PULLMAN, Wash. -- Cal, heading into into the earliest-scheduled Big Game in history, gained some momentum Saturday night with a 31-17 victory over Washington State.
It was the second straight win for the Bears (3-4, 2-2 Pac-12) and their eighth in a row over Washington State (2-5, 0-4).
Two weeks ago, the Bears were 1-4 and reeling. Now they have growing confidence going into the 115th Big Game against Stanford on Saturday at Berkeley.
"It's nice to come on the road and get a win," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "It's nice to play the Big Game next week with a two-game win streak."
"We pushed through adversity," said cornerback Steve Williams, who had an interception and four pass breakups. "We knew we would eventually . . . it came and now we're just trying to keep the thing rolling. If we do that, this is the (North) division and we can win it."
The Bears turned the ball over twice in the first quarter, then overpowered WSU with a running game that produced a season-high 318 yards.
Four different Cal ball carriers topped 50 yards, led by senior C.J. Anderson, who shook off a hit to his left knee and cramps to finish with 112 yards on 15 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
"The line played very well," Anderson said. "As running backs, we were more disciplined and more detailed, setting up blocks for the line so we could spring the runs we had."
Quarterback Zach Maynard, sacked 29 times in Cal's first six games, suffered no sacks and contributed a career-high 78 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also passed for 189 yards and a score.
"Him running the ball is definitely going to help us out, especially when it's third down and he can pick up a first down and not have to throw the ball," wide receiver Keenan Allen said. "That just creates momentum for our offense."
WSU, under first-year coach Mike Leach, countered with an aerial attack that included 63 pass attempts, stopping the clock enough times for the game to exceed 31/2 hours.
"It makes the game long," Williams said, "and you get really tired because there's a lot of pass plays you've got to cover down field. Sprint after sprint after sprint."
The Bears scored one touchdown in each of the first three quarters to take a 21-3 lead. Maynard's 2-yard keeper capped a 71-yard drive to open the third quarter, but WSU responded with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was fueled by two pass interference penalties. Jeff Tuel passed 8 yards to freshman Brett Bartolone for the touchdown that made it 21-10 with 6:42 left in the third quarter.
Cal pushed its lead to 24-10 when Vincenzo D'Amato converted a career-long 52-yard field goal with 2:02 left in the third quarter. It was the sixth straight field goal conversion for the junior kicker.
The Bears went ahead 31 10 when Anderson, back in action, dashed 29 yards untouched with 10:27 left in the game.
The Cougars had one last gasp, driving 75 yards in nine plays to score on Tuel's 6-yard TD pass to Bartolone with 7:09 left, their second scoring connection.
Cal scored first in a game for the first time this season when Allen turned a 5-yard slant pass from Maynard into a 69-yard touchdown play with 5:55 left in the first quarter.
WSU sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday was picked off twice in the first quarter, giving him five interceptions over two games and earning him a spot on the bench. Tuel took over with 5:55 left in the quarter and finished 39 for 53 for 320 yards.
Maynard also was intercepted twice, both on balls that were tipped, the second coming after the Bears had driven to the WSU 10.That set up a 16-play, 86-yard drive by the Cougars that ended with a 20-yard field goal by Andrew Furney.
"It was nice to bounce back from that," said Tedford, who was pleased with Maynard's decision-making, including his willingness to create yards with scrambles.
"That's his job," Tedford said. "His job is when things aren't there or he doesn't see them clearly, to protect the ball and pull it down and do what he can do."
n Allen had 11 catches for 166 yards, moving past Dameane Douglas to No. 2 on Cal's career list with 196 receptions. "This is how I felt last year -- just flowing, clicking," Allen said.
n Cal safety Avery Sebastian knocked two WSU offensive players out of the game in the first half. He delivered a hard blow to running back Teondray Caldwell at the sideline late in the first quarter. Early in the second quarter, Sebastian was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on WSU star receiver Marquess Wilson. Neither WSU player returned.
n Freshman Cole Leininger had a career-long 61-yard punt for the Bears in the first quarter.
n Sophomore cornerback Kameron Jackson made his first career start for the Bears in place of senior Marc Anthony (knee). Jackson is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after intercepting three passes in last week's 43-17 win over UCLA.