Lead at halftime doesn't last
PULLMAN (AP) - It turns out California didn't need the help of quarterback Kevin Riley to snap a six-game road losing streak.
Handing the ball to tailback Shane Vereen proved effective enough. So did the Bears' defense.
Vereen ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns, and California snapped a streak that dated to last season by taking a 20-13 win over Washington State on Saturday.
"It's going to be a nice plane ride home," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It's been a thing, obviously, that a lot of people have been talking about, and this is our last road game so it was nice to get a victory today."
Last week's 35-7 setback against Oregon State proved the most costly loss yet, as Riley went down with a season-ending knee injury.
Junior Brock Mansion started in his place against the Cougars (1-9, 0-7), completing 12 of 24 passes for 174 yards while throwing two interceptions against a defense that ranked at or near the bottom of the conference in nearly every defensive statistic.
"I think there is a lot of growth between the first and second game," said Mansion, who will lead his team against No. 1 Oregon next week. "I am really excited to see how much I can improve from here until next week."
Mansion's lackluster numbers didn't matter against the Cougars, who have now lost 16 consecutive Pac-10 games and haven't beaten an FBS team since September 2009.
WSU quarterback Jeff Tuel played his worst game of the season. He completed just 9 of 25 passes for 92 yards, a product of a relentless Bears pass rush that battered Tuel for six sacks.
"We put a lot of pressure on the passer at times," Tedford said. "Unfortunately, he got out of it a lot of times. That guy is a very good player. I said it throughout the week. He cannot only beat you with his arm, but he can beat you with this legs and he is a great competitor."
Cal held WSU to just 60 yards of total offense in the second half and 194 for the game.
"I can't really pinpoint one thing," Tuel said of the Cougars' poor passing. "Just execution and things here and there."
WSU coach Paul Wulff was more blunt.
"Our protection today was not great," he said. "Jeff was being pressured tremendously."
Washington State managed a 10-7 lead at halftime thanks to a 51-yard field goal by Andrew Furney, the Cougars' first halftime lead in a Pac-10 game since 2007.
Cal responded early in the third, though, as Jeremy Ross took a fly sweep 27 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give the Bears the lead for good.
The score followed a 27-yard pass from Mansion to receiver Marvin Jones, who used a one-handed catch to steal an interception from WSU safety Deone Bucannon.
Another Furney field goal cut the Cal lead to 14-13 late in the third, but the Bears extended the lead to seven with a 10-play, 65-yard scoring drive capped by Vereen's 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Bears a 20-13 lead - the PAT was blocked - with 5:29 to play.
The Cougars had two chances to drive down the field and tie the game after Cal's final touchdown, but both series resulted in three-and-outs and the Bears were able to run out the clock.
Those last-ditch attempts by the Cougars were typical of their offensive performance all day. They simply never figured out Cal's defensive front. Defensive tackle Trevor Guyton did the most damage in the backfield, recording 2.5 sacks.
"A lot of things went right for me today," said Guyton, a native of Woodinville, Wash. "Plus, it was my homecoming, so I had to show up big."
Along with Vereen and Cal's entire defense, he did.