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By Jon Wilner
In a remarkably candid press conference, Cal Coach Jeff Tedford on Tuesday stuck by his decision to go for a touchdown with 14 seconds left against Oregon State instead of kicking a field goal that would have forced overtime. When freshman quarterback Kevin Riley was tackled on the play, the Bears, who were out of timeouts, watched helplessly as time expired. The 31-28 loss prevented Cal from climbing to No. 1 in the polls and derailed its drives for the national and conference championships. "I don't regret going for it," Tedford said. "There are a lot of opinions on that." Tedford also said quarterback Nate Longshore, who didn't play against OSU because of a sprained ankle, is questionable for Saturday's must-win game at UCLA.
The Bruins have one of the best defenses in the Pac-10. "He's improving every day," Tedford said. "We'll see how he comes along. Your guess is as good as mine." There was no such uncertainty in Tedford's voice as he explained the decision to let Riley take a shot into the end zone from the 12-yard line. But the one thing Cal could not afford is exactly what happened: Riley was flushed from the pocket and tackled at the 10, leaving the Bears with no means of stopping the clock and not enough time for a field goal.
"I'd be foolish to say I haven't debated whether it was right or wrong," Tedford said. "Yes, I've debated that, and I've come up with the answer that we would do the same thing
Tedford was comfortable with the play he called: a pass into the end zone that did not put any extra pressure on Riley - did not require him to make a difficult read or last-second adjustment. It had only two resolutions, in Tedford's mind: touchdown or incompletion. Either the Bears win, or the clock stops and they kick the field goal and head to overtime. "We had a great play that was matched up to what they were doing," he said. And it was nothing Riley couldn't handle, Tedford added. "Most of the skepticism is probably when you have a young quarterback and that should make the difference, but I felt the young quarterback handled the last two drives as well as anybody could have handled those last two drives," He said. "I'm not being naive, either, about the weight the last play carried. I know it was not your average first-down run up the middle.
"I understand that people can be skeptical about what went on there. As I work here for 18 hours a day, and watch tape and prepare, that has to be something that's an educated decision on our part. "No one (outside the team) really understands everything that goes into that. (The coaches and players) have to know what defense, they have to know what coverage you're facing, they have to know all that type of stuff, and I felt like we had the right thing going for that time. It didn't work out, unfortunately."
Actually, Tedford did have one regret: That he was unable to review the options with Riley before the final play. "If I had to second-guess anything, I wish I could have gotten to him and said, 'Hey, do this or do that,' " Tedford said. "But there were a lot of things happening."
• Tedford said kicker Tom Schneider will miss the entire season because of a torn quad muscle suffered in warmups before the season opener. The Bears will petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility for Schneider.
• Defensive end Rulon Davis (foot) probably won't play this week.