Vereen pass from Wildcat almost costs Bears win
TEMPE, Ariz. — Cal tailback Jahvid Best insists that teammate Shane Vereen is the better passer of the two. Based on the near-devastating pass Vereen threw near the end of Cal's 23-21 win over Arizona State on Saturday, it's easy to see why Best has never been asked to throw in a game.
Vereen wobbled a pass into the end zone on second-and-goal from the ASU 5 with under a minute left that was nearly intercepted by linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Two plays later Giorgio Tavecchio hit a game-winning 24-yard field goal with 21 seconds left.
Vereen's pass came out of the Wildcat formation, a scheme the Bears have incorporated into their offense regularly this season. But Saturday marked the first time a running back attempted a pass.
Tight end Anthony Miller was open momentarily, but Vereen's pass wobbled through the air too long and Burfict almost made a play on it.
"It was a funky look," Best said. "He probably should have just kept it. Thank God nobody caught it."
Cal quarterback Kevin Riley said he might have made Vereen tentative because he implored him before the play to make sure he doesn't make a mistake. Still, Cal coach Jeff Tedford thought the Bears had a touchdown.
"In the beginning, I thought it was a touchdown," Tedford said. "Then when I saw it come wobbling out of there, people started closing in on it and I started holding my breath a little bit. Initially, it was wide open and it looked like it slipped out of his hands or something."
Thompson picked off ASU quarterback Danny Sullivan and returned it 38 yards late in the first half, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Tavecchio.
"It felt good," Thompson said. "I've been hearing it from all my DBs."
Three linebackers have picks, including two by Mike Mohamed.
"It was unlike us today," Tedford said. "It was uncharacteristic of us to have that many penalties. It put us in a lot of long-yardage situations."
Arizona State was penalized 11 times for 123 yards.
— Jonathan Okanes