BERKELEY -- If this was a dress rehearsal for its Big Game assignment, the Cal offensive line got it right in the Bears' 31-17 victory at Washington State.
Now Cal's big men get the chance to repeat it on the big stage of the 115th meeting with Stanford at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
"It's nice to go in there on a two-game win streak," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.
The team's most maligned unit much of the season, Cal's offensive line delivered its best performance of the season Saturday night, paving the way for a season-high 318 rushing yards and allowing zero sacks.
"I thought the offensive line really played well," Tedford said after the Bears (3-4, 2-2 Pac-12) won their second straight game and moved within a victory of .500 for the season.
No sacks allowed for a team that had surrendered an NCAA-worst 29 through six games? "That's always nice," Tedford said.
No doubt, No. 22 Stanford (4-2, 2-1) will provide a greater challenge than the Cougars (2-5, 0-4).
The Cardinal ranks seventh nationally defending the run, allowing just 89.5 yards per game, and has sacked opposing quarterbacks 19 times. Stanford held USC to 26 rushing yards in its 21-14 win last month.
For the second straight week, the key to Cal's offensive efficiency was its ability to stay out of third-and-long situations. The Bears faced 11 plays of third-and-7 or longer in their 27-17 loss to Arizona State two weeks ago, an unacceptable number,
In wins over UCLA and WSU, however, the Bears left themselves needing 7 yards or more just four times among their 23 third-down opportunities. They converted 12 of those 23 third downs.
Smart play-calling and generally more solid play from quarterback Zach Maynard contributed to the improvement. So did the evolving offensive line, which has helped Cal rush for 504 yards the past two weeks.
Against the Cougars, the line's push allowed Bears to run the ball on 27 of their 35 first-down plays (not counting a kneel-down to end the game). Nineteen of those 27 plays netted at least 4 yards.
And they spread it around, with four players rushing for at least 59 yards. C.J. Anderson had his second straight 100-yard effort (112) and leads the Bears with 498 yards. Isi Sofele picked up 63 and Brendan Bigelow had 59.
Those three have combined to rush for 1,182 yards on the season, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
The new twist was that Maynard carried the ball 10 times for a career-high 78 yards, giving defenses one more thing to worry about.
"Him running the ball is definitely going to help us out, especially when it's third down and he can pick up a first down and not have to throw the ball," wide receiver Keenan Allen said.
While WSU attempted 63 passes, the Bears had four sacks, two interceptions and six pass breakups. Cornerback Steve Williams had one pick and four breakups.
Cal was hit three times for pass interference, twice for roughing the passer and once for a personal foul. The Bears are tied for fourth-worst nationally at 80.7 penalty yards per game.
Stanford (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) at Cal, (3-4, 2-2), noon. FOX