BERKELEY, California (Ticker) -- So much for Jason Gesser's rib injury.
Gesser, who dislocated a rib against Montana State last week, threw for 431 yards and four touchdowns, including the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter, as No. 18 Washington State opened Pac-10 Conference play with a thrilling 48-38 victory over California.
The Cougars led, 38-28, entering the fourth quarter before the Golden Bears rallied. Kyle Boller completed a 13-yard touchdown pass - his fourth TD of the day - to Jonathan Makonnen with 9:46 to play. After Cal recovered a fumble by Devard Darling on the ensuing kickoff deep in Washington State territory, Mark-Christian Jensen connected on a 20-yard field goal to tie the score with 7:33 to play.
But Gesser - who was listed as questionable prior to the game - marched the Cougars back down the field and put his team ahead for good with a six-yard toss to Darling with 4:35 remaining.
Dunning added a 48-yard field goal following an interception of Boller with 2:27 to go to complete the scoring.
"It's something we talk about all the time," Cougars coach Mike Price said. "You've got to finish every play, finish every game. It's a long season. It's not how you start the race, it's how you finish the race."
"It looked like they protected and hit down the middle," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "They had some holes in the middle where guys got free coming down the middle of the field. They protected Gesser pretty well most all day and they have a corps of receivers. If they get a step on you, they're going to be able to go."
Gesser completed 28-of-44 passes without an interception for Washington State (4-1, 1-0), which produced 578 yards of offense.
"That guy is tough as steel," Price said of Gesser. "He played great. He wasn't gonna let me not play him. He probably would have quit if I tried."
Three Washington State receivers - Jerome Riley, Mike Bush and Darling - each had at least 100 receiving yards and caught a touchdown pass.
"They have great range," Tedford said of the Cougars' receivers. "They have a guy, Bush, who is 6-6 and you throw a ball out to him and he makes a diving one-handed catch. Those tall receivers are good players."
Boller was 30-of-48 for a career-high 374 yards and two interceptions for California (3-2, 0-1), which gained 472 yards but lost for the second straight week. Running back Joe Igber ran for 111 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries.
"They've done a wonderful job here," Price said. "They deserve a lot of credit. It was a real battle of the quarterbacks. Kyle Boller is a heck of a player. He's been through a lot more than Jason (Gesser)."
The Bears took their biggest lead, 21-6, on a 21-yard toss from Boller to Tom Swoboda with 33 seconds left in the first half. The Cougars countered quickly and climbed within 12 points on a 42-yard field goal by Dunning just before the break.
Washington State outscored California, 29-7, in the third quarter, taking a 38-28 lead on Gesser's 31-yard strike to Riley with 1:53 to play in the period.
"I think as a whole, we need to tackle better," Tedford said. "We let some people get away on special teams and a little bit on defense. We had guys in position to make plays and they bounced off and went for extra yards. We'll have to work on that a little bit."