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Longshore saves Cal, lets others tell the story

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Nate Longshore didn't tell reporters he felt vindicated. California's embattled ex-starting quarterback didn't say he didn't care what people thought and that he only cared about the 85 guys in the Bears locker room.

Longshore didn't tell reporters anything about his workmanlike yet critically effective effort in Cal's soggy 26-16 victory over No. 24 Oregon. He bolted the stadium to be with his wife and family, leaving the media in the lurch.

Who can blame him? He's a fifth-year starter who has answered a lot of redundant questions about the good and bad things he's done playing quarterback for Cal. But mostly the bad things.

He's been cheered and he's been booed. The booing is harder to forget.

And when coach Jeff Tedford wouldn't write him off this year, the media almost unanimously judged that decision to be anywhere from strangely stubborn to downright stupid.

So, yeah, it was gratifying for Tedford to watch Longshore lead the Bears to their biggest win of the season.

"It's been difficult on Nate," he said. "He's a fifth-year senior and he's had a lot of success here. And he's had a lot of heartache, too."

Longshore won't become a Heisman Trophy candidate with his performance. He might not even start next weekend at USC.

Kevin Riley, who had finally -- presumably -- emerged victorious from the game of musical starting quarterback he'd been playing with Longshore, went down with four and a half minutes left in the first quarter with a concussion.

Enter Longshore.

Many Cal fans cheered through the deluge at Memorial Stadium. It's also fair to say many more slapped their foreheads.

There was nothing magical. His performance won't be made into a YouTube montage complete with inspiring music.

Sure, his fourth pass went for 16 yards and converted a fourth-and-14 play in Ducks territory. But the ensuing 22-yard field goal was botched.

He ended up completing 13 of 27 passes for 136 yards with a touchdown with no interceptions -- that final zero being the most critical on a rainy day when the ball was hard to control.

Longshore lost a preseason battle to Riley for the starting job, but he was reinserted as the starter for the Oct. 4 game against Arizona State. He won but his game went south in the second half at Arizona, and Riley retook the post and beat UCLA.

Riley is far more mobile than Longshore and probably a little more intense.

"It is different," running back Jahvid Best said. "Nate tends to joke around in the huddle a little bit more. But as far as production, we feel like we can get the job done with both quarterbacks."

Best also admitted that the players were aware that most fans -- and local reporters -- have favored Riley in the competition, but he asserted it's not a problem in the locker room.

Said linebacker Worrell Williams, "I feel like Nate can win. Nate won it today. Both of them prepare like they are the starters each week. We all have confidence in him. Riley might be a fan favorite and Riley's one of my favorites too -- both of the guys are my favorite. But whoever is in there, that's who my favorite is."

Tedford has worked very hard to resist the urge to go with what's popular among the fanbase. He's continued to split practice reps with the first-team offense equally between the two. He has refused to declare Riley the man going forward.

Now his approach might pay off because Riley will be day-to-day as the biggest game of the season approaches.

Did this game support his idea of nurturing two quarterbacks?

"This is a perfect example," Tedford said.

Longshore didn't meet with reporters after the game and tell them how he'd never lost faith in himself and how he just wants to help the team win. He didn't knock away tough and redundant questions about the wild swings of his career with rote responses he's developed as a defense mechanism.

He let his coach and teammates speak for him. And it's pretty clear where they stand.

"He's an unbelievable guy in terms of being totally team-above-self," Tedford said. "I don't think I've ever known anyone who is so team-above-self."