BERKELEY -- Cal senior Zach Maynard remains the nation's most-sacked quarterback, but last week he got rid of the ball just quickly enough to play his best game of the season.
"He took some shots," coach Jeff Tedford said, estimating that Maynard was hit eight to 10 times after throwing in Cal's 43-17 win over UCLA. "That was a real focus we had put on what he needs to do -- not flushing out of the pocket, not making poor decisions.
"When he had to eat the ball, he did. But he did a great job of hanging in there. That's a quarterback's job."
The hits are sure to keep on coming Saturday night at Washington State, which has two more sacks this season (19) than all of 2011. Maynard has been sacked 25 times through six games.
But senior running back C.J. Anderson said Maynard has demonstrated what he can do if he gets the help he needs.
"It was good to see Zach finally dialed in and seeing the things he needs to see," Anderson said. "Part of that is us protecting him. He never even got a chance to get the ball off the last couple weeks. We gave him some time, and it just showed the Zach Maynard we knew he always was."
It's little wonder that Maynard, sacked 13 times in back-to-back losses to USC and Arizona State, had his two poorest games of the season.
Against the Bruins, sacked just three times, he was 25 of 30 for 295 yards with one interception and four touchdowns.
There was a price to pay.
"He's a little banged up," said wide receiver Keenan Allen, Maynard's half-brother. "He was getting the ball out quick, and they were getting in there quick."
Even so, Maynard understands what the Bears need from him.
"I have to be more consistent," he said. "Being the quarterback, I have to get better each week, game after game."
At his best, Maynard is an elusive gunslinger, flinging midrange passes around the field or dashing away from pressure. That was the quarterback fans watched against UCLA.
"He threw the strikes, he was really sharp, he was accurate, he managed the pocket well, ran for first downs when he needed to," Tedford said.
But even Allen, probably his biggest fan, conceded it's not always that way.
"He's had his ups and downs."
Just a week earlier, for instance, Maynard was 9 of 28 against ASU.
"Consistency is the key for Zach, we understand that," Tedford said. "It has to do with everybody around him as well, not just him."
The Bears' offensive line has been a work in progress all season. Partly as a result, Cal often has faced daunting third-and-long situations.
Tight end Richard Rodgers, mostly healthy after being slowed by a foot injury, hopes to help his quarterback by providing one more potential target.
"I knew if I got the ball in open space I could make plays," said Rodgers, who produced career numbers vs. UCLA with seven catches for 129 yards. "Zach needed to find that out himself."
Maynard said all the parts came together last week, including the protection he got, a productive running game and receivers who were open.
"We prepared well in practice all week, and it came naturally to me," he said. "Once I got in a groove, I stayed in the pocket and tried to deliver the balls to my receivers."
Now, he just has to do it again.