PASADENA, Calif. -- Jahvid Best made a 93-yard touchdown run and caught a 51-yard scoring pass, and California got back on track after two tough losses with a dynamic first half in a 45-26 victory over UCLA on Saturday.
After a perfect nonconference start, Cal (4-2, 1-2 Pac-10) was embarrassed in back-to-back games by Oregon (42-3) and Southern California (30-3), all but ending their Pac-10 title hopes.
Cal got back in top form with a series of impressive first-half scores against UCLA (3-3, 0-3), which has lost three straight. Johnathan Franklin had a 74-yard TD run among his 101 yards rushing and two scores for the Bruins.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford, who grew up in nearby Downey, Calif., won in the Los Angeles area for the first time in his eight seasons in charge of the Bears. Cal had gone 0-7 during his tenure at the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum.
Kevin Prince passed for 311 yards but threw a terrible interception in the final minutes for UCLA, which has lost to Stanford, Oregon and Cal in the past three weeks, endangering coach Rick Neuheisel's hopes for a winning record in his second season.
Riley passed for 205 yards and three scores without an interception.
Instead of flying to Pasadena, the Bears took a bus from Berkeley on Thursday to save an estimated $100,000 for the troubled UC school system, of which UCLA also is a member. The extra travel time clearly didn't affect the Bears, who went up 35-20 by halftime with a dizzying series of scoring plays.
The most impressive play was made by Best, who uncorked the longest TD run of his three seasons with the Bears on a circuitous run through the UCLA defense late in the second quarter. Cutting back behind his blocking near Cal's goal line and sweetly slipping two tackles, he picked up a downfield block from Riley and rolled to the end zone for the third-longest scoring run in school history.
Although Best's Heisman Trophy chances dwindled with his 102 total yards rushing in Cal's two losses, the defending Pac-10 rushing champion has 11 touchdowns already this season. But except for Best's 93-yard run, the UCLA defense limited him to just 102 yards on 18 attempts.
Neither team did much in the second half, with the Bears managing just 117 total yards, but Cal's Mychael Kendricks killed UCLA's faint comeback hopes when he returned an interception 68 yards for a score with 5:05 left. Prince had the Bruins moving, but the freshman missed wide-open tight end Logan Paulsen with a flat pass that Kendricks easily snagged.
Vereen made a 42-yard TD run on Cal's opening drive, and Riley hit Jones for a 43-yard score several minutes later. Cal went ahead 21-7 early in the second quarter on Best's TD catch, but Franklin kept it close with his 74-yard TD run just 18 seconds later, the Bruins' longest scoring run in six years.