Okay, I'm tired and drained. This loss takes a lot out of you, and it's worse when the fanbase is fighting amongst itself over Longshore vs. Riley... still. So excuse me if I keep this short.
The game was winnable. But we didn't win for various reasons:
(1) No running game. Best averaged 2.3 yards a carry. Our OL couldn't create big enough holes for Best. Credit USC too, those bastards played well.
(2) Penalties. We had 8 for 50 yards. Most were on offense and put the team in 1st and 15 situations. We shot ourselves in the foot. This was exactly what we needed to avoid to win the game.
(3) No passing game. No passing game was a product of spotty OL pass blocking, some drops, and some off-target passes. Our make-shift and young OL got beat fairly consistently.
Winning games is simple. Don't penalize yourself and execute. We couldn't do that and we made the game harder on ourselves to win.
So what else...
(4) Timeouts. Okay, I haven't looked at the game yet, but it's hard to tell if the offense had to take timeouts because of the QB or because Cignetti didn't get the play in on time. This usually goes un-noticed by most fans, but sometimes the QBs aren't at fault for having to take timeouts if the playclock is running low. Sometimes the OCs just can't get a play in on time and the QB has to take a timeout. This has happened before in previous games. Perhaps that's what happened this game.
(5) Defense kept the game winnable. Like I said in my previous post - this game came down to Cal offense versus USC defense. I wasn't worried about Cal's defense so much. I knew they'd keep us in the game. It was just a matter of the offense scoring. For the most part, they played admirably. Yes, they were missing some tackles, but let's stay grounded here - Johnson and Gable are shifty and elusive guys. They're not easy to tackle. They were making our guys look a little worse than they are.
(6) Screens. I know lots of fans hate them. But we were calling them to set up the fake-screen TD pass play. That's why you run screens - aside from relieving pressure on the QB against aggressive defenses.
(7) Negated TD pass. It sucks, but it was the right call. The refs said it was "ineligible receiver downfield" but then ABC news after the game said that the refs clarified it later and said it was "illegal formation." And yes, it was illegal. We had only 5 men (yes, five men, even though earlier I said 6) on the LOS. Only the offensive linemen were on the LOS. Ross, Boateng, and Tucker were all off the LOS. At least two of them needed to be on the LOS. Specifically Tucker, and either Ross or Boateng.
(8) Cignetti's playcalling seemed relatively fine to me. We passed the ball 31 times and rushed the ball 20 times. I know this isn't our usual gameplan but passing the ball is how you win against USC if your running game isn't working. Credit here has to be given to USC's players. They sniffed out screens really fast. They tackled well. They shut down running lanes. They maintained their gap assignments. They played really well. I know it's easy to say Cignetti sucks because our offense sucked, but USC's defense really made things incredibly hard for Cignetti and the offense. So I think the main reason for our offense not being effective is more because of USC rather than Cignetti.
(9) USC purposely trying to injure players. Tony touched on it in his post-game thoughts. I just want to say, that the one USC player who hit Riley late on one play drawing a roughing the passer penalty looked to do it on purpose. The ball was out, and he clearly was staring down Riley and shoved Riley to the ground well after the play as if to purposely rough Riley up. Seemed pretty obvious to me.
(10) Longshore. He was 11/15. He looked good at times, then bad at times. He got away with two INTs that were negated by penalties. The benefit of having Longshore in the game is that he usually has a good completion percentage. But the bad thing is that the few passes he doesn't complete too often seem to be INTs.
(11) Riley. He was 4/16. He definitely brought more life to the offense but let's be honest here - he wasn't that much better than Longshore if at all. He over threw some passes.
(12) Receivers limited the QBs. There were some drops of catchable balls. They negated a touchdown pass. They're green and there's not much else we can do about it but get them playing time. As they improve, so will our offense.
(13) Longshore vs. Riley. I guess I have to talk about it.
First, let's address why Longshore started instead of Riley. Riley missed Tuesday's practice. Riley was still feeling the effects of the concussion through Tuesday - and thus may not have been 100% (mentally) during the early week film sessions and gameplanning sessions. Longshore on the other hand wasn't all scramble-brained and thus probably had a better grasp on the gameplan and thus that's why he started.
Second, I was torn between Riley starting and protecting his health. I know Riley's mobility can give the defense more to defend, but at the same time I was nervous about Riley getting hit hard again and perhaps sustaining another concussion so soon after his first one. Concussions often take longer than a week to heal. If you sustain a second concussion before the first one 100% heals, well, your brain can start bleeding and you can die. So I was really hesitant and nervous to see Riley out there against a defense that is known for its big-hit mentality.
Third, is the QB controversy alive and well again? Well, I don't know. Our season isn't over yet so I don't want to hear about needing to play Riley since we have nothing left to play for (this shouldn't be understood as me saying we shouldn't play Riley at all, but merely that we shouldn't be saying that Riley should be playing since the season is over). The season is not over in the sense that we have nothing left to play for. We do have something to play for - it's the Holiday Bowl. I know a lot of us don't like it, but put your personal feelings aside, we can still get to the Holiday Bowl and it would be a great end to the season. Let's just play the guy who gives the team the best chance to win. Perhaps it's Riley, perhaps it's Longshore.
Our QB situation sucks - and it's not Tedford's fault. Tedford would love it if one guy could just really pull away from the other and consistently perform in the "A" game range. Neither is doing that. What more is there to say? We're lacking a dominant QB this year. Both have some good and some bad.
Let's stay sane. Let's stop fighting with each other. Let's stop arguing about Longshore and Riley for the week.
Remember, most of us predicted an 8 or 9 win season. We're 6-3. We're on track for par. The sky is not falling. We were playing a great team today with our worst offense in the past few years. We can still make the Holiday Bowl and that would be a success for the season.
Let's rest, relax, recoup, and focus on Oregon State. Let's get along. Let's have a "truce" for the week. No Riley talk. No Longshore talk.