PULLMAN, Wash. -- There are some critics of Cal's road woes this season who insist the Bears don't play with enough emotion.
Nothing like the prospect of an embarrassing loss to solve that problem.
Cal, on the verge of becoming the first Pac-10 team to lose to Washington State in almost two years, became a demonstrative bunch in the fourth quarter Saturday. The Bears had to fight with desperation to finally hold off the Cougars 20-13 in front of 17,648 at Martin Stadium.
It was the Bears' first road win of the season in their final attempt and moved them to within one game of bowl eligibility.
"In the fourth quarter, we knew we were in a real fight," said Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan, who had one of the best games of his career with 12 tackles, 11/2 sacks and a forced fumble.
"Washington State came out there fighting. You could just feel it. They were fighting with everything they had. We had to have the same mentality. In the fourth quarter, it was a new mentality. We had to look each other in the eye and say, 'I'm there for you, you're there for me. Let's get this thing done.' "
Much of the reason the Bears (5-4, 3-3 Pac-10) were able to get it done was because of one play by wide receiver Jeremy Ross, with an assist from a few teammates.
Leading 14-13 midway through the fourth quarter, Cal faced a third-and-20 from its 44-yard line. Ross caught an inside screen from quarterback Brock Mansion but was hit about 8 yards shy of the first down. Ross kept his feet moving, a pile of both Cal and Washington State players ensued, and he was able to muscle his way for a 21-yard gain and a first down.
The Bears ended up scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by Shane Vereen to take a 20-13 lead with 5:29 remaining.
"I probably looked at the sidelines three or four times to see what we were doing (next)," said Mansion, who was 12 for 24 for 171 yards and two interceptions in his first career start. "I kept looking back and the pile just kept going and going and going. It was huge. We needed that."
The Cougars (1-9, 0-7) entered the game allowing 487.7 yards per game, last in the nation. Cal amassed just 383 yards, missing out on some opportunities early for big plays with dropped passes. Mansion, filling in for Kevin Riley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week, made perfect passes for potential big strikes to wide receiver Marvin Jones and tight end Anthony Miller, but each was dropped.
"The first long ball he threw should have been a touchdown," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "The next ball he threw was right on the money to Anthony Miller. That should have been a touchdown. He came into this game with a clear conscience and a lot of confidence. I thought he handled himself very well for the first time."
Cal used a new-look defensive front that included three defensive ends -- Jordan, Ernest Owusu and Trevor Guyton. The Bears used five -- sometimes six -- defensive backs against the Cougars' pass-happy attack.
Guyton, who lost a competition for a starting job to Owusu in training camp and then missed time with an ankle injury, had the game of his career. He had 21/2 sacks, seven tackles and hounded Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel all day. Tuel, despite showing impressive escapability at times, was sacked six times.
"Our D-line, we're brothers," Guyton said. "We're a family. At the same time, you want to compete and you want to start and all that, but at the end of the day the best guy is going to get the job. All you have to do is keep working and you'll get your opportunity."
The Bears seemed to go into "fight-for-your-life" mode after Andrew Furney's 48-yard field goal cut Cal's lead to 14-13 late in the third quarter. After Cal's Chris Conte was tackled on the ensuing kickoff, the teams engaged in extensive pushing and shoving. The Bears were called for two personal fouls.
The quarter ended moments later, and Tedford gathered the entire team together as a rallying cry for the final 15 minutes.
"I felt like it was really important to pull them all together and look each other in the eyes and make sure we did what it took to win the football game," Tedford said. "That was the bottom line."
Thanks to Ross' heroics and Cal's defense, the Bears held on. They forced the Cougars into three-and-outs on their final three possessions. Cal took over its final drive at its own 20 with 2:09 remaining and was able to run out the clock.
"We didn't want to lose, period," Ross said. "We knew all we had was each other. We just kept leaning on each other to make it happen."
Oregon (6-0) at Cal (5-4), 4:30 p.m. VERSUS