While I was watching the Cal @ Oregon game, I got a really good look at Dennis Dixon and how he forced defenses to account for him, and I developed what one might call ‘quarterback envy’. I’d watch the Bears secondary shut down the Ducks’ receivers, and Oregon’s pocket start to collapse, and I thought, ‘he’s gotta throw it away or take the sack’. Several times I thought Cal had Dixon, but then he would elude them, turning a 5 yard loss into a 7 yard gain. It’s incredibly frustrating to try and defend such a dynamic quarterback; just as you think you’ve got the play defended, Dixon finds a way to keep moving the ball.
Look at him run! I am green with envy.
Then, I’d watch our own offense, run by Nate ‘Slowest Man On Earth’ Longshore, and I’d really get envious. Whereas Dixon might find a way to turn a broken play into a big gain, Longshore, finding no one open, would be forced to throw it away. Even quarterback sneaks don’t always work because it takes him so long to get moving forward. And on one particular play, Tedford decided to mix things up and call a designed quarterback run. It worked, but oh god, it was painful to watch Longshore oh-so-slowly head downfield. Dixon might have had 3 or 4 more yards on the same play. After 3 quarters of play, I coveted a mobile quarterback; you know, like Ayoob, but less awful.
The 4th quarter, however, changed my tune. Dixon, while he continued to move the ball, threw a couple costly interceptions to kill drives. Meanwhile, Longshore continued to move the ball steadily downfield. Nothing spectacular, but no mistakes. He made the short and medium throws. He handed it off efficiently. He threw the ball away when he had to. He not only threw no interceptions, he didn’t throw a single ball that was in danger of being intercepted. One advantage of being 6′ 5" is that your passes are hardly ever tipped at the line of scrimmage. On this team full of offensive playmakers, Longshore just has to spread the ball around and avoid costly mistakes, and in the hostile environment that is Autzen Stadium, he did just that.
Stand tall in the pocket, young man.
Just for kicks, I looked up some statistics on Pac-10 quarterbacks on ESPN.com. Longshore isn’t among the conference leaders in most of the sexy QB statistics. 5th in QB rating. 7th in passing yards. 5th in completion percentage. Tied for 6th in TDs. Just based on these stats, he sure looks like nothing special.
However, he leads Pac-10 starting QBs in two important categories. First, he’s tied with Dennis Dixon with only 2 interceptions. OSU’s Sean Canfield has 13 on the year. 13! J.D. Booty has 8, while Willie Tuitama and Jake Locker have 7. Heck, UCLA’s McLeod Bethel-Thompson and OSU’s Lyle Moevao, neither of whom have more than 50 pass attempts on the year, each have 4 interceptions. Second, he leads the conference’s starting quarterbacks in sacks taken with only 3. ASU’s Rudy Carpenter has taken 22. T.C. Ostrander already has 15, while his replacement Tavita Pritchard, already has 4. Tuitama has been taken down 14 times, while Ben Olson, just as statuesque as Longshore, has taken 12. Even the elusive Dennis Dixon has taken 8 sacks on the year. Much of the credit for this has to go to the offensive line, but Longshore still has to release the ball quickly and know when to throw it away (and also, he has to not force the ball in a tight space and cause an interception). Oh yeah, and no fumbles on the year either.
Simply put, better than anyone else in the conference, Longshore minimizes mistakes and lets his playmakers make plays. I’ll bet there are quite a few other Pac-10 teams that wish they had a quarterback like that.