Vereen Carries the Load in Victory

The California Golden Bears defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils 24-14 in an important Pac-10 contest that kept Cal atop the conference. Entering the game, Shane Vereen had only 35 carries through four games. Without leading rusher Jahvid Best, Vereen stepped up and rushed for 93 yards on 27 carries...

Going in to this game, the Sun Devils believed they could shut down the Bears running game, minus Jahvid Beat. Best leads the Bears with 421 yards, 4 touchdowns and 7.1 YPC was out with an injury. With Best on the sideline, California had to rely on their back-up Shane Vereen who entered this game with only 35 carries. What was most impressive about Shane's performance was that he was able to carry the load by himself. He had become accustom to splitting carries in the previous four games of the season. With Cal's passing game not clicking on all cylinders coming into this game, Vereen was put into a position where he had to produce for Cal to be successful and he did.

The Bears have had its share of versatile backs that could do more than just run the football over the past few seasons such as Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett. Vereen quickly proved that he possesses the skill set to run the ball and catch passes out of the backfield. Vereen finished the first quarter with eight carries for 30 yards and he caught four passes for 49 yards. He was clearly a big part of the Bears' game plan. ASU had trouble trying to contain him. In the first quarter alone, the Sun Devil defense was forced to key on Vereen, because he was either going to catch a pass or run the ball. Once Arizona State made an effort to shut down Vereen, it opened up opportunities for other players to make plays. As a result, LaReylle Cunningham finished the first quarter with two catches for 26 yards and one touchdown.

One play summed up Vereen's impact on the Arizona State defense. Cal quarterback Nate Longshore faked a handoff to Vereen and he ran up the middle, faked a cut to the left, and caused a Sun Devil linebacker to commit in that direction. Vereen quickly went to his right for a wide-open catch and turned up field for a 14-yard reception. At halftime, Cal had a 17-7 lead over Arizona State and Vereen had amassed 60 yards on 15 carries. His ability to get positive yardage contributed to the Bears' 18:15 to 11:45 time of possession lead.

In the first four games of the season, Vereen has been a great change of pace back that allowed Best to get a breather. His performance on Saturday should convince head coach Jeff Tedford he can be counted on for at least 20-25 carries when the Bears face Arizona October 18. Vereen finished the game with 27 carries for 93 rushing yards and added 5 receptions for 51 yards. He will be able to continue Cal's dominance on the ground until Best is 100%. With Cal now 2-0 in the Pac-10, Vereen's increase in touches over the next few weeks in practice will only make Cal's running game more lethal once Best returns to the lineup.


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