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Cats Trap No. 8 Bears, 24-20
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/12/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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TUCSON?-Arizona took its first lead early in the fourth quarter on a huge interception return by Antoine Cason and then stood toe to toe with the nation’s No. 8-ranked team for the rest of the quarter, emerging with a 24-20 victory over California.

 

It wasn’t easy at the end, as the Bears got the ball at their own 10 yard-line and drove nearly the length of the field in the last several minutes before a third Wildcat interception snuffed out the Golden Bears’ comeback attempt.

 

Even before that, a superb goal-line stand by UA's defense held the Bears to three points on a possible game-tying possession late in the game.

 

Cal got the ball back with 3:14 on the clock, and later hit a potential 63-yard pass from Nate Longshore to DeSean Jackson for what officials on the field called a touchdown at the 2:14 mark, but a video review of Jackson’s sideline footwork spotted the ball at the Arizona 41 yard-line for only a 22-yard gain.

 

UA defensive end Marcus Smith tipped Longshore’s final pass attempt and linebacker Ronnie Palmer intercepted the ball at the UA 18 yard-line at the 1:32 mark. The Cats ran out the clock with a succession of taken knees by quarterback Willie Tuitama, and UA’s student secion emptied on to the field to celebrate.

 

The Wildcats improved to 5-5, their best winning total in the last five seasons and snapped Cal's eight-game winning streak, dropping it  to 8-2. The victory over a ranked opponent followed last week's victory at No. 25 Washington State, giving UA consecutive victories over ranked teams for the first time since 1992 and the birth of the Desert Swarm teams, when UA topped No. 11 UCLA and No. 8 Stanford in October.

 

Cal sophomore Jackson lived up to his billing in the first half, with two plays for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

 

Both teams held on the opponent’s first possession, but Jackson took UA’s first punt back 95 yards for the opening score, his fourth scoring return of the year and an Arizona Stadium record. The previous long return was a 94-yarder by Kent Oborn of Brigham Young in 1965.

 

UA free safety Corey Hall, in his first start for injured Dominic Patrick, intercepted a tipped pass on the next possession and UA drove 22 yards for a Nick Folk 39-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

 

Cal tailback Marshawn Lynch ripped off a 79-yard run for an apparent score on the Bears’ next drive, but an illegal block negated the play and cut it to 56 yards, leading to an eventual 36-yard field goal by Tom Scheneider to boost the lead to 10-3.

 

With six minutes left in the half, Nate Longshore connected on only his fifth pass completion, but Jackson turned it into a 62-yard catch-and-run for the Bears’ second touchdown and a 17-3 lead.

 

Arizona came out to open the third quarter with a little more emphasis on the running game, but after an exchange of possessions set up its first touchdown of the game with a 39-yard pass play from Willie Tuitama to Mike Thomas, who reached the goal line but was called out of bounds on the 5 yard-line. Chris Henry ran for four yards and then used second effort to score on a 1-yard plunge to make it 17-10.

 

Tuitama hit tight end Brandyn McCall 10 yards beyond coverage on UA’s next series, but the junior juggled the ball and dropped the sure score. But two costly penalties ?- holding and pass interference ?- wiped out two interceptions by Cal's Bernard Hicks and Daymeion Hughes and gave Arizona life on its drive,  and the Cats tied the game with a four-yard scoring run by Henry to make it 17-17 moments into the fourth quarter.

 

Arizona took its first lead with 12 minutes left in the game on Antoine Cason’s 39-yard interception return, but California came back and drove 54 yards for a 20-yard field goal by Tom Schneider.

 

Cason, earlier this week named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, has 10 career interceptions and three this year. The return for a score was his first.

 

The Bears appeared to have the tying touchdown when receiver Lavelle Hawkins got open deep on broken coverage, but he fell at the 1 yard-line for a 44-yard gain. UA’s defense stiffened to catch Marshawn Lynch behind the line twice for one-yard losses, then linebacker Dane Krogstad knocked down Longshore’s third-down pass attempt to force the kick by Schneider.

 

Jackson finished with 131 yards receiving on six catches, plus 128 yards on three punt returns. UA's defense held Longshore to under 50 percent completion rate (17 of 36) for 250 yards. He had thrown 60 straight passes without an interception and completed 65 percent of his passes entering the game.

 

Tuitama completed 17 of 34 for 202 yards without an interception and Arizona rushed for 60 tough net yards, nearly all by Chris Henry (25 for 57), who had the two offensive scores.

 

 

Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops:

 

“It has been a long day, but it ended great. I’m really proud of our kids. We came out with better execution offensively in the second half. Defensively, we were in control the whole game.”

 

“DeSean Jackson is a great player. Their quarterback (Nate Longshore) played well. We made just enough plays to win. Cal made some good plays down the stretch but we kept coming back. This is a great team win all the way through the game. So many guys stood out. We were really balanced offensively. (Syndric) Steptoe has been monumental. Willie (Tuitama) has been a spark for us. We are still young and maturing offensively. Defensively, we have played this way all year.”

 

“This gives us a lot of life through the last two games. We are going to keep challenging our players. Our recruiting and depth are starting to show up. We just need to keep playing.”

 

Comparing this game to last year’s Homecoming win over UCLA

“There are some similarities like the people rushing the field. This one means a little more. This is a great team and they have beat us soundly the last two years.”

 

“We play to win. We have to get some momentum.”

 

On the running game

“We needed to run the ball. They are really physical inside; a really good football team. The yards we got were hard yards. We have to get positive yards (rushing) to get some rhythm.”

 

On DeSean Jackson’s 22-yard reception that nearly went for a 63?-yard touchdown

“I thought he stepped out. I was right there. I think I see a lot things the referees don’t see, though. I thought they would get it right though.”

 

On reaching a bowl

“I’m not worried about it. We have two games left and we are 5-5. Oregon is another great, talented team. We will need a strong effort all around to win. Arizona State is also a good team. We have our work cut out for us.”

 

“We knew we matched up with them well defensively. Cal is a terrific team. I knew DeSean (Jackson) would pressure us from the beginning. We contained the run game. Our kids were physical up front too.”

 

 

 

Arizona Player Quotes

 

Senior Kicker Nick Folk

 

“We are rallying right now.  We know we are a good team.”

 

On being behind at the half

“When we were down 17-3, all that we knew was that we had to make big plays, and that is exactly what we did in the third quarter.”

 

On winning two in a row

“This means a lot, this is the first time that we have been .500 or won 5 games in my career.  We have two more and they are both games that we can win.”

 

Junior Running Back Chris Henry

 

“This is definitely a good feeling. We had a lot of confidence coming in from last week. We always feel like we have a chance to win every game.”

 

“At this point in the season, we are right where we need to be.”

 

“We have won two in a row now and it is a good feeling.  We have a lot of momentum going into the next couple of games.  We have a chance to win every game.”

 

On being behind at the half

“No one was worried. We had a long list of plays that we had never used before, so we were ready to use those.  Both the offense and defense were calm going into the second half.”

 

On the win

“This win has helped us mentally, which will help to boost our physical play.  We know that we can dominate.  Especially tonight, the linebackers played the best that they have all season.”

 

Junior Linebacker Spencer Larson

 

“The defense did really good tonight.  We were not surprised that we made so many stops, we had a good game plan.  We always have opportunities to score, but we just haven’t until tonight.”

 

On winning

“The reason that we work so hard is for games like this.  We had to dig deep to pull this one out.  But now people won’t look past us.”

 

On the upcoming games

“We have to play the best games that we have played all year.”

 

Sophomore Quarterback Willie Tuitama

 

“This win is big, it’s just huge.  We came out and we played like a team tonight.  No one is going to quit.”

 

On the game

“In the second half, we ran the ball more and some guys made really big plays. We had a really good balance in the second half and we went out there and finished.  I was trying harder to see open looks and we all played fierce at the end.  Syndric (Steptoe) and Mike (Thomas) did a great job tonight.”

 

Sophomore Wide Receiver Mike Thomas

 

Comparing the win to last year’s victory over UCLA

“They were both great teams. This year was more unique, though, we really needed a win.”

 

“All week, every day, we practiced to finish. We were trying to go out there and have fun, but at the same time execute.”

 

“It’s very important that we stay focused. We still have a lot of goals to play for.

 

On wide receiver Syndric Steptoe

“He’s always key. Every week you can count on him to make a play. He’s our go-to-guy.”

 

Senior Wide Receiver Syndric Steptoe

 

“Coach gave us a nice little speech at halftime, and we came out amazing in the second half.”

 

“I really appreciate Willie (Tuitama) giving me the ball. This was a chance to show where I rank (among wide receivers) in the Pac-10.”

 

“This one was for the fans. They’ve supported us all year, so it was good to get this one for them.”

 

Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford

 

Arizona played well on defense and got us in long yardage situations.  We were not successful on first down, and penalties hurt us.”

 

“Give Arizona credit, they are a very good defensive team.”

 

“We just didn’t play well, and you have to make plays if you want to win.”

 

“I felt [Arizona] got after us pretty well, as pass rush was concerned.”

 

“A lot of plays we didn’t play well, and we shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties.”

 

On whether or not Cal looked past Arizona and towards its game against USC next week:

“Absolutely not.  We prepared all week in practice for this game.  As coaches, I’ll take the blame for the loss.  Our offense didn’t do enough, and that falls directly on my shoulders.”

 

“Everyone in the Pac-10 has one loss.  If we take it one game, we still have a shot at the conference championship.”

 

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