Without being asked to name a starting a quarterback for Saturday's game at Washington, Cal coach Jeff Tedford made his choice very clear: "It's really unfair to pile on a college quarterback who is competing the way Nate (Longshore) is competing and who has done so much for us," Tedford said Tuesday. "I thought it was very big of Nate to shoulder the responsibility for the (USC) loss, but in no way, shape or form was it all on his shoulders." Longshore was 13-for-29 for 199 yards and a 20-yard touchdown pass, but he also threw two second-half interceptions and fumbled a center exchange in the 24-17 loss to USC. After the game, Longshore pointed the finger at himself. "I take the responsibility on myself," Longshore said. "I need to play better down the stretch to give us a chance to win. It's a culmination of this late season. I haven't been playing well enough for us to win.
"That's what it comes down to, and I'll be the first to say it." In Cal's 5-0 start, Longshore completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,137 yards and seven touchdowns to two interceptions. Since spraining his right ankle in the 31-24 win at Oregon on Sept. 29 and missing the ensuing loss to Oregon State, Longshore has completed 57.3 percent of his passes for 919 yards and five touchdowns to eight interceptions as the Bears have gone 1-3. "I don't think he can escape the criticism," Tedford said. "I'm sure out there on campus and in public, he hears things. I don't think there are any ways around it. Part of that comes with the territory. "In the good times, there is a lot of praise that comes with that position, and in the bad times, there is a lot of criticism ... but that doesn't make it right to pile on a college quarterback who isn't getting paid a million dollars to play this game. He's a college athlete who goes to school and is doing everything right and lays it on the line every week."
It's easy to forget that Longshore led Cal to a 10-3 record last season, throwing for 3,021 yards and 24 touchdowns. "The obvious thing to do is to pile on the quarterback," Tedford said. "Nobody sees missed gap responsibilities or missed blocking assignments, but it's very evident to the eye what the quarterback does. "Nate has done a lot of really good things for us. ... He did a lot of great things against a great USC defense and in very tough weather conditions."
Longshore's teammates have been nothing but supportive through his struggles. "We're definitely rallying around him and trying to pick him up," outside linebacker Anthony Felder said. "He wants to take the responsibility for the loss, because he feels like it's his burden to bear as the quarterback. It's our job to let him know that he's not out there by himself."
Best update: Freshman tailback Jahvid Best, who injured his hip in the third quarter against USC and didn't return, has been ruled out for Saturday's game, Tedford said. Cal's medical staff still is evaluating the injury. "We want to make sure it's diagnosed properly, so we're going to get a couple of opinions and see the extent of the injury," Tedford said.