Cal players Nyan Boateng and Derrick Hill lurked on the sideline, trying to hide from coach Jeff Tedford. Finally, as the last sweltering seconds ticked away Saturday at the Rose Bowl, they hopped into action and dumped a large tub of ice water on Tedford. It was an uncommonly demonstrative way to celebrate a mid-October victory against an opponent languishing near the bottom of the Pac-10 standings. Then again, Cal's 45-26 win over UCLA counted as uncommonly significant for Tedford and the Bears.
They won in the Los Angeles area for the first time in Tedford's eight years at Cal. They scored a touchdown - six, actually - for the first time in nearly a month. They rediscovered their passing game. They weathered 100-degree heat, injuries to key players and a pesky Bruins team. "It was a pivotal moment for us, in our season," running back Jahvid Best said afterward. "This was a huge game, win or lose." That seemed clear the past two weeks, as Cal tried to escape the stigma of blowout losses to Oregon and USC. Those defeats, by a cumulative score of 72-6, turned the Bears from national contenders to a team trying to salvage its season, scrambling to prevent an all-too-familiar collapse.