Jahvid Best's Injury: The Worst-Case Scenario for Cal's Offense

WarderroCorrespondent INovember 9, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Kevin Riley #13 of the California Golden Bears looks on as teammate Jahvid Best is attended to by medical personnel after landing on his back after scoring a touchdown against the Oregon State Beavers at California Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2009 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
One moment, Jahvid Best galloped seven yards and leaped into the end zone to the delight of the Memorial Stadium fans.  
An instant later, the crowd went from cheering to stunned silence.
The marching band barely had time to play a note of the school fight song in celebration, before Cal's running back lay motionless on the field—surrounded by a crowd of players, medics, trainers, and coaches.
The concussion suffered during a terrifying second-quarter fall against Oregon State—Best's second concussion in as many games and a second freak injury in as many years—likely ended the junior's season, if not his college career.
His health and well-being will—rightfully so—be the biggest concern during this next week. But when the Golden Bears take the field next week against Arizona in hopes of rebounding from Saturday's  devastating loss, another burning question will emerge about this team: 
Can Cal's offense possibly recover without their fallen star?
Unfortunately, Saturday's home defeat at the hands of the Beavers provided an ominous answer.
The Bears, noticeably shaken, totaled 39 rushing yards, 29 of which came from Best before his injury.
Before a late mercy score in the fourth quarter, Cal's second-half drives consisted of an interception and four consecutive punts. The Blue and Gold recorded one more three-and-out (five) than total third-down conversions (four) and controlled the ball for under nine of the second 30 minutes.    
Yet the ineptitude has not just been a one-time occurrence‚even with the preseason Heisman hopeful.
The Bears' eight-quarter touchdown drought against Oregon and USC has been well-documented, but even in three games against lower-tier Pac 10 opponents, Cal went five quarters without finding the end zone. 
For all the occasional fireworks, these numbers do not point to a consistently potent offense.
Now, as the team must play with a heavy heart, Best's loss becomes even more magnified; he has not only ignited the Bears' attack, but has often been their only offense.  
Against Minnesota earlier this year, the junior tailback had all of the team's five scores—putting Cal up early and bailing the Bears out late. In the 2008 Emerald Bowl against Miami, his two touchdown runs helped the Bears take an early lead, offsetting a forgettable passing day from Nate Longshore.
In addition to his rushing prowess, Jahvid Best currently ranks second on the team in both receptions and touchdown receptions, while boasting the Bears' longest touchdown catch of the year.
And few opponents know how much Best means to Cal better than the Beavers themselves.
Last year's matchup in Corvallis would have been much the same as the 2009 version, had it not been for Best. As a sophomore, his 50-yard opening kick-off return led to a Cal touchdown, and his 65-yard score kept the Bears in it late.
The other 10 meaningful drives? One score, eight punts (with five three-and-outs), and a fumble.   
To add insult to injury, this year's Bears squad features the nation's 99th rated kickoff unit and the 117th-ranked pass defense; they have, during losses, dealt large deficits onto an offensive attack that has time and again proven incapable of overcoming them.  
Facing anemic scoring teams like the Cougars and Sun Devils was one thing. Taking on prolific passers in consecutive weeks—Arizona's Nic Foles and Andrew Luck of the Stanford Cardinal—is quite a different animal.
Now without Best, the Bears must counter their opponents with a quarterback, wide receiver corps, kicker, and offensive line, which have all suffered from maddening inconsistency.
That situation ended well during the winning drive against Arizona State, but for the team's remaining games, it may well be the exception—not the rule.