Nov. 26, 2011
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - California ended the season with a flourish, enhancing its chances of playing in a more prestigious bowl.
Arizona State may end up playing a bowl game without its coach after its latest dud.
Cal closed out the regular season with a 47-38 win over Arizona State Friday night, ensuring its ninth winning season in 10 years and possibly ending Dennis Erickson's five-year tenure as the Sun Devils' coach.
"I have no idea how the bowl picture is going to play out," Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. "More than that, it's about how we finished the season. Through the second half of the season our guys played very, very well."
They certainly did against Arizona State.
Coming off a frustrating loss to rival Stanford, Cal (7-5, 4-5) rolled over Arizona State's defense from the start, racking up 484 total yards and scoring on nine of 12 drives.
Zach Maynard threw for 241 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score. The defense? It gave up plenty of yards and points, but forced four turnovers.
It was a combination that could look good when bowls start announcing their selections on Dec. 4.
"We should be in a better bowl game with a win ending the season, winning our last conference game," Maynard said. "We will see how it plays out."
Arizona State (6-6, 4-5) lost its chance of winning the Pac-12 South earlier in the day and may have put Erickson's job in jeopardy with its fourth straight loss.
The Sun Devils had decent numbers on offense, with Cameron Marshall running for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Brock Osweiler throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
What killed Arizona State's chances - and possibly Erickson's - were the turnovers. Marshall had a critical one that led to Cal's last points in the fourth quarter and Osweiler threw one of his two interceptions after that to seal the loss.
"Coach's future is out of our hands as players," Osweiler said. "Obviously, we can win football games and that helps, but as far as the decision, that's out of our hands. We all stand behind coach Erickson and we'll fight to the end for that guy because he'll do the same for us."
The Sun Devils' shot to win the Pac-12 South ended before the game started, with Colorado's victory over Utah.
Arizona State still had plenty to play for, needing a win to get a shot at a better bowl and to give Erickson some breathing room.
The 64-year-old coach was on the hot seat last season and kept his job despite missing a bowl game for the third straight season.
Erickson appeared to be in good shape after Arizona State opened this season 6-2 and clinched a bowl berth in late October. Things deteriorated quickly, though, culminating with last week's deflating home loss to rival Arizona, which was 2-8 before the game.
Even with the Sun Devils being bowl eligible, Erickson could be in trouble - as early as next week after this loss.
Erickson said he plans to speak with athletic director Lisa Love next week about the direction of the program.
"I've been around a long time and I'm going to do whatever I think and she thinks is best for this football program," Erickson said. "I've had a great five years here. I love it here, I'd like to stay here and finish the job, but her and I will sit down and talk."
Offense dominated this game from the start.
Cal scored on its first three possessions: a 48-yard field goal by Tavecchio, an 18-yard run by Sofele and a 16-yard run by Maynard that put the Bears up 17-7 in the first quarter.
Marshall scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter and Osweiler hit Aaron Pflugrad on a 17-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-14 on the first play of the second.
The Bears went up 27-14 late in the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Anderson and a 27-yard field goal by Tavecchio.
Arizona State rallied quickly, though, scoring twice in 29 seconds. Osweiler hit Rashad Ross on a 35-yard pass, then Trevor Kohl on a 4-yarder with 33 seconds left in the half - three plays after Cal's Richard Rodgers fumbled the kickoff and the Sun Devils recovered.
The Sun Devils extended their lead to 31-27 on Alex Garoutte's 47-yard field goal early in the third quarter but Cal took the lead for good on a three-yard run by Anderson, then extended its lead to 41-31 on Anderson's 74-yard catch-and-run. Maynard set up the long play by scrambling left to draw the defense in, then flipped over the top to Anderson, who took care of the last 60-or-so yards on his own.
Arizona State cut the lead 41-38 on a 24-yard burst up the middle by Marshall that tied him with Woody Green (1972) and Terry Battle (1996) for the single-season school rushing touchdowns record.
But on Arizona State's next drive, Marshall fumbled and Cal's Mustafa Jalil recovered - after a video replay reversal - at the Bears' 40. Tavecchio followed with a 30-yard field goal to give Cal a nine-point lead with just over 3 and 1/2 minutes left. Josh Hill sealed it by intercepting Osweiler at Cal's 12 with just over 2 minutes left, giving Cal its third win in four games to close out the season.
"I am really proud of our guys the way they continued to battle," Tedford said.