Given all the story lines surrounding the Bay Area sports scene this past weekend, all the hoopla surrounding Cal’s drubbing of UCLA was unfortunately relegated to the back pages.
As such, I have to ask: Did anybody else catch what coach Jeff Tedford had to say after the game, particularly concerning the play of his starting quarterback?
In a game in which Kevin Riley finished with seemingly harmless numbers (9-of-16 for 83 yards and one TD), Coach Tedford was not impressed.
"He needs to improve," said Tedford of the senior quarterback. "We need to improve as a pass offense. He needs to make some better decisions. He needs to throw the ball away when we need to throw the ball away. He needs to complete the ball to guys that are open.”
Tedford would also add, "He didn't throw any interceptions, which is a good thing."
One imagines that his tongue was firmly in his cheek.
Wow. Talk about a dilemma. A pretty good portion of Cal fans has been saying the exact same thing for a while now. For many, it's about time Tedford hopped on the bandwagon.
But the fact that Tedford chose to make these comments after his team rocked a conference rival seems a little odd. It’s even more odd when you consider that Riley’s efforts were essentially made moot by a rushing attack that racked up over 300 yards on the ground.
I will gladly admit that I’ve been wary of Riley for a while now, but even I’m confused by the timing of Tedford’s comments. Why not call out Riley after his awful performance against Nevada? Why not call him out after his lackluster effort against Arizona essentially cost his team a shot at the Rose Bowl?
As for the man himself, he seemed to shrug of his coach’s grumpiness. "Obviously, it's got to improve," said Riley in a separate interview. He went on to acknowledge that the dominance of the run game did indeed make it difficult to get into a rhythm.
Ultimately, he ended up playing one of the oldest cards in the deck: “It’s just about being more consistent.”
No (bleep), Sherlock. What do you think people have been telling you every week for the past three years?
All kidding aside, the Riley situation was already uncomfortable. But it’s questionable whether or not postgame fallout like this is going to make things any better, especially considering that Cal did indeed win the game. After all, you have to imagine that Riley probably doesn’t like being criticized after a win, much less one in which he didn’t really hurt the team at all.
In a perfect world, Tedford’s comments will end up lighting a much-needed fire under Riley’s hind parts. But even if they don’t, Riley is probably still going to be his guy. What is Tedford going to do? Replace him with sophomore Beau Sweeney or junior Brock Mansion? The two of them have a combined 26 pass attempts in their careers. With the Bears not quite out of the picture in the Pac-10, it hardly seems like the time to prepare for life after Riley.
So...stay the course? I honestly don’t know any more.
Maybe Riley should put in a call to 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who has been dealing with this kind of crap for six years. In fact, in the event that the crowd at Memorial Stadium starts angrily pleading for the backup quarterback, Smith’s wisdom would be invaluable.
So how about it, Cal fans? Is Tedford really all that fed up with Riley, or is this much ado about nothing?