Pac-12: Tucson 0808

California gets disappointment, not revenge

October, 19, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona's sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't play in the 2006 game when the Wildcats upset then-eighth-ranked California and knocked the Bears out of the Rose Bowl.

And he wasn't trying to be uncharitable toward the 25th-ranked Bears after Arizona again upset them Saturday, 42-27. It's just that he'd heard the talk this week coming from Berkeley of revenge and he couldn't help but let a smirk flicker across his face.

"That's what I heard," he said. "But we took it to them. Just because someone wants revenge on us doesn't mean we're going to let them have revenge."

Cal led 24-14 at halftime. In 2006, they led 17-3 in the third quarter. In 2006, the Bears lost because of untimely penalties, turnovers and a variety of odd plays. In 2008, they lost because they got whupped, a 28-3 Arizona advantage in the third quarter making the difference.

"When they hit on the touchdowns and we didn't answer, they gained all the momentum," Bears coach Jeff Tedford said.

In the first half, quarterback Nate Longshore completed 16-of-25 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. In the second half, he was 2-of-12 for 46 yards with an interception that was returned 21 yards for a touchdown by Devin Ross before being yanked for Kevin Riley, who Longshore only displaced as the starter two weeks ago.

"I was surprised to go in," Riley said.

It certainly wasn't all Longshore's fault. The Cal defense forced the Wildcats to go three-and-out four consecutive times in the second quarter, but the Bears couldn't stop them in the third quarter.

Arizona gained 213 yards in the third. Cal had just 64.

"No, I didn't think we panicked," Tedford said.

Falling behind, it was hard for the Bears to use their best offensive weapon: Running back Jahvid Best. Best had 95 yards rushing on 12 carries at halftime, including a 67-yard touchdown run. He had just four carries for 12 yards in the second half.

"Arizona put together a really good game plan," linebacker Anthony Felder said. "We had some hard times adjusting."

So instead of getting revenge, Cal was left feeling blue with deja vu.

Can Antolin make Wildcats into giant-killer?

October, 19, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller\

TUCSON, Ariz. -- There was Jacquizz. And now there is Keola.

They are Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Arizona's Keola Antolin, the diminutive freshmen running backs with unusual names and unusual ways to make defenses looks silly.

Rodgers, at 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, sliced and diced top-ranked USC in the Beavers 27-21 upset victory on Sept. 25.

And Antolin did the same to No. 25 California in a shocking 42-27 domination of the Bears on Saturday.

Antolin, listed at 5-8 -- right! -- 180 pounds, gashed Cal for 149 yards on 21 carries -- 7.1 yards per pop -- and scored three touchdowns, including a 59-yard scamper that gave the Wildcats the lead for good at 28-27.

Antolin, who's been bothered by a toe injury much of the season, entered the game with just 66 yards on 25 carries for the season.

"We didn't see anything of Keola on tape," Cal linebacker Anthony Felder said. "He's smaller and hard to defend."

Which is sort of what the Trojans said about Rodgers.

"I hide behind the linemen all day -- just like [NFL players] Darren Sproles and Maurice Jones-Drew," Antolin said. "It's the exact same. I stay low and hide and explode through the hole."

Guess who's coming to dinner next Saturday in Tucson?

Yup. The Trojans.

Antolin's eyes lit up when asked about Rodgers.

"He gave me hope right there," he said.

Antolin entered the game after starter Nic Grigsby fumbled in the first quarter. Grigsby ranks third in the Pac-10 with 102 yards rushing per game, but his tendency to lose hold of the football understandably rankles his coaches.

(Read full post)

Arizona-California: Final thoughts

October, 19, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona now has its annual upset of a ranked team in its home stadium.

And the Pac-10 is even more muddled because California will surely lose its No. 25 ranking after getting blitzed by the Wildcats, who completely dominated the second half. Now, it's USC and a bunch of teams with at least two overall losses. Five teams have one conference defeat: Cal, Arizona, USC, Oregon State and Oregon.

The Wildcats (5-2, 3-1), a week after losing at Stanford, now finds themselves one win away from bowl eligibility with five games to play -- including one game at Washington State on Nov. 8. They haven't played in a bowl game since 1998.

In other words, this game may have insured that coach Mike Stoops will be the Wildcats coach next year.

USC comes to town next Saturday.

This one was all about the third quarter.

Cal led 24-14 at the break and seemed to assert itself on both sides of the ball in the second quarter.

But the Bears apparently forgot about the whole "got to play four quarters" thing.

They were outscored 28-3 in the third and outgained 213 yards to 64 in the frame.

In the fourth, Cal coach Jeff Tedford sat down quarterback Nate Longshore, who was 2-of-12 for 46 yards and an interception in the third in favor of former starter Kevin Riley.

Riley didn't do much, throwing his own interception that ended any notion of a comeback.

Guess the quarterback competition keeps going this week with the Bears playing host to UCLA, which ended Stanford's winning streak at one with a 23-20 win.

Arizona 42, California 27: Third-quarter reflections

October, 19, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Arizona just plays better at home. Way better. Particularly against ranked teams.

It certainly owned the third quarter. Owned with a capital O.

As in 28-3 owned. The Wildcats took a 42-27 lead into the fourth quarter after trailing 24-14 at the half.

There was more Keola Antolin, whose 59-yard touchdown run gave the Wildcats a 28-27 lead.

And there was a 21-yard pick-six from Devin Ross when he wrestled a Nate Longshore pass away from Verran Tucker.

But the overriding theme was getting the ball back in the hands of the Wildcats money players: Money Mike Thomas and Big Freak Rob Gronkowski.

They combined for just six catches for 61 yards and no touchdowns a week ago in the loss at Stanford.

Through three quarters, Thomas has six catches for 104 yards and a 56-yard TD on Arizona's first possession of the second half that swung momentum the Wildcats' way.

And Gronkowski had six receptions for 91 yards, including the 35-yard TD that made it 42-27.

Here's where Arizona got the idea to throw the ball to Thomas and Gronkowski.

California 24, Arizona 14: First-half reflections

October, 18, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The second quarter is dedicated to the little guy.

And to momentum swings.

The little guys are Keola Antolin and Jahvid Best.

Antolin is Arizona's 5-foot-8, 180-pound freshman running back from Las Vegas. He entered the game with 25 carries for 66 yards, fourth best on the team. He cored touchdowns of 20 and 11 yards to give the Wildcats a 14-7 lead.

He replaced Nic Grigsby, who had a first-quarter fumble, and, showing good quickness and surprising tackle-breaking power and leg drive, he finished the half with 10 carries for 61 yards. But after his second TD run, the Wildcats offense went rear-end-over-tea-kettle, going three-and-out on four consecutive possessions. Best, the 193-pound speedster, you know. His 67-yard touchdown run tied the count at 14-14. He finished the half with 12 carries for 103 yards and also caught four passes for 33 yards. Nate Longshore you also know, but he's 6-foot-5, 233 pounds and doesn't fit into our theme of celebrating little guys. But, so far, he's erasing the memory of his three-interception effort here in 2006. He completed 16 of 25 for 172 yards and two touchdowns with no picks in the first half. He also skillfully directed a 5-play, 21-yard field goal drive in 27 seconds just before the half. Cal is asserting itself. Arizona seemed to be move the ball at will until it went into a funk. Guessing there might be a couple more plot twists.

California 7, Arizona 0: First-quarter reflections

October, 18, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- California coach Jeff Tedford talked a lot about turnovers during the preseason and how his team needed to get them.

He also has relentlessly defended and advocated for quarterback Nate Longshore when many Bears fans wanted him nailed to the bench.

So give a check mark to both in the first quarter.

Cal forced two Arizona turnovers. First a Nic Grigsby fumble on the Wildcats 43, which the Bears turned into a touchdown. The second, a Willie Tuitama interception on a botched screen pass on the Cal 34, killed a nice Wildcats drive.

Meanwhile, Longshore, making his second start since reclaiming the job from Kevin Riley, was sharp even as it appeared Arizona geared up to stop the Bears running game.

Longshore completed 7 of 10 for 64 yards with a touchdowns in the first quarter.

California needs to prove Pac-10 isn't a one-team show

October, 18, 2008

Posted by's Ted Miller

TUCSON, Ariz. -- You'd never hear it from Pac-10 administrators, but the conference sure could use a California victory at Arizona tonight.

No. 25 Cal (4-1, 2-0) is the conference's only other ranked team besides USC and its only unbeaten team in conference play.

Also, the Bears lone defeat at Maryland doesn't look so bad these days, particularly after the Terrapins whipped No. 21 Wake Forest 26-0 Saturday and are now 5-2 overall (we'll just ignore the 31-zip loss to Virginia).

California has won four of five in the series but its last defeat at Arizona in 2006 -- a 24-20 heartbreaker -- ended up costing the then-eighth-ranked Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1958.

Bears coach Jeff Tedford used that defeat -- and the wild post-game celebration -- to motivate his team this week.

One guy who talked a lot about that game is Cal quarterback Nate Longshore. He's making his second consecutive start tonight after replacing Kevin Riley, but he threw three interceptions in the 2006 defeat

For Arizona, it's all about stopping the run.

As noted in today's Arizona Daily Star, the Wildcats have allowed more total rushing yards in their two defeats (507) than their four wins (316).

But New Mexico and Stanford featured 230-pound power backs. Cal offers a pair of speedy scatbacks in Jahvid Best, who returns after dislocating his elbow on Sept. 27 against Colorado State, and Shane Vereen. They both tip the scales under 200 pounds.

Also of note: Wildcats quarterback Willie Tuitama needs just 30 yards passing to eclipse Tom Tunnicliffe as the program's all-time passing leader. Tuitama enters the game with 7,589 career passing yards.

Heat won't be much of a factor. It's presently clear and 90 degrees, and it will cool considerably by the 7 p.m. kickoff (tonight's low is 58).

Arizona is tough at home, though. It has upset a top-25 foe in Arizona Stadium every year since Mike Stoops become head coach in 2004.

And the last victim was Cal.