Cal split a receiver right and motioned its fullback from behind the quarterback toward the right flat.

There was a minute and a half left, and Arizona Wildcats fans were still reeling from Nick Foles' penalty after throwing a forward pass twice in the same play.

Cal led by two.

Kevin Riley took the snap, turned to his right and handed the ball to Shane Vereen. He sprinted toward the line of scrimmage and cut back left between his tackle and tight end.

He was gone.

In his longest run of the season, a 61-yard touchdown, the Cal running back was never touched.

"What you have to do - it sounds simple, but it's much harder - is just breaking tackles and making guys miss," he said. "With any big long run, unless someone's completely blocked, you gotta make someone miss."

The Wildcats have more than memories as a reason to fear Vereen on Saturday.

He's coming off a career-high 198 rushing yards and three touchdowns - one for 59, another for 50 - in a loss against Nevada.

He is No. 20 in the country with a 108 rushing yards per game average.

Here's a look at Cal's home run hitter:

Some starter

Jahvid Best suffered a concussion last Nov. 7 when he landed on the back of his head against Oregon State. Starting the next week against the Wildcats, Vereen became Cal's go-to runner.

In seven games since, Vereen has run 157 times for 890 yards, or 5.7 yards per carry. By comparison, Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart averaged 5.5 last year.

"The more opportunities you get, the easier it becomes," Vereen said. "You get into a rhythm."

Riley said Vereen's long-run ability might rival that of Best, drafted by the Detroit Lions in the first round.

"You look at Jahvid in the NFL," he said. "All I can say is, it's close."

Consistently scary

Vereen, whose middle name is Patrick-Henry, liberates himself from the defense often.

He rattled off an 81-yard score against Michigan State in his first college game.

In eight of the 18 games since, Vereen has posted at least one run of 30 yards or more. He has runs of 81, 61, 59 and 56 yards; twice, he's gone for an even 50.

"I kinda like to react to what the defender does, how he's trying to tackle me," Vereen said. "I really don't have much of a game plan when I'm one-on-one.

"But when I get to the secondary, my eyes start to get a little bit bigger."

His fave

Vereen calls the 81-yarder against Michigan State - off tackle to the right - his favorite.

"I had great blocking," he said. "Will Ta'ufo'ou was fullback and he opened it up.

"I was untouched. My speed was able to take over."

Not that he only relies on speed.

Against the No. 14 Wildcats, he knows he'll need some toughness, too.

"A lot of it is the mindset of how I'm going to run the ball," he said. "I'm going to break tackles, make guys miss."


Shane Vereen is off to a hot start and making it look easy:


Rushing yards per game in three games for Vereen, (first in the Pac-10, 20th in NCAA Division I)


Touchdowns scored, rushing and receiving, in 2010 (first in the Pac-10, tied for 2nd in Division I)


All-purpose yards per game (fourth in Pac-10, tied for 58th in

Division I)

Big threat

Six times in his career, Cal running back Shane Vereen has gained 50 or more yards on a rush. Two of those came last week against Nevada. Here's a look at his major gains, by year:

• 2010 - 59 and 50 yards vs. Nevada

• 2009 - 61 yards vs. Arizona, 50 yards vs. Washington

• 2008 - 81 vs. Michigan State, 56 vs. UCLA