Bears Come Back Big In Big Game
By GREG BEACHAM
AP Sports Writer
STANFORD, Calif. - Geoff McArthur set a California record with 16catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns, and the Golden Bears rallied in thesecond half to beat Stanford 28-16 Saturday in the 106th Big Game.
Aaron Rodgers passed for a career-best 359 yards and three touchdowns as Cal(7-6, 5-3 Pac-10) kept the Axe and became bowl-eligible for the first time inseven years. Stanford (4-6, 2-6) was eliminated from postseason contention inits first home loss to Cal since 1993.
Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for 87 yards, including a clinching 17-yardscore with 1:39 to play. The huge Cal rooting section at Stanford Stadiumdidn't charge the field, but the fans roared for the Bears' second straight winover their biggest rivals following a seven-game losing streak.
Vincent Strang caught the go-ahead TD pass for Cal, which won despitefumbling seven times - losing three of them - and facing a 10-0 deficit in thethird quarter before its powerful offense finally stopped thwarting itself withturnovers. The Bears had 533 total yards.
California, the only team to beat second-ranked USC this season, willreceive its first postseason berth since making the Aloha Bowl in 1996. With abowl victory under second-year coach Jeff Tedford, Cal would have its firstback-to-back winning seasons since 1990-91.
McArthur, the nation's second-leading receiver behind Pittsburgh's LarryFitzgerald, had the second-biggest receiving yardage total in school history.The remarkable junior exceeded his career highs for the second straight weekwhile surpassing Dameane Douglas' record 15 receptions in 1998.
His 44-yard TD reception in the third quarter was Cal's first score. TheBears dominated the rest of the game, with Strang scampering for a 14-yard TDon the first play of the fourth quarter to give Cal its first lead.
Rodgers went 26-of-37 in his first Big Game, relying heavily on McArthur'suncanny ability to find seams in the Stanford defense for medium-sized gains.
In the first half, however, the Bears hardly resembled the offensivepowerhouse that racked up a school-record 729 yards last week againstWashington.
Cal fumbled four times in the first quarter, losing three, and threw aninterception early in the second. Even when the Bears held on to the ball,Stanford's defense - which yielded 756 yards to Oregon State in a 43-3 losslast week - kept them off the scoreboard.
After James Bethea fumbled the opening kickoff, Michael Sgroi kicked a22-yard field goal. Star Cal running back Adimchinobe Echemandu fumbled momentslater, and Lewis hit Powell with a 24-yard scoring pass across the middle.
Freshman quarterback Trent Edwards relieved Stanford starter Chris Lewis inthe fourth quarter, but Sid Slater got an interception on Edwards' first play.Moments later, McArthur slipped behind the Stanford secondary for a 21-yardscore.
Cal's 30-7 win over Stanford last season snapped a seven-game losing streakin the nation's ninth-oldest rivalry game. The Bears paraded the Axe aroundMemorial Stadium, and fans tore down the goalposts.
The celebration was much more subdued this time. The blue-and-gold fanschanted 'We've got the Axe!' and roared from their seats, but a long blueline of police wearing riot gear prevented anybody from charging the fieldafter Mark Bradford caught a 30-yard TD pass from Lewis as time expired.
Cal senior lineman Chris Murphy ran along the Stanford track, waving theschool flag, while his teammates danced on the 'S' at midfield. The team thentook a victory lap, acknowledging its fans with waves and cheers.
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