Pac-10 Week 12 Notes and Observations: Cal Bears
Cal Bears 8-3 Overall (5-3 Conference)
This Week’s Score: Cal 34 – Stanford 28
Next Week’s Opponent: BYE
After disappointing showings against Oregon and USC earlier this season and than another big loss to Oregon State, it was looking like Cal’s once promising season was going to tailspin into a disastrous one.
Ironically enough, it took losing their emotional leader on and the off the field in Jahvid Best to wake this team up and finally get them playing at the level we all expected them to play at at the beginning of the year. The win over Arizona at Strawberry Canyon was impressive, but it paled in comparison to the huge win in the Big Game last Saturday in Stanford.
Not only were the Cardinal arguably the hottest team in football coming into the Big Game off of back-to-back huge wins over Oregon and USC, but they were also unbeaten at home on the season. Not only did Cal come in and beat them, but they beat them at their own game, playing a smash-mouth brand of football and controlling the physicality and the tempo of the game while winning the battles at the lines all afternoon.
While Kevin Riley had an effective day (17/31, 235 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and the defense deserves a ton of credit for flustering Andrew Luck into one of the most ineffective games of his young career, it is hard to place the game ball in any other hands than those of Shane Vereen.
What’s the best way to keep Stanford’s dynamic offense off of the scoreboard? It starts with keeping them off the field. Once again, the defense deserves it’s share of credit for the time of possession being tilted in Cal’s favor (39:06 to 20:54), but Shane Vereen was a man possessed behind his big men up front. Vereen carried the ball 42 times, racking up just under 200 yards (193) and three touchdowns.
Clearly inspired by his friend and teammate Jahvid Best, Vereen set new career bests in carries and yards (topping career bests he had just set last week against Arizona) and has made it very clear that when Jahvid Best moves on to the next level, Cal’s backfield will be just fine.
A win over Washington would leave Cal with a 9-3 season and in a multi-team tie for either second or third place in the Pac-10. While it may not be the dream season Bears fans were hoping for, knocking a hated rival out of the Top 25 and winning the Big Game still has to feel pretty good.