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UCLA-CAL FYI

California quarterback Kevin Riley coming up short

In the first season that the quarterback job has belonged solely to him, Riley has stumbled with two losses in conference play after successes in earlier games.

October 17, 2009|Chris Foster

California quarterback Kevin Riley bounced a pass well short of a receiver in practice and Andy Ludwig, the Bears' offensive coordinator, gave him a mock clap.

"He made a couple comments too," Riley said. "It was pretty funny."

Riley will pardon the Bears fans who don't get the joke.

Just a few weeks back, Cal made its seemingly annual journey into the top 10, getting as high as sixth. That led to another chorus of "Is this the year?" from fans of a program that has not played in a Rose Bowl game since 1959.

But two losses to open Pacific 10 Conference play altered expectations. The Bears (3-2 overall, 0-2 in the Pac-10) were limited to one field goal in each of the games after averaging nearly 49 points through their first three games.

Riley has made for an easy target, one more easily hit than the open receivers he has missed on the field.

"I still don't think people recognize me on this campus," Riley said.

He added, "It was definitely more negative because we haven't been playing well, but we'll be fine. When you're winning, people love you. When you're losing, they don't."

This is the first season that the quarterback job has belonged solely to Riley. He shared the position with Nate Longshore the previous two seasons.

With Jahvid Best, one of the nation's best running backs, behind him, this should be easy duty. And it was through three games. Best averaged 137 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Riley completed 46 of 71 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns.

In the last two games, Riley has completed 27 of 61 passes for 322 yards and no touchdowns with one interception.

"I threw after every day of practice," Riley said. "The balls I am missing, I'm just putting them a little high, but every one is close. I'm just sailing them a little bit."

The drop-off coincided with what seemed like an effort by Coach Jeff Tedford to increase Riley's role.

Against Oregon, the Bears recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff inside the 25-yard line. Tedford chose to go with three passes -- all incomplete -- instead of giving Best the ball.

Against USC, Riley threw four passes on the opening drive, the last of which was intercepted by Taylor Mays. The rest of the game was a blur, with Riley completing only 15 of 40 passes.

"I have to make plays so they can't put more people in the box," Riley said.

Riley has put up big numbers at times. He was most valuable player of the 2007 Armed Forces Bowl after completing 16 of 29 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns against Air Force.

But he is also remembered as the guy who kept Cal from climbing to No. 1.

The Bears were positioned to take over at the top of the polls in October 2007, needing only to beat Oregon State at home. Riley, subbing for an injured Longshore, drove the Bears to the 10-yard line to set up what might have been a game-tying field goal. But Riley scrambled for a short gain instead of ditching the ball and the clock ran out.

Tedford threw a fit on the sideline, tossing his headset and play card, but later didn't blame Riley.

"A lot of guys have ups and downs in their football careers," Riley said. "Look at the way we've played this season. The Oregon and USC games, we were missing something. We have to fine-tune what we're doing."

Injury report

Cal wide receivers Nyan Boateng (broken foot) and Verran Tucker (bruised calf) are expected to play, as is starting guard Matt Summers-Gavin (sprained shoulder). . . . For UCLA, tailback Johnathan Franklin (sprained ankle) is expected to play. Linebacker Reggie Carter (sprained knee) will be a game-time decision.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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