Syd'Quan Thompson returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown and California also scored on a blocked punt and interception return in a 48-second span of the first quarter to beat Colorado State 42-7 Saturday.
The victory by the Golden Bears (3-1) salvaged a little bit of respect for the Pac-10 against the Mountain West. The tradition-rich Pac-10 had lost the first five meetings this season against the non-BCS Mountain West, taking a big hit in its perception nationally.
It also helped Cal get back on track after losing its previous game 35-27 at Maryland to fall out of the Top 25. A week off and the big plays on special teams and defense made sure the Bears ended their nonconference season with a win.
Cal actually might have been better off if it had never had the ball on offense. Star running back Jahvid Best left the game with a dislocated left elbow early in the third quarter with his team up 28-0. Coach Jeff Tedford said X-rays showed no broken bones but Best would need to undergo an MRI on Sunday before the team knew the extent of the injury. Best, who entered the game leading the Pac-10 in rushing, finished with 85 yards on 11 carries.
Kevin Riley went 6-for-13 for 59 yards and a touchdown before being replaced in the third quarter by Nate Longshore. Riley completed only three passes to wide receivers, although Sean Young did drop a potential long touchdown pass late in the first half.
The big plays in this game for Cal came on defense and special teams. The Bears lost two early fumbles by Best and Shane Verren, but capitalized on the other facets of the game to dominate the Rams (2-2).
Midway through the first quarter, Anthony Hartz went back to punt and Mychal Kendricks bowled into blocker Jeff Horineck to block the kick. Bryant Nnabuife scooped it up and went 30 yards for the score that made it 7-0 with 4:45 left in the first quarter.
Two plays later, Worrell Williams hit Billy Farris as he was throwing the ball. Brett Johnson intercepted the wobbly pass and ran it back 43 yards for another score.
The Bears offense finally got into the act late in the half when Riley hit Nyan Boateng on an 11-yard score with 1:11 to play following a questionable pass interference call on Nick Oppenneer.
After Colorado State was stopped on the opening possession of the second half, Thompson fielded the punt on a bounce at the 27. He spun out of a tackle attempt by John Clark and ran up the sideline before cutting it back to the middle and coasting in for the 73-yard score that made it 28-0.
Cal intercepted two more passes in the second half, including one by defensive lineman Cameron Jordan on a halfback option pass by Kyle Bell.
Farris went 12-for-25 for 96 yards and two interceptions. Klay Kubiak, the son of Houston Texans coach and former NFL quarterback Gary Kubiak, came in late and completed his first collegiate pass for 63 yards to Rashaun Greer and led the Rams to their only score.
John Mosure's 1-yard run with 5:14 to play helped Colorado State avoid its first shutout in two years.
Longshore threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter for Cal.