BIGGEST COMEBACK WIN THIS SEASON-Roaring back from a 28-14 first-half deficit to win 52-49 in a desert shootout, Cal outscored Virginia Tech, 45-28, in the final three quarters, earning its biggest comeback victory of the 2003 season. The previous largest comeback win came in the Bears' regular season finale at Stanford Nov. 22, when they spotted the Cardinal a 10-0 halftime lead before posting a 28-16 Big Game triumph.
CAL'S FIRST BOWL WIN IN 10 YEARS-By edging the Hokies, California secured its first bowl victory in 10 years. The last time the Bears had their hand raised in triumph was in 1993, when Keith Gilbertson's club ambushed Iowa, 37-3, in the Alamo Bowl.
BEARS FINISH SEASON WITH A FLOURISH-Cal finished the 2003 season with a flourish, winning its final three games, five of its last six, and seven of its last 10 games. The Bears, who started the season by losing three of their first four contests, averaged 40.6 points and 511.5 yards in their final six games (including the bowl game). Cal scored 40 points or more in four of its final six games this year, reeling off 54 vs. Washington, 52 vs. Virginia Tech, 51 at Arizona State, and 42 vs. Arizona.
TEAM SETS SCHOOL BOWL RECORDS-In an amazing offensive display, the Golden Bears set all-time school bowl records for most points (52), total yards (530), passing yards (394), completion percentage (77.1%, 27-of-35), touchdowns (7) and rushing touchdowns (5) in their 52-49 conquest of Virginia Tech.
RODGERS ENJOYS FINEST PASSING GAME IN CAL BOWL HISTORY-Setting all-time Cal bowl records for most passing yards (394) and highest completion percentage (77.1%, 27-of-35), Golden Bear sophomore quarterback Aaron Rodgers was simply brilliant against the Hokies in the Insight Bowl. He completed 15 of 17 passes for 245 yards in the second half, when Cal exploded for 31 points to overtake Virginia Tech. Rodgers, who produced the third- and fourth-highest total offense outputs in the school's 120-year history in his final two 2003 games against Stanford (414 yards) and Virginia Tech (424), passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two TDs while throwing no interceptions against the Hokies Dec. 26. In the process, he also tied Cal's bowl records for most completions (27), touchdowns (2) and rushing TDs (2).
RODGERS ZOOMS INTO SECOND PLACE ON CAL'S SINGLE SEASON LIST-With a career-high 394 yards against Virginia Tech, Rodgers leap-frogged nine players to vault from No. 11 to No. 2 on Cal's single season passing yardage list. His 2,903 yards even surpassed Kyle Boller's 2,805 yards from 2002, as only fell short of Pat Barnes (3,499 in 1996) on the school's all-time chart. Rodgers, who played in 13 games and started the last 10 contests, also recorded his fifth 300-yard passing game this year, tying him with Barnes for the most in one season by a Cal player. Besides setting the school's record for lowest interception percentage with five picks in 349 attempts (his 1.43% shattered the old mark of 1.69% by Gary Graumann in 1977), he averaged 319.1 passing yards per game over his final five contests in 2003-a period when he completed 68.2 percent of his passes (105-of-154) for 1,596 yards, 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions. His scintillating performance in leading underdog Cal to a victory over Virginia Tech prompted some media to predict a promising future for Rodgers and his Bears:
Stuart Mandel, CNNSI.com: "Between that game (Virginia Tech) and the USC win, I would hope most of the country is well aware of what's going on in Berkeley at this point. With Aaron Rodgers back at quarterback and with the defense a year older, I'd imagine the Bears will be picked fairly high in the Pac-10 next season and probably start out in the Top 25."
Andy Bagnato, Arizona Republic: "The Hokies...didn't know what hit them. What hit them is California quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who had passed for 300 yards by the end of the third quarter. Remember that name: it's going to be cropping up on Heisman Trophy watch lists someday soon."
RODGERS, GUTIERREZ NAMED BOWL MVPS-Rodgers was named Offensive MVP for the Insight Bowl, while teammate Ryan Gutierrez earned Defensive MVP honors in Phoenix after stockpiling a game-high 12 tackles (including 11 solo stops). Gutierrez concluded the season with 93 tackles, second on the team behind first team All-Pac-10 rover Donnie McCleskey (102 tackles).
A CAREER GAME FOR CHASE LYMAN-Battling through a myriad of injuries (ankle, groin, hamstring, hip, appendicitis) during his career, junior Chase Lyman saved his best effort for Cal's first bowl game in seven years. Filling in for second team All-American Geoff McArthur (fractured arm), Lyman caught five passes for a career-high 149 yards and one touchdowns against Virginia Tech. He had entered the game with only 35 catches for 526 yards in his first two seasons at Cal. His 149 yards against the Hokies set a school bowl game record and are the third most in the 15-year history of the Insight Bowl.
TEDFORD STILL BLAZING IN THE DESERT-With the Insight Bowl win, Jeff Tedford has now been associated with teams that have won their last seven games in the state of Arizona-a period in which Tedford's offenses have averaged an eye-popping 51.8 points per game. Overall, Tedford has been associated with Oregon (offensive coordinator) and California (head coach) teams that have posted a 7-1 mark in the state and are a perfect 5-0 in the Phoenix area.
ECHEMANDU MOVES INTO SECOND PLACE ON CAL'S SINGLE SEASON RUSHING LIST-Although he was held under his regular season average of 96.8 rushing yards per game, Adimchinobe Echemandu did inch by Russell White into second place on Cal's single season rushing list with his 34 yards on 13 carries against the Hokies. He finished the 2003 season with 1,195 yards, second only to Chuck Muncie (1,460 in 1975) on the school's all-time list.
McCLESKEY BECOMES FIRST DEFENSIVE BACK IN CAL HISTORY TO REACH 100 TACKLES-All-Pac-10 first team rover Donnie McCleskey became the first defensive back in Cal history to collect 100 tackles in a season. With three stops against Virginia Tech, he bagged 102 in the 2003 campaign. That's the most tackles by any Cal player in 10 years (Jerrott Willard, 147 in 1993).
FREDRICKSON SETS MARK FOR EXTRA POINTS, NOTCHES SECOND GAME-WINNING FIELD GOAL THIS YEAR-Kicker Tyler Fredrickson, who set a Cal bowl record by converting six of six PAT attempts at the Insight Bowl, set the school's single season record for most extra points (54) and most extra point attempts (54) this year. His decisive 35-yard field goal as time expired in the Virginia Tech game was his second game-winning field goal this year. His first was a 38-yarder against then No. 3 ranked USC in triple overtime Sept. 27 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley.
TEAM RECORDS FOR TOTAL OFFENSE, FIRST DOWNS AND COMPLETIONS-Tedford's high powered offense left its mark in the school record book this year, as the 2003 Bears set new standards for total offense (6,061 yard), first downs (321) and pass completions (307).
ROLLING TWENTY-EIGHTS-The Insight Bowl marked the 18th time in Tedford's two seasons at Cal that the Bears have scored at least 28 points in a game. Those 18 times were accomplished over 26 games. Prior to Tedford's arrival in 2002, the Bears had hit the 28-point barrier only 10 times over their previous 48 games.
BEARS 7-FOR-7 IN RED ZONE-Cal's offense was perfect in the red zone against Virginia Tech, scoring seven times (6 TDs, 1 FG) in seven opportunities within the Hokies' 20-yard line. The Bears, who failed in eight of their first 27 scoring chances in the red zone this year, finished the season by converting 27 of their final 28 red zone opportunities over their last six games. The Bears were among the Pac-10 leaders with an .836 success rate for the season (46 of 55).