The California Golden Bears have shown that they have a strong running game with Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen. The passing game has not been consistent, because of injuries and a lack of experience from the receiving position. But the quarterback position has been Kevin Riley’s job one week and Nate Longshore’s the next.
It is clear that running the ball is Cal’s bread and butter, but somehow the Bears put themselves in a position to rely on the passing game. Last week, Stanford came up with the blueprint on how to beat Arizona, run the ball then run the ball again. California could not duplicate the Cardinal’s success.
Midway through the third quarter of Saturday night’s game, the Bears had a 10-point lead and the Bears next possession included three straight passes. After the Wildcats built a 15-point lead, Longshore was pulled after an interception. It is possible that Longshore was not named the starter at the beginning of the season because he has a knack for throwing interceptions in bad situations. At the same time, it appears that any mistakes by Longshore will not be tolerated. The question remains why has he started the last two games if he has such a short leash?
Riley who has the ability to keep plays alive with his legs was inserted into the game at the end of the third quarter. Off the bench and cold, Riley was expected to bring Cal back from a 15-point deficit. Once Riley got behind center, the Bears were again plagued by dropped passes. This goes back to the lack of experience at the receiver position. Besides running the ball, Best and Vereen could have the best hands on the team. Coming in to this game, Vereen was tied for the team lead with 15 catches. After missing the ASU game, Best was second on the team with 14 catches. Clearly the running back tandem of Best and Vereen are the best offensive weapons Cal has.
After returning from an injury, Best was featured exclusively in the first half of the game with Vereen getting more time in the second half. If both players were on the field at the same time things could open up for the Bears on offense. But Best looked to have aggravated his elbow injury and missed most of the second half.
The end result of Saturday loss is a logjam at the top of the Pac-10 standings, which Cal controlled. Going forward, wide receiver Verran Tucker could become a bigger part of the offense for the remainder of the season. Tucker had an eye opening game with four catches for 68 yards and one touchdown. Consistency is needed at the quarterback position. Quarterbacks will make mistakes, but they also need to have the confidence that the team has faith in them to lead them to comeback victories. There is still a lot of football left this season, but the best players must be relied on over and over again for this team to reach its full potential.
©Copyright 2008, CalSportsDigest.com and Scout.com. All rights reserved.