3:30 PM ET, November 6, 2004
Memorial Stadium, BERKELEY, CA
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -- Geoff McArthur ignored his separated shoulder, reaching high above his head to snare California's go-ahead touchdown pass.
A few anxious minutes later, Oregon's final throw ricocheted off Keith Allen's hands and dropped to the grass, ending the Ducks' upset bid.
After 853 yards of offense, everything came down to two passes -- and the Golden Bears (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 4 AP) caught the ball and the breaks.
McArthur caught eight passes for 121 yards and two scores, and Cal stopped the Ducks near midfield with 1:39 left in a 28-27 victory Saturday.
With Orange Bowl scouts watching closely, the Bears (7-1, 5-1 Pac-10) responded to their first adversity in a month with a solid second-half performance. But they also needed the luck of Allen's crucial drop to avoid a loss that could have crushed their Bowl Championship Series dreams.
"Winning the close games is everything," said McArthur, who became Cal's career leader in receptions. "That one could have gone either way, depending on the fourth quarter. We got a good break at the end, but if he'd caught that ball, who knows?"
Aaron Rodgers passed for 275 yards and three TDs, and J.J. Arrington ran for 188 yards and a score for the Bears, who fell behind 27-14 in the second quarter.
McArthur's wordless communication with Rodgers set up the Bears' final score on a 19-yard TD pass with 13:25 to play. In the huddle before the play, Rodgers simply looked at McArthur -- and the receiver split two defenders to receive the near-perfect pass.
But they couldn't enjoy it until Allen bobbled the final throw that could have put the Ducks well within field goal range. After Cal's Tom Schneider missed a 40-yard field goal with 4:20 left, Kellen Clemens drove Oregon 36 yards to the Cal 41, but threw four straight incompletions.
"I was standing on the bench, and they ran a play that we have, so I knew (Allen) would be open," Rodgers said. "I couldn't believe it. I jumped way too far off the bench. I could have got hurt."
Clemens threw four touchdown passes in the first half for the Ducks (5-4, 4-2), who seemed headed for an upset after a dominant first half.
But two key mistakes haunted them: Jared Siegel missed an extra point in the first quarter, and Allen disappointed the Ducks' huge fan contingent at Memorial Stadium.
Cal snapped a seven-game losing streak against Oregon with coach Jeff Tedford's first victory over the school where he served as Mike Bellotti's offensive coordinator for four years.
"I only had time to go 'Whoo!' when it landed," Tedford said of Oregon's final play. "It was a gut-wrencher. Winning the close games is the difference between programs that have success and don't. It's a different season if you don't."
Allen stayed flat on his face for several moments while the Bears celebrated, but Clemens raced over to console his teammate.
Clemens hesitated for several moments when asked about the final pass.
"I felt good about the throw," he said eventually.
Tight end Tim Day caught two of Clemens' four TD passes before getting hurt, and Terrence Whitehead ran for 91 yards as the Ducks' four-game winning streak ended.
Cal's defense posted consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1968 in its last two games, but Clemens and his teammates embarrassed the Bears' defenders with 302 yards in the first half. The Ducks scored 20 points in 2:24 midway through the first quarter.
Oregon went ahead 27-14 on Marcus Maxwell's 7-yard TD catch, but Rodgers and McArthur connected twice on a 75-yard drive in 85 seconds shortly before halftime.
Cal made four sustained drives in the second half -- but thanks to Schneider's two missed field goals and a fumble by freshman Robert Jordan, the Bears got just seven points.
Arrington got his eighth straight 100-yard rushing game as the Bears relentlessly ran the ball after halftime. With his top four receivers and tight end Garrett Cross either sidelined or slowed by injuries, Rodgers still went 21-of-32.
"They controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half," Bellotti said. "We needed to do a better job of running the ball. There's no moral victory."
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-12||7-14|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||1-1|
|TD||9:30||J.J. ARRINGTON 30 YD RUN (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 81 yards.
|TD||6:59||TIM DAY 1 YD PASS FROM KELLEN CLEMENS (JARED SIEGEL KICK)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 71 yards.
|TD||5:59||CRAIG STEVENS 26 YD PASS FROM AARON RODGERS (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 47 yards.
|TD||5:45||DANTE ROSARIO 38 YD PASS FROM KELLEN CLEMENS (JARED SIEGEL KICK)|
Drive info: 1 plays, 38 yards.
|TD||4:35||TIM DAY 16 YD PASS FROM KELLEN CLEMENS (MISSED KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 27 yards.
|TD||2:17||MARCUS MAXWELL 7 YD PASS FROM KELLEN CLEMENS (JARED SIEGEL KICK)|
Drive info: 12 plays, 73 yards.
|TD||0:52||GEOFF MCARTHUR 21 YD PASS FROM AARON RODGERS (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 75 yards.
|TD||13:25||GEOFF MCARTHUR 19 YD PASS FROM AARON RODGERS (TOM SCHNEIDER KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 70 yards.