Given the challenge lurking ahead - a Stanford offense tossing out 50-plus points every time it takes the field - Cal's defense chose an ideal time to play one of its best games of the season Saturday. The Bears scratched out a 24-16 victory over Arizona, mostly because their defense stymied the top-rated offense in the Pac-10. Cal twice stuffed late Wildcats drives to preserve the win before a boisterous crowd of 53,347 at Memorial Stadium.
Shane Vereen, starting in place of injured Jahvid Best, gained 159 yards on 30 carries to spark the offense. Vereen doggedly chipped away throughout the game, then busted loose for a 61-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left to stretch Cal's lead to eight points. That seemed to cement the outcome, but the Bears missed the extra point to give Arizona another chance. The Wildcats moved the ball near midfield before faltering, in part because of Cal's invigorated pass rush. Arizona, now 6-3 overall and 4-2 in Pac-10 play, arrived with Rose Bowl hopes and an average of 448.6 yards per game on offense. They managed only 274 on Saturday, as Cal's defense - overwhelmed last week against Oregon State - rose to the occasion, especially in the secondary. "The defense just played unbelievably," coach Jeff Tedford said.