It's the kind of must-win game Cal never wanted any part of, and one the Bears aren't very familiar with.
But that's what Cal is faced with when it hosts Washington on Saturday in its regular-season finale. The Bears need a victory to become bowl-eligible and avoid Jeff Tedford's first sub-.500 regular season in his nine years as coach. Lose and the season abruptly ends.
"This is what this week's about," Tedford said. "All the lifting, running and everything we've done since last January comes down to this week."
The Bears have faced some crucial games in the past. In 2004 and 2006, Cal was in the Pac-10 race late in the season and was involved in some pivotal contests. But under Tedford, bowl-eligibility usually is an afterthought.
Not this year. Cal is 5-6 (3-5 Pac-10), needing one more victory to get to the six wins needed to qualify for the postseason.
With that in mind, Tedford has to make sure his players balance the motivation to play in a bowl with the pressure of a must-win scenario.
"It all comes down to how you prepare and how you practice," Tedford said. "If you prepare well and you practice well, then there's nothing to be nervous about. You go out and you play, and you play your best."
There could be a dearth of bowl-eligible Pac-10 teams this season, meaning the Bears could not only qualify for a bowl game but a pretty high-profile one. If Oregon winds up in the BCS championship game and a team from a non-automatic qualifying conference doesn't go to the Rose Bowl, the Bears could wind up in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
"We have one Monday, one Tuesday, one Wednesday, one Thursday and one Friday for one opportunity," Tedford said. "That's what it's about."
Ross suffered the injury on a pass interference call against Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris. Ross said Harris hit him too early, putting his hand out of position. The ball hit his finger "dead on."
Ross played the rest of the game, but said when he took his gloves off afterward, he knew it was serious because his finger was "turned."
The injury forced Ross, a senior, to miss his final Big Game last week.
"I definitely was hurting out there on the sidelines, being my last Big Game," Ross said. "It definitely was hard for me to watch the game. I definitely wanted to be a part of it. It was eating me up inside, just not being able to do anything."