Best, Ross bright spots in loss
CORVALLIS (Ore.) — While there wasn't much about the offense that Cal fans could be thrilled about in the 34-21 loss to Oregon State Saturday afternoon, a bright spot was the play of running back Jahvid Best and wide receiver Jeremy Ross.
Best started off the game with a bang by taking the kickoff 51 yards down to the Beavers' 26-yard line.
Ross did his part on the very next play to keep the drive alive. After receiving a quick pass behind the line of scrimmage he was hit by not one, but two Oregon State defenders. Ross managed to spin out of both attempted tackles and get the ball down to the 8-yard line. All that remained was for Riley to complete the fade pattern to Verran Tucker in the end zone to complete the drive.
The connection between Best and Ross grows stronger now that they're sharing time returning kickoffs. Ross has been carrying the load for a few weeks before the coaching staff announced that Best would return kicks this week.
"We just thought we'd switch things up a little bit," said Ross. "He was the guy back there (last year). We just decided to put him back there a little bit. So we're just mixing it up a little bit, changing personnel."
However, even though Best performed admirably on his first couple kicks, Ross went back to receive the next couple kickoffs.
"When I go in for the kickoff return I can't start the drive," said Best. "So I felt like I wanted to start the drive."
Tedford granted Best's request for a couple drives, before putting Best back in to return kicks towards the end of the game.
Ross found other ways to contribute.
In the second quarter, just when the Bears needed a spark to get back into the game, the coaching staff decided it was time to add some trickery. Setting up what looked like a wide receiver screen, Riley threw the ball to Ross who was being blocked by three other receivers, including Nyan Boateng.
The formation that Cal came out in is loosely described as the "diamond" set, and it was a trick that worked to perfection. Riley's pass was intentionally a lateral to Ross and Boateng slipped through the secondary to find himself wide open down field for Ross to throw him the ball.
"We were doing a lot of screening and a lot of reverse that attracts the defense," Ross explained as to why the play was successful. "We gave me a little screen and run a pass off of it, hoping he'd be wide open and he was."
"As soon as I got it I looked and saw him wide open so I just threw it fast," Ross continued, unable to shield his obvious inexperience throwing the ball.
However, he was quickly introduced to the less enticing part of playing behind center.
"Then I saw the dude coming and I got hit after I threw it."
Best had his moments as well. In the third quarter, Best finally was able to break a long run and sprinted down the sideline for the Bears final score of the game.
"The blocking was perfect," Best recalled. "Will Ta'ufo'ou just led me to the last man and I just used my speed after that."
While there are many things that the Cal offense needs to work on before they face Stanford next Saturday, one of those things will not be finding a way to get either Best or Ross to contribute. They already provide the spark, starting with sharing time on kickoffs that get the team going.
Ken Crawford is a staff writer for BearTerritory. A lifelong Cal football observer, Crawford covered the Bears during the 2007 season, which included the memorable 31-24 victory over Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Crawford will continue to handle Cal football assignments during the 2008 season.