Late last week, I wrote an unfortunate post titled "The Cougs can stop Best and Vereen." Trust me when I say I've taken my lumps in subsequent days from Cal fans, some of whom have taken it in the spirit it was intended and others who have cheerfully displayed that there is no shortness in the supply of smugness in Berkeley.
I do, however, want to bring some closure to that little piece of off-base analytical genius.
Realizing the incendiary nature of the headline might have caused some people to not read the entire post, I want to draw your attention to a pair of things I wrote that I think were proved absolutely true on Saturday.
(Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen) are fast and awesome. But let's be real. There is one reason and one reason alone those two guys had the success they had (against Michigan State): Their offensive line was spectacular.
Anyone care to argue that the offensive line wasn't responsible for the bulk of the running success of the Bears against the Cougs? WSU was absolutely manhandled up front. In fact, think back to that first TD run -- you know, the one that is going show up everytime ESPN decides to do a breakdown on Cal. The hole was so huge and defensive line blocked so well that there really was only one guy who could stop that play: Greg Trent. Unfortunately, he overpursued, and it was over from there.
It happened time and time again. Virtually every big play was not the result of some exceptional individual effort, but superb blocking up front. Yes, Best and Vereen have the talent to turn what would be a 20- to 40-yard gain into a 50- to 80-yard gain, but let's give the credit where the credit is due. Cal runs for a 250 yards even if their running backs are named Tardy and Ivory.
What stood out most to me was just how poor of an angle the (Michigan State) safety took to Best -- he had no prayer of making that tackle. It happened over and over again throughout this highlight reel. That tells me that Best's speed is special, something that just can't be appreciated by watching film, or duplicated on a practice squad.
This is where I'll give Best and Vereen their due as special talents. One game is a theory, but two games is a trend, and I absolutely stand by that assessment -- the Cougs missed a lot more tackles on Saturday than they did in the opener. You can attribute that to the speed and talent of Best and Vereen, and that's what's going to give defensive coordinators nightmares all year long: These guys are just so explosive that nobody can fully comprehend it until they play Cal and try to make a tackle in the place where Best and Vereen used to be, coming up with an armful of air.
I'll leave you with this final assessment, which really is more of a prediction: If he can stay healthy this year, and the Bears can stay in the Pac-10 race through at least the end of October -- which I think they will -- Jahvid Best will become a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.