For a team that's scrambling to be invited to a lower-tier bowl, Cal received some lofty praise Saturday following a 30-7 thrashing of Washington State.

"They are the best-looking football team that I have seen in this conference -- period," Cougars coach Paul Wulff said. "They probably have the best talent top to bottom."

That's jaw-dropping stuff considering Washington State has also played top-10 teams Stanford and Oregon in recent weeks, and it makes one wonder if Wulff actually saw the film from Cal's 31-14 loss to UCLA a week earlier.

But the Bears did look like a different team Saturday. They dominated both sides of the ball and commanded a 23-0 halftime lead that ended any suspense for the final two quarters.

In a steady rain that began shortly after the opening kickoff at AT&T Park, the Bears leaned heavily on their ground game and chewed up 288 rushing yards, including a career-high 138 from junior tailback Isi Sofele.

Defensively, the Bears (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) gave up just 224 total yards and held the Pac-12's second-ranked passing attack to just 155 yards.

All enthusiasm must be tempered considering the Cougars (3-6, 1-5) have won just two road games under Wulff since 2008. Washington State short-circuited on two field goal attempts -- including a snap that went right through the hands of holder Dan Wagner -- and quarterback Marshall Lobbestael clearly had an off-game in the harsh elements.


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But after losing four of their previous five, the Bears were in need of a pick-me-up performance and they got it.

A victory at home next week against Oregon State would be the sixth victory Cal needs to become bowl-eligible.

"Everybody did what they had to do individually to step it up, and that wins games," defensive end Trevor Guyton said.

The Bears lost two linebackers to injuries during the game -- starter Chris McCain was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with an undisclosed head injury suffered in the third quarter (he was released Saturday night), and David Wilkerson exited in the first quarter with a knee injury of unknown severity.

But freshman linebacker Cecil Whiteside came in and registered a sack and two tackles for loss, and the Bears held the Cougars to 55 first-half yards in taking control.

Quarterback Zach Maynard benefited from a thriving running game but wasn't needed to do much. He went 10 for 17 for 118 yards and no interceptions.

He left the game in the third quarter after taking a shot to the head but the injury isn't considered serious.

The running game took center stage Saturday behind a banged-up offensive line that was missing left guard Brian Schwenke due to illness.

"I thought our offensive line played great," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "When you can run the football effectively like we did, the game is very different."

Cal marched 66 yards on its opening possession and Maynard rolled left and hit tight end Anthony Miller with an 19-yard touchdown. A 27-yard completion to Keenan Allen -- who became the sixth Cal receiver to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a season -- set up Sofele's 1-yard score with 1:31 to play in the first quarter.

A blocked PAT kept it 13-0.

The Bears' third touchdown came in the second quarter with a drive that mixed the run and pass nicely, with C.J. Anderson finishing things with a 5-yard touchdown run.

The rout was on from there.