Sorry it took so long to post something new. We have been having a hard time getting out of bed much less turning on our computers after that loss to SC. Most of Cal nation probably saw the game so there is no need for a recap. Here are some random thoughts.
- Nate Longshore
Some Cal fans are calling for Kevin Riley (Tedford's hotshot QB recruit) to replace Longshore next year. While Longshore's play was disappointing, not just in the USC game but the last 4 weeks, Cal fans should not abondon him. Remember, this is Nate's first full season as a starter and there is a big jump, usually, in progress by QB's from the first to second year.
Longshore handled USC's pressure well, throwing the ball away when he was rushed or trying to hit the hot route. More disconcerting was his inability to scan the field. Many times throughout the night, he would lock in on one receiver. This allowed USC linbackers to slip into passing lanes by looking at his eyes. Also, when given time, Longshore sometimes takes too much time. His fumble in the first half was easily avoidable if he had either taken off and run for 5 yards or thrown the ball away. These tendencies need to be corrected by Tedford next year.
Lastly, there is something about Longshore's demeanor that lacks a killer instinct. Based on interviews, he seems like a happy go lucky kid, joking around in the huddle and having a good time. But in the fourth quarter, when you are down to a top 5 team, you don't want to see your QB laughing with an opposing player. Was there a game this year where Longshore led the Bears back to victory when the team was down? The Washington game seemed more Lynch than Longshore. And against Arizona and USC he did not produce much when Cal was behind. These are some of the questions he has to answer.
- Run Blocking
Perhaps Cal fans were spoiled by the dominant offensive lines of years past. But, the run game against USC was very much lacking. USC players were quickly in the backfield which made prevented Lynch from hitting any holes. He had some nice run to the outside, but that was more his speed than the blocking of the O-line. Give all the credit in the world to the O-line for their great pass blocking this season. But when it was 2nd and 1 or 4th and inches, Cal fans were never confident that the Bears would convert.
- Play Calling
There was one reverse to Jackson. One deep ball to Jackson. A couple plays where Marshawn lined up wide and came back to the backfield to take a handoff. But otherwise not a very imaginative offense. In years past, pundits stated that Tedford had to take what USC superior defense would give him. Hence the short passes in 2004. But this year, Cal was supposed to have the superior talent. It is up to Cal to dictate the game when they have the better players. So, USC is double covering DeSean deep with a safety... then have Hawkin run a post up the middle of the field. How about some play action to freeze the linebackers from dropping into coverage? Why not send Marshawn out in the flat more or on wheel routes? USC linebackers are athletic but even they can not cover Marshawn.
One last comment. Screen passes used to result in some of Cal's greatest gains. Against USC they never seemed to work even when USC was blitzing. There was one play in the second half where the screen looked like it was going to work. USC blitzed, Longshore dumped off to Lynch who had 4 O-lineman around him. One USC linebacker came from the weak side to take him down. He had at least 15 yard of day light in front of him. Great play by the USC defender, poor execution by Cal. Also, what happened to the wide receiver screen?
- Final Thought
The season is not over. Stomping all over Stanfurd is always a good time. And a victory in the Holiday Bowl over some Big 12 team (Texas A&M) will be icing on the cake. A 10 win season is nothing to sneeze at. Cal is reaching new heights and with that come lofty expectations. But let's not be so quick to disregard all the team has done this year. Remember, 1-10 was not so long ago.