That Damned Ankle–Nate’s Travails, Part I
Most fans are in agreement: When Nate Longshore’s ankle bucked up in Eugene, so did Cal’s 2007 season. It led to Riley running for his life against the Beavers. It led to Longshore coming back too early to replace Riley, and sinking at the end of close, crucial games. It led to the endless Longshore-Riley debate that resulted in message board meltdowns and a barrage of four letter words in the Student Section. It led to Riley coming in during the 2nd quarter of our bowl game and throwing a near perfect game–perplexingly making Cal fans even more miserable, thinking of what could have been of this year.
So let’s go back at the numbers, and try to look at them in perspective (YPC standing for yards per completion).
Nate certainly came out strong, shredding the UCLA defense in the first half, peaking in performance in the 2nd quarter with some beautiful play action, fake reverse, to DeSean Jackson (A variation of this play was also run during The Big Game to Robert Jordan):
Longshore was at his best running these little gimmicks, reading routes, going by the book. Naturally, as time went on in the game, the defense started to wisen up to Longshore’s antics, tightened up coverage, and the completion percentage started plummeting as options became limited.
However, the numbers don’t tell us everything. Yes, Longshore’s stats are unimpressive as the game progressed (and that INT in the third quarter was terrible, causing a great shift in field position), but it was also followed up by predictable playcalling. One thing to notice is the dropoff in Longshore’s attempts due to our stubborn press to rush the ball late with (in this game) an ineffective Forsett. 67 ground yards on 30 carries is the real reason we lost the UCLA game, when we really should have been Mike Leaching it for the last thirty odd minutes, or at the very least mixing things up.
One thing to note is that the Verner INTs came on obvious passing 3rd downs of seven and ten yards each. The last four incompletions (and the final INT) came after the clinching Verner INT.
Let’s follow up the UCLA stats (fairly impressive) with Arizona State (flamebroiled).
Okay, this was certainly more clearcut of a disappointment than UCLA, as Nate made some terrible lob heave throws in the 4th quarter (I’ll show some tape next week of his attempts). ASU’s defense wasn’t as fearsome as UCLA, but they certainly got into Cal’s heads as the game progressed, and Longshore’s breakdown looks completely regressive.
Of course, there still is a caveat to this game: Penalties. There were six killer ones on offense, four of them (illegal touch, holding, two false starts) killing two promising drives, another that pushed the Bears away from field goal position, making it easier for ASU to block the kicker, and another one that lengthened the Bears only TD drive. Considering these circumstances, and Nate’s difficulties in 2nd/3rd and long situations, the incurring result seemed inevitable. I know this is no excuse for Longshore throwing two picks in his own territory in the 4th, but it’s still something to think about.
But again, the crucial thing to consider is this: Nate has yet to throw a come-from-behind TD in the 4th quarter. You might argue Oregon, but Forsett scored the tying TD, and Nate spent the rest of that quarter either tied or ahead on short fields. You also might argue Washington last year, but that was pretty much Marshawn running all over the field. Nate has been the complementary player, just not the facilitator Bears fans desire.
Coming next: Disappointment turns to anger. It’s Cal Football, only on FOX! Drama! Tension! Pain!
Leave your thoughts of Nate’s UCLA/ASU performances in the comments.
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