Cal hosted Washington (poor poor Washington) on Saturday to the smallest crowd in 5 years (coincidentally the last time the Bears trounced the Huskies 54-7 on Nov. 15, 2003) of just 50,308. However, those who were in attendance we fortunate enough to savor some memorable performances by the departing seniors, and one for the history books by stud RB Jahvid Best.
There was much question that Cal would be the better team against the hapless Huskies, but some wondered whether we would see the small chance that the Bears might come out flat enough to be unable to show the disparity between the two teams. That would hardly be the case with the Bears racing out to a 31-0 lead by halftime, holding the Huskies to just 58 yards at the half, while racing out to 325 of their own. The Bears also recorded 4 turnovers in the first half, ensuring that the second half would give ample playing time for the seniors and youngins who could use the valuable game time in preparation for next year.
Let’s to a few spots:
He Really is the Best
Best needed just 171 yards on Saturday to take the conference’s regular season rushing record, and ended up surpassing that number in the first half. The Jet (nickname pending) put on a performance for the ages in his 3rd Pac-10 Player of the Week honor, by rushing for setting a school single game record of 311 yards, while hitting paydirt on 4 of his 19 carries. Best’s performance was good enough him to vault him to the top spot in rushing yards, maintain his spot in yards per game, and Best will finish the regular season with a staggering 8.01 yards per carry and 13 touchdowns.
You had to feel good for Nate Longshore by the time the game was over. Longshore received one of the loudest ovations during the senior introductions (best only by Alex Mack) and subbed in for starter Kevin Riley to start the second quarter. Longshore played through two full quarters, and finished the day 5-10 for 84 yards. More importantly, Longshore tossed a 6 yard strike to Cameron Morrah, recording his 50th career passing TD, good for 4th all time in the Cal record books.
Longshore will finish one of the most storied (in ways both heartwarming and wrenching) QB careers in Cal history, and it was encouraging to see him finish out his career with a solid performance in his final game at Memorial Stadium.
I’ve heard some mumbles and grumbles from Cal fans who thought Riley or redshirt frosh Brock Mansion (who played part of the 3rd and the entire 4th quarter) should have gotten more playing time. Personally, I’m okay with what happened. An extra quarter wouldn’t have benefited Riley too much in the long run, and Mansion was able to enjoy an entire quarter of actual game experience. He also got 4 passes in (completing two of them), and any more and it would have been seen as classless. Say what you want, but considering the game was never really in question from Best’s opening strike, I was fine with letting Longshore get some playing time in his last time stepping onto the field in Strawberry Canyon.
It’s hard to truly applaud the defense for putting on another shutdown performance, when one considers the opponents. But still, you might as well throw out some numbers. The Huskies were held to 200 total yards on the day. They averaged just 2.4 ypc, and their leading rusher Willie Griffin, managed just 60 yards on 24 attempts. Both QBs Taylor Bean and Ronnie Fouch were a combined 11 for 24 on the day, getting sacked 3 times and tossing two picks between the two of them.
The Huskies didn’t get into the endzone until a long pass in the 3rd quarter (which from my view looked like Safety Bernard Hicks was out of position on) set up a QB rollout run.
Tyson Alualu earned Pac-10 Player of the Week Honorable mention with his performance in which he rolled up 10 total tackles, getting in the backfield twice, with one being a sack.
Darian Hagan showed why he just might be not only the best CB on the team next year (I said MIGHT be, Squid), but in the entire conference. The sophomore back recorded two interceptions in the first half.
Zack Follett had 5 tackles, 2 for a loss, and a devastating sack that forced a fumble early in the game.
Playing Time for the Seniors
It was real good to see some of the seniors get some extensive playing time. Kicker Jordan Kay took over for Giorgio Tavecchio in the second half, and was perfect on both extra point attempts and booted a 36 yard field goal in the fourth.
D-linemen Rulon Davis and Mika Kane got their share of playing time and senior receivers Drew Glover and Alex Stroud notched their first career receptions on the day.
Really at the end of the day, you couldn’t really write it much better. As much as playing Washington to close the season with Cal’s bowl game clinched was a bit anticlimactic, it provided a great chance for the seniors to get some playing time in their last home game, as well as providing some chances for next year’s generation of players.
Jahvid Best showed why he was ready to be the face of the offense, while Longshore got one last chance to throw a TD for the last time in memorial stadium. The day was a beautiful one for football, not only because of the gorgeous weather, or because of what transpired on the field or in the final score, but because it was one of the last times this season to remember just what we love so much about college football and our Golden Bears.