California heads into the toughest stretch of its schedule missing one of its key offensive players.
Wide receiver Nyan Boateng is expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery on his broken right foot Monday.
"He was making plays this year," quarterback Kevin Riley said Tuesday. "He runs crisp routes, make plays, catches the ball well. It definitely hurts."
No. 6 Cal opens Pac-10 play this Saturday at Oregon and then hosts No. 12 Southern California next week. After a week off, the Golden Bears travel to UCLA.
Boateng injured himself in the first half of last Saturday's 35-21 win at Minnesota while blocking on a run by Jahvid Best. Boateng played the remainder of the half before doctors determined the injury.
"Some other guys are going to have their opportunity to step up now, which we have confidence that they will," coach Jeff Tedford said.
Jeremy Ross did just that last week, catching a 35-yard pass and a 31-yarder on the drive that gave the Bears a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter.
Ross is excited for even more opportunities coming in these next few weeks.
"I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I've been just waiting for my time, trying to prepare myself so when an opportunity did come I'd be ready. I'm excited about getting an opportunity to play more on the field and hoping to make plays for my team."
Ross had only one catch the first two games before coming through with three against the Golden Gophers, including a key third-down conversion on the winning drive.
That matched the best game of his career, as Ross is beginning to show the signs of becoming the player the Bears have believed he could be.
"He's a great athlete," Riley said. "He has the talent to be one of the best receivers we have. It seems that there are lapses at times. This will just give him confidence to continue to get better."
The injury could also give more playing time to Alex Lagemann, Michael Calvin and Charles Satchell.
Boateng was Cal's leading receiver last season with 29 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns. He slipped to No. 3 receiver this season behind Marvin Jones and Verran Tucker, recording five catches for 78 yards and a touchdown before the injury.
Boateng's biggest contributions this season might have been his downfield blocking that opened up some of the long runs for Best. Tedford said he will stress that to the healthy receivers this week to make sure there's no drop off with Boateng out.
"That's key to springing Jahvid on big runs and I think our receivers take a lot of pride in that," Tedford said. "I don't see any style of play different from any of our guys. They all hustle, they all try get to the blocks, so I just think that's something that's expected of our receivers and they take pride in it. I don't see any letdown there."