YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Cal Sets the Gold Standard

Looking sporty in their new jerseys, the No. 16 Bears also look like the Pac-10's best team right now in a 45-24 rout of 11th-ranked Oregon.

October 08, 2006|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

BERKELEY — Is it sacrilege to even suggest it?

USC has won 26 consecutive conference games, but California, right now, could be the best team in the Pacific 10.

While USC battles injuries to front-line stars and has needed consecutive last-minute stands to fend off Washington State and Washington, Cal has only been improving its standing.

Out to show that its season-opening loss at Tennessee was a hayride hiccup, No. 16 Cal on Saturday capped its fifth straight dominating performance with a 45-24 win over No. 11 Oregon in front of a sellout crowd at raucous Memorial Stadium.

Since going paws-up in Knoxville on Sept. 2, in a performance that sullied a preseason No. 9 ranking, the Bears have won games by the scores of 42-17, 42-16, 49-21, 41-13 and 45-24.

So is it time to fast-forward to Nov. 18, when Cal, the last Pac-10 team to beat USC, arrives in the Coliseum for the showdown of all showdowns?

"Our team won't even think about it," Cal Coach Jeff Tedford said. "That's a long way away. There's a lot of great teams in this conference."

Cal appears to be one of them.

Saturday's was a complete-game performance.

Quarterback Nate Longshore threw for three touchdowns and 189 yards.

Cal lost tailback Marshawn Lynch to an ankle sprain and simply replaced him with super-sub Justin Forsett, who rushed for 167 yards.

The Bears' defense, humiliated against Tennessee, forced four turnovers, set up the game's first touchdown and held the conference's top-scoring team 16 points below its average.

Tedford described the defense as "nails."

Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti, whose team fell hard to 4-1, was hammered.

"What we take away from this is that you can't make mistakes and turn the ball over and expect to win on the road," he said.

Cal's defense got the Pac party started when, on the game's first offensive play, defensive back Brandon Hampton intercepted Dennis Dixon's ill-advised pass and positioned Cal at the Oregon seven-yard line.

That led to a one-yard scoring pass from Longshore to Craig Stevens, and then a whole lot of Cal points after that.

Longshore hit DeSean Jackson on a 36-yard scoring pass to make it 14-3, followed by Longshore's one-yard scoring run for a 21-3 lead. The Duck-breaker, though, came 4:40 before halftime when Jackson fielded a punt and did his best Reggie Bush impression on a 65-yard return for a touchdown.

Longshore, a sophomore who missed almost all of his freshman year to injury, looked lost against Tennessee, completing only 11 of 20 passes for 85 yards with an interception.

He has since recovered to lead the Pac-10 in passing efficiency.

Oregon vs. Cal was the conference's marquee game, a matchup of schools that dominated the Pac-10's firepower statistics.

Oregon led the conference in scoring at 40.2, with Cal right behind at 38.4.

So which team, really, is the Pac-10's best?

USC is king until proven otherwise, but there may be new royalty in the castle. Cal even stole the uniform fashion show from Oregon -- which claims 384 different combinations -- by breaking out golden jerseys.

"I think we'll keep them for a while," Tedford said.

USC has not lost a conference game since Cal beat the Trojans three years ago in Strawberry Canyon.

Next month, when the teams meet, the Pac-10 title could be at stake along with Cal's first Rose Bowl appearance since 1959.

The Tennessee loss knocked Cal off its block, but not all the way off.

"If we just do our jobs, how can we not play for things?" Tedford asked.

Saturday was a first step back at regaining the national prestige that was lost in Knoxville.

"Now we've got that swagger back that I haven't seen before," Forsett said.

Call Saturday a public relations do-over. The game, televised by ABC in prime time, was seen by 62% of the country.

"It was our first chance to get back in front of a national audience," Tedford said. "I thought our kids performed very well."





*--* Conf. Overall TEAM W L W L PF PA USC 3 0 5 0 152 69 California 3 0 5 1 237 126 UCLA 2 1 4 1 134 62 Oregon 2 1 4 1 185 125 Washington St. 2 1 4 2 168 109 Washington 2 1 4 2 146 141 Arizona State 0 2 3 2 142 135 Oregon State 0 2 2 3 127 113 Arizona 0 3 2 4 67 136 Stanford 0 3 0 6 73 223


*--* Saturday's Results Next Saturday at UCLA 27, Arizona 7 UCLA at Oregon at USC 26, Washington 20 Arizona St. at USC at California 45, Oregon 24 Arizona at Stanford at Notre Dame 31, Stanford 10 California at Wash. St. Wash. St. 13, at Oregon St. 6 Oregon St. at Wash.


Los Angeles Times Articles