As Kevin Riley lay on the Reser Stadium turf, clutching his left leg in extreme pain, only one thought crossed his mind.
"I was thinking this is my last play of football," Riley said.
Who knows what the future holds for Riley, but he was right that he will never play college football again. Riley suffered an assortment of injuries to his left knee and leg Saturday at Oregon State, the most severe being a 60 percent tear of the gastrocnemius muscle in his calf.
The good news is that doctors told Riley it could have been much worse. There weren't any major tears of the ligaments in his knee. He was told he suffered sprains in his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and lateral collateral ligament as well as a severely hyperextended knee.
He said it was the muscle tear in his calf that was the most problematic. Riley won't require surgery and should take about three months to recover. With only four games left, possibly five with a bowl game, Riley, a fifth-year senior, has no chance of returning by the end of the season.
"The doctors said I was super lucky," Riley said Tuesday. "Looking at the hit, they thought my whole knee was gone. It could be way worse than it is. They kept on telling me how lucky I am."
Of course, Riley didn't feel very lucky when Oregon State defensive tackle Brennan Olander hit him low and he landed awkwardly during Cal's second possession of the game. Riley said he knew immediately
"Coming off the field I was like, 'Let me walk. I'm fine. I can go back in the game,' " Riley said. "I put a little bit of pressure on it and I was like, 'No way.' Obviously, I couldn't stand up. Any time I put my leg straight, it just crumbled."
Riley left the field in tears, partly because he was in so much pain and partly because he knew his college career probably was over. On the sideline, Cal coach Jeff Tedford shared an emotional moment with his distraught quarterback.
"When I came off the field, I knew I was probably done. That's why I got pretty emotional," Riley said. "I think he knew when he saw me that I knew that I was done. I felt it was kind of like a thank you, but at the time I was hoping to get back into the game."
Riley grew up in Portland, Ore., about a 90-minute drive from Oregon State. His family and friends attended the game, and he spent the night at home before returning to Berkeley on Sunday.
"I didn't want to be away from my family that night," Riley said. "We just drove home, watched the end of a football game like it was any other night. My family and good friends were there. They were very supportive, which definitely helped because that first night would have been very tough if I was by myself."
Riley said he is trying to remain positive but admits there is a feeling of unfinished business. He was hoping to end his up-and-down career on a high note. Now, he says he will become a pseudo-quarterbacks coach, helping new starter Brock Mansion wherever he can while also remaining one of the team leaders.
"I'm just here to help the team now," Riley said. "I've done a good job overall. Obviously, there are things I am not happy about. I wish I had a couple more games to play. Obviously, I'm going to miss it. There's nothing I can do now. It's not an easy time, but I don't regret anything."