By Jonathan Okanes
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008 at 9:39 pm in media luncheon.
The Bears moved ahead toward Washington State today, feeling mostly good about where they stand after Saturday’s season-opening win over Michigan State.
“There were a lot of situations that came up,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said at the team’s weekly press luncheon. “There was a lot of adversity in the game. There were a lot of ups and downs. I think you can learn a lot from those situations. I thought our team held together well.
“You know when you play a great team, there is going to be adversity. It’s not all going to go your way. So how you handle adversity and respond to it is critical. I think that the game the other night gave us that opportunity.”
There wasn’t a whole lot of big news Tuesday. The most notable development came when Tedford told our columnist, Gary Peterson, that Kevin Riley would once again start at quarterbackand this time there were no plans to use Nate Longshore in relief. I don’t really characterize this as huge news because it’s simply not surprising.
That being said, it sure looks like it’s Riley’s team now. Riley is performing like a starting quarterback and acting like a starting quarterback. Just in his dealings with the media, you can see the confidence growing. Riley isn’t afraid to talk about any subject related to the team. He understands his role that a quarterback is somewhat of a mouthpiece for the team.
Tedford said Riley “earned it last week.” It’s clear that he was still evaluating the situation during the Michigan State game, and Longshore’s two intercpetions made it clear that Riley has to be the man right now.
“Nate made a very poor decision on the second interception,” Tedford said. “The first interception was a defensive back making a great play. But Kevin played well enough to be the guy. I’m not a huge fan of going back and forth.”
Tedford touched on a number of subjects at the luncheon. He said he wasn’t a big fan of starting the Pac-10 season so early becasue he’d rather have a better feel for where his team stands before opening conference play. He said one thing the team will need to pay special attention to this week is cutting down to the 64-man travel roster allowable in Pac-10 play.
“You cut down to 64 players to go on the road, so it’s still kind of early to do that,” Tedford said. “You’re still evaluating some situations on special teams and so on and so forth. That’s a challenge this week is to cut down to 64 for the road.”
Tedford compared Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers to former Cougar Drew Bledsoe. Tedford said Rogers throws the ball like Bledsoe but is more athletic. Rogers has been waiting in the wings for Alex Brink to move on, and he’s finally getting his chance under new coach Paul Wulff, who has implemented the no-huddle spread offense.
The Bears should be well-equipped to handle the Cougars’ offense. Each of Cal’s first five opponents last season ran the no-huddle, spread, or both.
Tedford said Sean Young is the No. 1 punt returner for now becasue of his sure-handedness receiving punts. He said Syd’Quan Thompson would probably be more in the mix had he not suffered a sprained shoulder near the end of training camp.
But Thompson didn’t appear to be very hurt Saturday, when he arguably had the best game of his career with five tackles, three pass break-ups and a crucial interception. He also was just generally dominant from his cornerback spot. Tedford said Thompson was sore after the game and he plans on getting him some rest this week during practice.
Tedford said wide receiver Michael Calvin (sprained toe) is doing better. Calvin, expected to be Cal’s top receiver this season, got minimal reps against Michigan State. Tedford said left tackle Mike Tepper (pectoral muscle surgery, hamstring) will continue to rest this week. Punter Bryan Anger (sprained knee) underwent an MRI on Tuesday morning but not results were yet available.