We begin our position-by-position season review today, starting with quarterback:
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Kevin Riley had an inconsistent season. By definition, that means there were some good things. It started out well enough against Maryland. In fact, his touchdown pass to tight end Skylar Curran, when he ducked out of the rush and threw a strike into the end zone, was one of the more memorable plays of the season. Riley’s last-minute drive at Arizona State, that ended with Giorgio Tavecchio’s game-winning field goal, was probably the defining moment of his career so far. And Riley certainly played very well in the Big Game win at Stanford.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Riley had his share of struggles as well. Most troubling is two of his poorest efforts of the season were in the final two games, against Washington and then in the Poinsettia Bowl against Utah. Those two games, along with the USC loss, were probably the games that he truly played poorly. There were other games where he didn’t look so hot, like at Oregon, but I chalk that more up to factors out of his control, such as poor pass protection or lack of playmaking by the receivers. Riley was criticized heavily for the Oregon performance in particular but I didn’t believe there was much he could do with the amount of pressure he faced in that game.
IN SUMMATION: Like most things about Cal’s season, it was up and down at quarterback. At times, poor quarterback play was the fault of Riley. At other times, it was the fault of those around him.
MOVING FORWARD: Riley certainly will need to improve or he may get challenged by Beau Sweeney during spring practice. Jeff Tedford hasn’t said yet whether he will open the quarterback position back up, but I would say it’s a safe bet based on what he’s done in recent years. But whoever is at quarterback still will need help from improved pass protection and better play from the receivers.