Our friends over at California Golden Blogs asked us to exchange Q&A's in the buildup to Saturday. ASUBoyd answered their questions, and they will be posted on their blog later today are now up for your viewing pleasure here.
I penned these questions hoping to better understand our Pac-10 foes. The answers given may not surprise you, but this has turned out to be California Golden Bears 101. And you know we love college courses here at House Of Sparky (at least, we love the girls in our college courses).
A big thanks goes out to TwistNHook, Yellow Fever, and ragnarok for their great responses.
1. What do you chalk up the loss against Maryland to, the jet lag? Unfamiliarity with an ACC squad playing on their home turf? Maryland being a plain good football squad?
Well, the genuine answer to this question is that Maryland dominated the trenches. They continuously got pressure on Riley until they moved into a more preventative D (when our passing attack started to take off). Further, Jahvid Best and Co. had no holes to run through.
On the other side, they ran all over us and Chris Turner had a lot of time in the pocket. That's the simple answer. Win the trench battle and you win the game. Maryland was winning the trench battle for most of it and was dominant for most of it, plain and simple.
As to whether Cal's OLine and DLine under performed due to time changes or humidity, well, it's hard to say. The players themselves won't admit it, as I doubt they'd point to excuses like those, but I can tell you the humidity out there was brutal, and I was just standing around in the bleachers, not trying to play football. For whatever reason, our players sure did look more sluggish than I've seen them in a long time, and that probably contributed to losing the battle up front.
Of course, none of this is meant to take away from Maryland, who is actually a pretty good team and who played a great game. Cal could have won this matchup, but by no means should have won.
2. Losing Jahvid Best is a blow to your running game. How will his absence affect your game plan, and who will fill his shoes on Saturday?
Well, luckily for Cal, there is some depth at RB. Shane Vereen has definitely shown ability and even 3rd stringer Tracy Slocum has some of the skillz that are necessary to pay part of the billz. Certainly, having Best up in this bitch is better than not having Best up in this or really any other bitch. But Vereen can produce.
One problem to note is a key injury to OLineman Chris Guarnero. He had been playing very well from what we understand and is now out for the season. So, losing Best AND a solid OLineman? Could be rough.
3. Kevin Riley vs. Nate Longshore. Longshore was renowned early in his career, and he lit up ASU in 2006 in Berkeley. Now, he rides the pine as Riley tosses the rock. Who is the better quarterback, and did Longshore get treated badly this season?
The problem is that nobody really knows who the better QB is. Many people scream endlessly over this topic, but we don't watch the practices and rarely have advanced game film sessions. Both bring different skills to the table. Many people were excited by the prospect of Riley. He suffered from Backup QB-itis, wherein people love him a ton, because they haven't seen him a lot. Not to say anything negative about Riley, but now that more people have seen him, people are moderately less enamored with him. This is just natural, because no QB can be perfect.
At times this year, Longshore has appeared worse, and at times, he has appeared better. So, neither QB right now is out-playing the other. Honestly, though, I think either QB will play a good (though not great) game, and there's probably 4 or 5 other Pac-10 teams that wish they could have our QB leftovers right about now.
4. Tell us about one Cal defensive player we may not know.
Well, we don't know who you do and do not know on the Cal D. BUT, you might not know the name of Syd'Quan Thompson. He is having a great season as both a punt returner (named special teams player of the week last week) and as a DB. People don't throw his way. He's a shutdown corner out there.
Now, ASU is apparently having some problems running the ball and is relying on the passing game a lot. This means there should be a good showdown between the ASU O and the Cal defensive backfield. SydGOD will be prominent in this battle. And if ASU decides not to throw towards SydGOD at all, they will try the other corner Darian Hagan. He's young and has a lot less experience than SydQuan, but is still improving each week. This will be a good test for him.
5. Losing Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson to the NFL this year really put the hurt on your receiving corp. Who has picked up the slack in their stead?
But at least TE Cameron Morrah has shown some catch passing abilities. Unfortunately, he's not the blocker that Craig Stevens (now on the Titans) was last year. Other than kickoffs, our receiving corp is probably the weakest area of the team.
6. Speaking of DeSean, what do you think of his performance as an Eagle? Or the touchdown that wasn't in Dallas, where he threw it behind himself while he was still outside the end zone?
As an Eagles fan, I'm not terribly bothered by any of this. It's worth remembering that the only other highly drafted wideouts during the Reid era were Freddie Mitchell and Billy McMullen. Now while I can empathize with Freddie given that I love my hands as well, it would be a gross understatement to say that either of the two was lighting the world on fire.
So for him to start off with two 100-yard games, even if he hasn't kept that pace up, earns him more than a little bit of slack in my book. As specifically regarding the touchdown that wasn't, that honestly didn't bother me much. It would have bothered me more if they hadn't scored on the next play, but I was pretty sure they would. It's just an amusing footnote to me.
And hey, I did get a picture with Reuben Frank of SI.com with my new Eagles DeSean jersey at Eagles training camp this year, and he told me it was the first one he'd seen. That is, before reading the back of my jersey he thought my number 10 jersey was for Koy Detmer. Koy Detmer?!?!? As if!
7. Lastly, what is your prognostication on the direction of the Cal season? What will your record be, and what bowl (if any) will you end up in?
At this point, nobody knows anything about where Cal is. Our RB is hurt. We dont know who the QB is. Lets just throw our hands up in the air and say National Championship loss to Vanderbilt.
About as likely to happen as any other reality, it would seem.