Bears Rally Past Wildcats, 24-16
Nov. 14, 2009
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Shane Vereen scored on a 61-yard run after an odd penalty thwarted a potential go-ahead drive for Arizona (No. 17 BCS, No. 18 AP) and California went on to a 24-16 victory Saturday without star running back Jahvid Best.
Giorgio Tavecchio kicked four field goals, giving Cal (7-3, 4-3) an 18-16 lead with a 22-yarder with 4:46 remaining. But Arizona wasn't done.
After Tavecchio made a key tackle on the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats (6-3, 4-2) drove the ball down to the Cal 25. On third-and-3, Nick Foles' pass was batted at the line. Foles caught the ricochet and tried to throw it again. That was a penalty for an illegal forward pass and the ball moved back to the 39 and Arizona lost the down.
Foles threw an incompletion on the next play, dealing a blow to Arizona's hopes to make the Rose Bowl for the first time. The Wildcats can still clinch a berth by winning their final three games against Oregon, Arizona State and USC. But this loss removed any margin for error.
Vereen then ran it in on the next play, giving him a career-high 159 yards on a day where he had to shoulder all of the running load while his close friend Best could only watch.
The Bears got an emotional boost from Best's presence on the sideline. He was introduced before the opening coin toss, getting a warm ovation from the crowd. He then joined the captains at midfield, getting hugs from the Arizona players.
Best was injured in last week's 31-14 loss to Oregon State when he hurdled a defender at the end of a 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Best vaulted into the air over safety Cameron Collins and then was bumped even higher by another defender before falling on his back and head from about 8 feet in the air. Best's helmet came off on impact and he briefly lost consciousness. The team has not said when he will play again.
Arizona had taken a 16-15 lead on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Foles to A.J. Simmons with 12:26 to go. Cal coach Jeff Tedford stuck to the ground after that after watching Kevin Riley throw two interceptions earlier in the half. Cal ran on 10 of 12 plays to move the ball from its 23 to the 5, setting up Tavecchio's short field goal.
Tavecchio then made a big play on the ensuing kickoff, tripping up Travis Cobb at the 38 on a return that could have gone much longer.
Cal took advantage of a shanked punt by Keenyn Crier to take the lead in the third quarter. The Bears took over at the Arizona 27 after the 14-yard punt and Riley connected with Verran Tucker on the long pass for the touchdown. Tucker made the leaping grab despite being interfered with by Devin Ross.
Arizona was also without its starting running back as Nic Grigsby has been slowed by a shoulder injury. Keola Antolin got the start and lost a fumble late in the first quarter that helped set up Tavecchio's second field goal of the first half to give the Bears a 6-0 lead.
Antolin, who ran for 78 yards on 19 carries, atoned with a 1-yard run late in the second quarter. Alex Zendejas and Tavecchio then traded field goals in the final minute to give the Wildcats a 10-9 halftime lead.