarter.

Tedford was going to get Riley into the game no matter what, to get him some experience. When Riley immediately sparked the offense, it was apparent he was going to stay in the game.

Turning to the defense, Gregory deserves some kudos for solving Air Force’s option by switching to a 3-4 defense after falling behind. The Falcons were picking the Bears apart against their base defense, but the minute Gregory switched to three fast defensive linemen along four linebackers, the option slowed to a crawl. Not only did the alignment of Rulon Davis and Cameron Jordan on the ends with Derrick Hill in the middle give Cal some speed up front, the scheme also allowed Gregory to utilize the speed of his linebackers. The 3-4 basically gave the Bears their fastest defense possible, and Air Force couldn’t get away from them.

Even though Gregory wanted to go to the 3-4 to specifically defend the option, it may serve as a model for more. Looking at what Cal has coming back, the strength of the defense definitely is in the linebacking corps. Why not get as many of them on the field as you can? Gregory said he’s going to consider using the 3-4 more next season. It would give the Bears a chance to maximze the talents of Zack Follett, Anthony Felder, Worrell Williams, Michael Mohamed, Eddie Young and D.J. Holt.

Those are just some initial thoughts after a day of traveling back to the Bay Area. I will provide much more season-ending material in the days to come.

Just a quick thank you for all of your interest and feedback this season. It was a learning experience for me in my first year covering the team, and I’ve enjoyed it.

Jonathan

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  • Jack Arnold Cal ’64

    Jonathan – Thanks for a Cal football season of informative, interesting articles! I have been frustrated with many aspects of the team with quarterback at the top of my list. I have also been very frustrated with the defense!!! Don’t you think that Cal needs a fresh approach at defense coordinator?
    Doesn’t Tedford need some help at OC so that he can manage the clock better? Starkey and Taylor alluded to this during the game. Happy New Year. Jack Arnold Cal class of 1964

  • Dixon Bear

    Hallelujah! Tedford finally gave Riley a chance. Did Tedford really need 5 loses from Nate to figure out things weren’t working?

    Was Tedford shocked at the level of support for Riley during/after the game? Has he lost the team?

    Is Tedford surprised to hear everyone’s criticism of his clock management?

    For this Tedford deserves a 7 figure bonus?

    The real “brain freeze” of 2007 was not Riley’s OSU play, it was Tedford’s October/November’s inexplicable stubbornness and stupidity.

    Go Bears!

  • HairOfTheBear

    Jonathan,
    I wanted to thank you for your efforts this season. Please keep up the good work. It is much appreciated.

    Heater and his Cal coverage was the reason I have turned to the CoCoTimes as one of “my” newspapers. In this, your first year of focus on the Bears, it is obvious that you have spent a lot of time with articles and blog entries. I appreciate your effort to glean and relay (which I am sure can be tough over the course of a long football year) “real” info. Thus, I still turn to the CoCoTimes.

    Thank you!

    I’ll look for continued improvement and as always, I will continue to spread the news to the rest of my family via your content here.

    Hotb (from the Bear Insider)

  • Go Bears82

    At the risk of being childish…”we told you so.” Nate was hurt and he couldn’t get the ball to his receivers consistently. Riley moved around in the pocket and delivered the ball to receivers in stride. I was pleased to see the Bears end the season on an upbeat note.

    Go Bears!

  • Joe Boxer

    Great work Jonathan! You’ve become a MUST read for Bear fans and we all appreciate your hard work this season. Go Bears in 2008!

  • cal85

    From my So. Cal location, I couldn’t live without these blogs and coverage. I found myself going to this site frequently during the day. Thanks! Don’t stop the coverage, even though the season is over. I need my fix.

    Note to Tedford, the bowl game reminded me of the Bears before the big time rankings – fresh thinking and lots of guts. In other words, do what got you there not what you think will keep you there.

    Go Bears!

  • Big D

    “I told you so” may sound childish, but that is the reality of the situation. If Tedford needs an OC, I’m available! I promise to not game-plan screens and run up the middle only and if the QB is hurt and affected, I promise I’ll pull him and give the next QB a shot. Hindsight is 20/20, but for some of us, foresight was ALSO 20/20. GO BEARS!

  • Big D

    P.S.- Great job Jonathan!

  • G Taylor

    great defensive adjustment. but 21 unanswered points by a one dimensional offense won’t cut it against most top 20 teams. Gregory had several weeks to game plan for AFA and was not prepared. but i guess he got away with it this time.

  • HOUSE

    Not to sound repetitive but once again great job this year J.O. I too also check this site as much as i possibly can every day, before this season,i loved cal football, now thanks to your daily updates i have the knowledge and the love for the team has only grown. Thanks alot Jonathan!

  • ho

    does anyone know where on the net i can check out highlights of the last game? doesn’t seem to be on youtube

    this blog is like crack for me too…i check it multiple times a day. good job jo

  • ho

    nm…higlights are on youtube now…sweet

  • k3po

    G Taylor…..give me a break and understand the nature of the option. You can have your scout team run it all week long, but the players never really understand the quickness until they are in a real time game situation.

    This game was the balance the Defense has been needing. Keep them off the field as much as possible and not beat them to death by an ineffective offense. When they are rested they show the ability to adjust and fly to the ball.

  • Jan K. Oski

    Hey J.O.! Is there any truth to rumors that J.T. fired the wide-receiver and defense back coaches, and might hire Trent “the Stone” Dilfer as an O.C.?

  • Radar York

    This is really true a massive storm hitting the bay area! Question is will the wind and rain make the problems in Bear land more visible than ever? The bowl comeback and victory can lead many to the wrong conclusions! They should never have trailed in the game! The seasons Pac-10 record was a trajedy! How long does it take to see or evaluate? The storm is here and the damage is obvious! Why is the “storm” in Bear Country taking so long? You don’t wait weeks to repair the downed power lines, overturned trucks, flooding and fallen trees! So why is Coach Tedford waiting and looking? It is ok to “encourage” some staff members to seek new ground and that in itself is a beginning to repairing the damage! If “encourage” is the wrong word just open the door and bring in some folks that can plainly acknowledge “poor effort”/ “poor attitude”……and the Blue and Gold will be better in 2008!

  • Jan K. Oski

    Radar York, your scope ain’t workin. Tedford made some huge changes to his coaching staff, today. You should have went to bed without writing those words. Now, you have to swallow your own words.

  • Big D

    J.O.

    What ever happened to Phillip Mbakogu? Is he done or will he be back?

  • Jonathan Okanes

    Hey folks, sorry I got a little behind responding to some of your comments. Jan, obviously your questions have been answered. Big D, I don’t think Mbakogu will be back. He’s been around, but everyone I have talked to seems to think he’s done.

  • Big D

    J.O.

    Was Delgado fired, hired away, or “resigned”?

  • http://Scout.comBearInsider Calbears72

    Jonathan – read you in the Tribune, but thank you for the blog – read it all season and really appreciated your additional information.

  • http://americasgreatestfan.com tdog

    What a season!

    I’d like to start off with the Defense. The bright spots Chris Conte, Cameron Jordan, Michael Mohammed. For freshmen when they got their chance they played really good football. Tyson Aluau and Zach Follett had their moments. They both have a nose for the football. It seemed as the season progressed Tyson got wore down and had no hop in his step. I was really concerned with Felder, Williams. I know they made a lot of tackles but from a tv point of view. I didn’t feel a lot passion. I thought Brandon Hampton played hard but was out of position at Corner. Just doesn’t have the hips for Corner. Not his fault the kid plays so hard but his hips and speed really hindered his side of the field. Syd had a few good games and then a few where he didn’t match his energy. I think the next two years as he matures physically and mentally as a football player he’ll really shine. I think the team really missed Marcus Ezeff when he got hurt against Oregon and didn’t return for the season. Marcus has a real ball hawk side to him and I think he’s a better natural safety then Bernard Hicks. Our DLine is really slow and not very strong. I was amazed to see us get pushed around for most of the season up front. Team after team could consistently run on us. We miss ballhawking players and I’m not blaming Bob Gregory for this entirely. But, I really think our coaches have to take a deep look at who’s the best players not just who practices great or who looks great in pads. I think Cal has a few players that have fooled the coaches to getting on the field and r holding back some kids that have the chutzpah! CHEMISTRY CHEMISTRY CHEMISTRY!!!!!!!!!!

  • Big CAL Fan

    I have a big question, what happened to Alex Cook? Alex Cook was a 2007 recruit and I do not see him on the roster. I hope he is still on the team. Thanks!

  • Jan K. Oski

    Alex Cook never was admitted to Cal, because he didn’t fulfill academic requirements. That’s why Tedford went after Charles Johnson who will contribute next year. You can check who is on the roster by going to the official Bear’s website at calbears.com. You can also read brief bios about what each player did in the year, ie., blue shirt, play experience, injury reports.