Cal QB Knows How Chris Turner Feels
I talked to Cal QB Kevin Riley for a while on the phone the other day. Riley knows what it is like to kind of be in Chris Turner’s shoes, meaning he knows what it is like to be the fans’ pick at QB and to hear fans boo the other guy. To review: Cal Coach Jeff Tedford kept sticking with Nate Longshore at QB last season. The team lost six of its last seven games. Longshore and Riley had a spirited QB battle in the spring and summer; Riley won. Riley did great in the season-opening victory against Michigan State. Longshore saw some action, but threw two interceptions at home. The crowd booed. Sound familiar? So get this: Riley went over to the crowd and told them to shut their traps.
Riley didn’t play great last week against Washington State but he didn’t need to. Cal won, 66-3. Here is a little of the interview I did with Riley, who was fairly candid on a variety of topics:
Q: What did you think of running back Jahvid Best when you first saw him?
“I remember coming in wondering if he was going to be a track football player, you know, people who have speed in track and it sometimes doesn’t relate to the field. There are then people who have speed and know how to play. His vision is tremendous. He sees the holes and knows how to make people miss. Then he uses his speed to his advantage.”
Q: Ralph Friedgen said you guys use Best a little like USC used to use Reggie Bush. You see any similarities?
“Definitely. They move the same, they make people miss the same way. Every time they touch the ball, there is a chance for a big play. Sprint wise, I think Jahvid might be faster. He is just a good football player.”
Q: Have you ever stood in awe of what he can do on the field?
“There have been a couple times. I’m supposed to do something on the field and I get caught up looking at him. He does special things. You see him break some run and say, ‘I just wish I could do that.’ He is fun to watch because you don’t know what will happen.”
Q: Does Best have any nicknames yet?
“He has a lot of them. People make them up as they go. Jahvid the Jet, Little Reggie Bush. The next Reggie Bush.”
Q: Jeff Tedford said he found some mistakes in the 66-3 win over Washington State when he watched tape. C’mon, can you really tell me one mistake in that win?
“I missed a couple throws. I need to be able to make those throws. When we play a better team, that will be a key play in the game. A couple penalties. We were stuck down in our goal line and we didn’t push the ball out. There were things to work on, but overall it was a good win. After watching film, you can see where we can make lots of improvements.”
Q: When Tedford said that you are the starter at quarterback, how much comfort did that give you because you don’t have to look over your shoulder now?
“It feels good. I can just go out and play football. You don’t have to worry about making a mistake or anything like that. You don’t have to worry that, ‘Oh, am I going to get taken out?’ It feels good, and you just have to go out and be ready to make plays, make the right reads and be smart with the football.”
Q: Maryland fans booed the quarterback, Jordan Steffy, here in the first week. When you heard the home fans boo Nate Longshore in the opener, what did you say to the fans when you went over to the student section?
“I told them to knock it off. He threw two picks. The plays didn’t work out the way Nate wanted them to. He has a tremendous resume, and I just don’t think it is right for a student at the school to be booed by a fellow student.”
Q: Finishing the season 1-6 after at one point being No. 2 in the country, what did you learn from that late-season collapse?
“What we learned was, last year when we got down you could just see people start to fade: 'Ah, man it’s going to happen again.' It just got worse and worse. You got to learn to keep pushing. There is plenty of time on the clock to keep on playing. It was a weird thing. It didn’t seem like everyone was into it 100 percent. We tried hard, but it didn’t seem like people had 100 percent focus on the team.”
Q: How did that experience set the mood and set the stage for this season?
“All off-season, Coach Tedford brought us a book, ‘Talent Is Not Enough’. Last year I felt we were as talented as anyone in the country. We still have talent. But it takes more than talent to be a winning program and a championship-caliber football team. Talent is not enough. We just went over chapters and were trying to build better character on the team. Each coach went over one of the sections of the book.”
Q: Is that how this team is different than last year’s team -- still talented, but better character and chemistry?
“I think we have something to prove. Last year we were a top-10 team. Everyone is doubting us after last season. So we have something to prove. We’re not looking ahead. We want to show people that Cal football is back.”
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