Who Will Kevin Riley Throw to as Cal Bears Visit Washington State?
With their days numbered, the hippies can now be seen live. ABC7 has put up a feed of the Oak Grove for Cal fans everywhere to view the carnage. Well, mostly of those two hippies freestyling and yapping at cops, but whatever. If we can’t get the game online, hopefully you’ll be able to watch this. Protest Shooter has done some yeoman work as usual. As usual, there’s a livethread on CGB where you can see things unfold (actually Part I’s over; here’s Part II).
I really have nothing to add. This has been my expression all day.
Did you know we have a game tomorrow? Let’s get on to it.
I usually do manage to roundup all the blog stuff, but I forgot to do it last week–too many to track down and too much extracurricular silliness (post-Olympic hangover). That’s fixed this weekend. Kinda.
Our announcers are Kevin Calabro and Jason Gesser, who are Fox’s Northwest regional announcers and will probably know nothing about Cal other than their names, treesitters, and quarterback controversy. Exactly what we need.
Whatever. My ears are filled with euphoria right now. Onward with the links!
The Bear Will Not Quit: Hopped up on whatever liquor they can store in barrels for the winter, the Coug fans await their opponents with a Deliverance-like combination of stealth and caged belligerence. The stealth comes from the fact that no one, least of all opposing teams, pays any mind to what goes on in Pullman until the moment they step off the plane at Pullman-Moscow airport (airport code: PUW. Nice one, Pullman).
Of course even then, Pullman seems like a charming little town. You can almost hear the dirty little kid plucking away at the banjo, watching the unsuspecting, cocky players file onto the bus.
Bears With Fangs: While the running game will be critical to Cal’s success, I’m much more intrigued as to how our passing game will look. With Riley set to play all snaps as the starting quarterback, who will emerge as his go-to targets?
Cameron Morrah seems to be the obvious choice after he hauled in 5 passes for 93 yards and a TD last week. Running backs Best and Vereen will also get a significant number of catches coming off screens and swing passes. But a number of our wide receivers will have to step up, specifically in the red zone.
WSU’s undersized secondary was abused last weekend on high lobbed passes to 6-foot-2 OSU receiver Dez Bryant. That could prove to be a bright omen to a Cal wide receiving corps that features all of its wide receivers (minus Sean Young) topping out over the 6-foot mark.
Coug Center: Last Saturday, the Cougs were facing what was purported to be one of the better offensive lines they were going to see all year long. I expected the defensive line to get shoved around and run all over for three hours—I told anyone who would listen that my over/under for rushing yards by Oklahoma State was 275.
To my surprise, the unit of Matt Mullenix, Kevin Kooyman, A’i Ahmu, Matt Eichelberger and Adam Hineline more than held their own. Yes, they gave up 4.1 yards per rush, but that number was inflated somewhat in the fourth quarter as the Cowboys salted the game away against a fatigued defense.
If those guys can repeat that performance and be stout at the point of attack—and I do realize Ahmu will miss the first half, so the job is tougher—I think they have a very good chance of limiting Cal’s backs, neither of whom are downhill runners who can make holes for themselves.
Both operate best in space, and my goodness, there was a ridiculous amount of space against Michigan State.
WSU Football blog has an EA Sports preview, and more: Cal has some young WR’s, and this will be their first shot at starting a game in a hopefully loud, hostile environment. Much like UW this year, Cal has lost their top five WR’s from last year, and this will be the first time on the road that they have to do some heavy lifting.
TE Cameron Morrah and Jahvid Best are the leading receivers from last season at 13 catches apiece, but that’s it. So, while I like Kevin Riley at QB as a guy who won’t torpedo their own offense (compared to Nate Longshore), I have a feeling things will be tougher for him this week.
Speaking of Riley, did you know this will be just his third-ever start at Cal? And his first-ever start on the road? Yes, he’s been impressive, but he’s never had to get under center in a loud stadium as a starter and make things happen.
Gary Peterson, Contra Costa Times: It’s been an ongoing issue, but it was an open question until Cal football coach Jeff Tedford answered it Tuesday: Barring any unanticipated developments (injury, a blowout win or loss, the release of incriminating photos), Kevin Riley will pitch a complete game against Washington State on Saturday.
“Kevin’s going to play,” Tedford said at Cal’s weekly football luncheon. “He earned it last week.” This is both a departure from, and the result of, last Saturday’s season-opening win over Michigan State.
Tedford’s plan entering that game was to start Riley, who had outplayed Nate Longshore during an offseason quarterback competition, but find time for Longshore, who had entered the three previous seasons as Cal’s unquestioned starter.
It was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, given that quarterback job-shares almost never work out to anybody’s satisfaction. Either one quarterback outplays the other, which typically leaves the underperformer feeling like he didn’t get a fair shake.
Or they both struggle, which creates the impression that neither is up to handling the scrutiny. Or they both play so well that neither can understand why he isn’t playing more.
Matt Kawahara, The Daily Cal (also should be a podcast you can listen to): What the Cougars (0-1) do,and what Cal (1-0) will be faced with starting tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. in Martin Stadium, is an up-tempo, no-huddle offense that frequently shuttles personnel groups on and off of the field and is led by quarterback Gary Rogers.
Bears coach Jeff Tedford said that Rogers looks like Drew Bledsoe throwing the football, but that the 6-foot-7 senior is more mobile and can make plays with his legs as well as his arm. Combine that with tailbacks Tardy and Christopher Ivory-who ran for over 1,000 yards between them in 2007-and WSU presents a whole new look for Cal in the Bears’ earliest Pac-10 opener since 1993.
“(Tardy) is not the same type of runner as (Michigan State tailback Javon) Ringer was,” Felder said. “He’s more of a slasher, he’s going to look for cutbacks, he’s going to press upfield.”
Ryan Divish, Bellingham Herald: Despite his Cougars giving up a plethora of points in their 39-13 loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday, Washington State head coach Paul Wulff still found plenty to be happy about with his defense, even after watching the game film.
“I thought we were OK there,” Wulff said. “Obviously there were some things we could have done better, but our tackling was pretty good.” Indeed, while other teams around the country clearly looked rusty when it came to making crisp open-field tackles, the Cougs seemed to be moderately efficient.
“We stressed this from the day I got on campus,” Wulff said. “You can talk about it, but we worked on it. Every day we work on it, even on the days we’re not in pads. I think there’s a lot of progress made.”
But Wulff was the first to admit that the defense needs to be even better this week, because the California offense is far more talented and explosive than Oklahoma State.
Andrew Kim, Daily Cal: First of all, don’t gamble. It’s a slippery slope. And kind of illegal. Second, let me break it down in a long and convoluted stream of thoughts.
One of Washington State’s relative strengths, its receiving corps, just happens to match up against Cal’s relative weakness, the secondary, which struggled most when Michigan State ran a no-huddle offense, which is coincidentally what the Cougars run.
It’s kind of like eating candy every meal, but they do it anyway.
Ironically, they sort of run an oxymoronic ball-control, hurry-up offense, as their wideouts aren’t exactly DeSean Jacksons out there.
Case in point: mustering up just 82 receiving yards, none of the Washington State receivers averaged more than nine per catch. Still, we’re talking money here, and you’d hate to blow your Work Study check like it’s from the government (wait, it is).
Defensive coordinator Bob Gregory said the Bears won’t move their corners around according to what they see from the offense, meaning Syd’Quan Thompson will remain left and Darian Hagan right no matter what, meaning Wulff will likely line up returning All-Pac-10 performer Brandon Gibson opposite, you guessed it, Hagan.
Nicholas Geranios, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Washington State continues to struggle with depth. The Cougars, already down from loss of scholarships and training camp injuries, will have defensive tackle A’i Ahmu only in the second half.
A council of teammates ruled Ahmu must sit out the first half for skipping a court date on a minor-in-possession charge, Wulff said. He turned himself in to police on Wednesday. Senior Adam Hineline will make his first career start in Ahmu’s place.
Freshman cornerback Tyrone Justin may start in place of the injured Alfonso Jackson. Senior cornerback Markus Dawes is questionable, after returning to practice following shoulder surgery. Receiver Daniel Blackledge, still recovering from a hamstring injury, will play but won’t start. Freshman Jared Karstetter will start in his place, Wulff said.
Left guard Andrew Roxas, who injured his knee in practice Tuesday, will miss three to six weeks. Special teams remain in flux at WSU. The good news is that punter Reid Forrest is expected to play after breaking his ankle in July. But three players are still fighting for the placekicker job, as Wade Penner, Nico Grasu and Patrick Rooney have been inconsistent.
Any thoughts on tomorrow’s game? How do you believe the Cougars will fare against the Golden Bears?
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