TUCSON, Ariz. – B.J. Denker went 24-of-38 through the air with 261 yards and one touchdown to lead Arizona to a 33-28 victory over Cal at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Arizona advances to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in Pac-12 play. The Cats are bowl eligible for the second-straight season and five of the last six seasons. The Bears fell to 1-7 overall and 0-6 in Pac-12 play.
The senior had help from an impressive receiving core led by fellow senior Terrence Miller. Miller had five receptions for 88 yards, one of which went for 60 yards. The freshman duo of Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips were also heavily targeted, as Grant had a career-high nine receptions for 78 yards and Phillips had four receptions for 44 yards with one TD.
The Cats were also successful on the ground, as running back Ka’Deem Carey netted 152 yards on 32 totes on the day.
Defensively, the Cats were led by linebackers Scooby Wright and Marquis Flowers, who both ended with double digits in tackles. Additionally, the defense forced two interceptions in the game with Jonathan McKnight and Jourdon Grandon each recording a pick.
Cal was led by quarterback Jared Goff, who went 34-of-56 for 289 yards and four touchdowns. The majority of the passing went to receiver Kenny Lawler, who gained 72 yards off six receptions, three of which were touchdowns. Running back Daniel Lasco provided the Bears with a ground attack, rushing 12 times for 71 yards.
Cal opened the game with little difficulty advancing through the air as Goff marched the Bears down the field on 8-of-10 passing for 64 yards and a touchdown. The points were scored through an 11-yard strike to Khalfani Muhammad to give them the early 7-0 lead.
Arizona was also able to move the chains with ease, though this time through the ground. Carey rushed for 23 yards on the drive, and Denker fooled the defense on a read option as he ran the ball nine yards into the end zone to tie the game at seven apiece.
Defensive lineman Sione Tuihalamaka gave the Cats a defensive presence on Cal’s following drive, pressuring Goff on two consecutive drop-backs to force a three-and-out to restore Arizona possession.
After a series of punts, Arizona found themselves in a long third-and-goal from the Cal 15-yard line. A completion on a wheel route to senior running back Daniel Jenkins brought the Wildcats to the two-yard line, but they were unable to convert a fourth-down run by Carey.
The Wildcat defense immediately made up for the lost opportunity as it wrapped up Cal running back Darren Ervin in the end zone for a safety to give the Wildcats a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Senior Jake Smith started the second quarter off strong for the Cats, as he placed a 53-yard field goal straight through the uprights, extending Arizona’s lead 12-7.
The lead would quickly extend to 19-7, after freshman Phillips caught a 21-yard touchdown pass from Denker to top off a 10-play, 57-yard drive.
Cal closed the gap on their next drive, taking the ball 63 yards in 2:11 to bring the score to 19-14. The touchdown came off a 17-yard connection from Goff to Lawler. The score would stand going into halftime.
The second half opened with a big catch and run by Miller. The senior broke three tackles on his way to a 60-yard completion from Denker to bring the Cats to the Cal 15-yard line. On a following third-and-11, Denker tried the touchdown pass to Carey but Cal’s Hardy Nickerson was called for the past interference, bringing the ball to the two-yard line. After two goal-line stops by the Bears, Denker was able to get a one-yard touchdown run, bringing the lead to 26-14.
California had the next score of the game as Lawler made a one-handed catch on a three-yard completion from Goff to close in on Arizona, 26-21.
After Arizona was stopped and the Bears seemingly began to gain momentum, McKnight shut down Cal’s drive by netting his first interception of the season. Shortly after, Denker scored on another keeper touchdown, this one from 14 yards out to give the Wildcats the 33-21 lead.
On a Cal fourth-and-two, Grandon recorded his second interception on the year by picking off a Goff pass in the Arizona end zone.
The Wildcats entered clock-burning mode late in the game, but Cal closed in 33-28 with 1:42 left after Goff completed yet another touchdown pass to Lawler. The 29-yard reception gave Lawler his third touchdown of the day.
The Bears attempted the onside kick, but Arizona recovered and moved the chains to end the game at 33-28.
The Cats will head back to Tucson for Homecoming weekend where they’ll face UCLA on Nov. 9. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST and will be televised on ESPN.
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