EUGENE, Ore. -- No, it didn't quite turn out to be an "instant classic" filled with offensive pyrotechnics from start to finish, as ESPN's Lee Corso predicted before No. 6 Cal and No. 11 Oregon collided Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

But for Cal, Saturday's 31-24 victory wound up being something even better, simply the best and most important road win in the Jeff Tedford era.

Before Saturday, the Bears had never defeated a team ranked this high on the road since Tedford became Cal's coach in 2002.

But the significance of this road win goes far beyond Oregon's national ranking.

Or Oregon's status as a 61/2-point favorite over a Cal team ranked five spots higher. Or the fact that Corso wore the Duck mascots' head and predicted an Oregon victory during ESPN's "Game Day" show that morning outside Autzen.

There was also this: Cal beat Oregon at Autzen for the first time in 20 years.

By snapping their 20-year drought at the most hostile Pac-10 stadium, the Bears showed that they just might have the toughness -- mental and physical -- to make a legitimate run at their lofty goals this year.

You know, a BCS bowl game. A Pac-10 title. Maybe even a national championship for a Bears team that survived what turned out to be "Upset Weekend" in college football.

"I know this is my biggest road win I've ever been through," Cal linebacker Worrell Williams said. "This is huge.


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"It means you know what you can take. You've been through a storm. This was definitely a storm. It started raining at times real hard. Know what I mean? Bend but not break. We never broke."

Williams' was speaking metaphorically about that storm. Only a few actual raindrops fell during a cloudy day at Autzen. The storm Cal survived had to do with the high-powered Ducks and their raucous fans.

"It's definitely a huge head of steam that we're going to take into the rest of Pac-10 play," Cal safety Thomas DeCoud said.

"Just a confidence builder. Knowing how to win when things aren't really going our way or when it's really close, is definitely something we'll take from this game."

In the past, most of those close games at Autzen went Oregon's way, some in bizarre fashion.

In 2004, a mid-game power outage at Autzen killed the lights and forced the Bears and Ducks to leave the field until the problem was fixed. Cal lost its momentum and the game, 21-17.

Two years ago at a rainy, frigid Autzen, Cal lost 27-20 in overtime.

On Saturday, it appeared as if Oregon was going to force another overtime. But defensive back Marcus Ezeff forced Ducks wide receiver Cameron Colvin to fumble at Cal's 1. The ball rolled into and out of the end zone for a touchback.

Game over. Same for Cal's losing streak at Autzen.

Tedford was Oregon's offensive coordinator for four years before coming to Cal. Before Saturday, he was 0-2 at Autzen. He understands what beating Oregon on the road means for his team.

"I think that's the most gratifying," Tedford said. "This place is so difficult. I spent a lot of years here and have seen a lot of teams come in here and not come away with wins here.

"It's a very difficult place to play with the noise. It's a great crowd here. So it's very, very nice and gratifying to win here."

The small but vocal contingent of Cal fans certainly understood the significance of the win. It had been two decades since Cal fans had been able to legitimately sing "Bear Territory" in Eugene.

After the game, wide receivers Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan climbed into the stands and began "conducting" Cal's band. Quarterback Nate Longshore limped over to the celebration on a sore right ankle -- yes, X-rays were negative.

This was a Cal victory worthy of a big celebration.

"It's nice to be a part of the team that got it done," Cal linebacker Anthony Felder said. "I was born in 1987."

That's the year then first-year coach Bruce Snyder coached Cal to a 20-6 road victory over Oregon.

"I was only two when the streak started," DeCoud said. "I had no idea until (Friday) night that we hadn't won here in 20 years. So it was definitely something we took to heart."

Now the Bears are working on a few of their own streaks, five straight wins this season, seven straight overall and one straight at Autzen.

Contact Eric Gilmore at egilmore@bayareanewsgroup.com.