Twenty-nine carries into the heaviest lifting he's ever known as a collegian, Shane Vereen was as pristine as a blade of rubberized turf. That's his version of the truth, and he's sticking to it. "It was different than normal," was as far from the script as Vereen would venture Saturday night, after helping Cal to a grinding 24-16 victory over Arizona. "But mentally and physically I was prepared. Coach G (Ron Gould, Cal's running backs coach) did a good job during the week getting me ready."
The special preparation was in order because Cal came into Saturday's game without its best offensive chess piece, tailback Jahvid Best. Still recovering from the heart-stopping fall he took in the Bears' previous game, Best's role against Arizona was strictly inspirational. He observed the pregame coin flip. He walked the home sideline, wearing his familiar No. 4.