This has been a very frustrating football season for Cal followers. This team had great talent, but it didn’t play that way often enough. Now the Golden Bears are going back to the Holiday Bowl, which should be renamed the Consolation Bowl.
What can the Bears do to get to the Rose Bowl — or another BCS bowl?
» Practice and play in the Holiday Bowl as if they’re playing for the national championship.
Please, no repeat of the 2004 fiasco against Texas Tech. This game is important because it gives the returning players additional practice and another game to prepare for next season. And, because an impressive win would give the Bears a head start on next year’s rankings.
It’s important that a team starts the season in the top 10. Even with the opening game rout, the fact that the Bears had been in the top 10 early allowed them to get into the mix for a BCS bowl until they lost to Arizona and USC.
» Concentrate on playing one game at a time, instead of looking ahead to the big games.
Early in the season, the Bears played their best against Arizona State and Oregon, two teams that were expected to contend for the conference title.
After that, they were obviously looking ahead to the Nov. 18 showdown against USC, and they really haven’t put together a complete game since.
They played very well defensively — but not offensively — against Washington State in a 21-3 win. They had to go into overtime to beat Washington. They gave up too many yards in a win over UCLA then lost to Arizona. They did nothing offensively against USC, and hardly showed up for the Big Game, struggling to beat a one-win Stanford team.
The Arizona game was the real killer. If they’d won that game, even with the loss to USC, they’d be in the Rose Bowl. But, they didn’t and they aren’t.
» Get a big time quarterback.
Nate Longshore had a great run in early season, but his second half decline mirrored the Bears’ decline. He did not complete even half of his passes in the final three games. There were reasons (tough defenses by Arizona and USC and incredibly windy conditions at the Big Game), but with the weapons he had, he should have done better.
Longshore played in his first full season under center. So at least one of his shortcomings — locking in on a receiver and not looking off a defensive back — can presumably be corrected. But a more significant one cannot. Longshore simply is not very mobile and can be pressured into throwing a bad pass. All quarterbacks throw better when they’re not pressured, of course. But a mobile quarterback can sometimes move away from pressure and make a play. Longshore cannot.
The coaches like Kevin Riley, who was a redshirt freshman this year. And I expect a spirited competition for the starting quarterback job in the spring and summer. It’s tough for a first-year quarterback to compete in the Pac-10. But coach Jeff Tedford was willing to do that with Longshore in the 2005 season, until Longshore suffered a season-ending injury in his first game.
Tedford has raised the bar of expectations for Cal fans. Now, he has to end the frustration by getting the Bears to the Rose Bowl.