As the Big Game twisted toward its suspenseful ending, Cal running backs coach Ron Gould stood on the sideline and occasionally peered into the eyes of tailback Shane Vereen. Gould didn't see any hint of fatigue, so he kept sending Vereen onto the field. "I would turn and look at Shane and he would give me the nod," Gould said this week. "He ran with a tremendous amount of passion and purpose." He also ran a mind-numbing 42 times. In two games as Cal's starter, since teammate and good friend Jahvid Best went down with a concussion, Vereen has 72 carries for 352 yards and four touchdowns. Not coincidentally, the Bears beat Arizona and Stanford. Now, as they head to Seattle for Saturday's regular-season finale against Washington, it requires no exhaustive video study to identify the key figure in Cal's offense. He wears No. 34, bursts through holes with striking efficiency and, much like Best, is difficult to catch in the open field.
Here's telling statistical evidence: Vereen, not Best, might extend Cal's streak of having a running back gain 1,000 or more yards (seven years and counting). Vereen stands at 738 yards this season, so he needs to average 131 against Washington and Cal's not-yet-determined bowl opponent. That's realistic, especially if Best misses the bowl game. Best, with 867 yards, could reach the century mark if he returns for the bowl game and reclaims his starting job.