Nov 9, 2002
TEMPE, Ariz. - What a turnaround for the California Bears under first-year coach Jeff Tedford. Too bad it might not end in a bowl invitation.
Kyle Boller matched his career high with five touchdown passes to lead California past No. 25 Arizona State 55-38 Saturday night.
The Bears beat a Top 25 team on the road for the third time this season - a first in the school's history. But Cal is ineligible for postseason because of NCAA rules violations that occurred under ex-coach Tom Holmoe, who was fired after last year's 1-10 season.
The Bears have appealed to the NCAA, but the outcome hasn't been announced.
"I've never been to a bowl game, so I'm fired up," said senior running back Joe Igber, who ran for a season-high 144 yards. "Hopefully, the football gods are smiling upon us, whoever that may be, and maybe we'll go. If we don't, life goes on. My goal was to win."
Arizona State lost despite 477 yards passing and four touchdowns from Andrew Walter. He completed 29 of 50 passes and broke Arizona State's single-season record for passing yards, even though he didn't start until the fifth game.
With two games to play, Walter has 2,994 yards, breaking the record of 2,878 set by Danny White in 1973. Walter's 25 TD passes are second on the ASU single-season list.
"Andrew certainly did some very nice things," Sun Devils coach Dirk Koetter said, "but there's no solace in numbers. There is only one number that counts, and that's the one at the end."
Igber also had a 17-yard touchdown catch for the Bears (6-4, 3-3 Pac-10) in a game that featured six lead changes.
The Sun Devils (7-4, 4-2) were doomed by three fumbles deep in their own territory, an interception returned 85 yards for a Cal touchdown, and a blocked punt that was returned for a score.
"We have it posted in our locker room that the keys to winning are winning the turnover battle, win in the fourth quarter, and win the third-down battle," Koetter said. "We didn't do any of those things."
California, coming off a bye week, scored the game's final 20 points after Arizona State took a 38-35 lead on Hakim Hill's 2-yard touchdown run with 2:36 left in the third quarter.
"It's fun to keep battling back, that type of thing," Tedford said. "It's great to see the kids coming off the field, the look in their eyes, to keep encouraging them. When you see the kids laying it on the line out there, that's what makes it worthwhile."
Cal led the Pac-10 in takeaways going into the game, and wound up recovering four fumbles along with the big interceptions. The Sun Devils recovered two Cal fumbles and picked off one pass.
Shaun McDonald caught six passes for 138 yards for the Sun Devils, including touchdown receptions of 28 and 68 yards. McDonald broke Arizona State's single-season record for receiving yards at 1,203.
All of which was little consolation to a Sun Devils team that lost its second Pac-10 game in a row.
"I think they were really affected by the lost last week against Washington State," Igber said. "I could feel it while we were playing them that their minds weren't totally there. Maybe it's because we're Cal."
Boller completed 16 of 35 passes for 213 yards and was intercepted once.
There were 38 points scored in a third quarter that lasted almost 1˝ hours. The quarter ended in a 38-38 tie, and the Bears on the Arizona State 2.
"That was the longest third quarter I could imagine," Boller said.
California led 35-24 after Nnamdi Asomugha intercepted Walter's screen pass and raced 85 yards for a touchdown with 7:15 to go in the quarter. The Bears took a 28-17 lead when Ryan Gutierrez blocked Tim Parker's punt and Wale Forrester returned it 18 yards for a touchdown with 10:03 to play in the third quarter.
There were four touchdowns scored in a 3:17 span in the third period. The final one, an 85-yard pass from Walter to Daryl Lightfoot, cut Cal's lead to 35-30 with 6:36 to play in the third. Hill's 2-yard run, and Walter's 2-point conversion pass to Skyler Fulton, gave Arizona State its brief, final lead.
Mark Jensen's 48-yard field goal tied it at 38 with 35 seconds left in the third quarter.
Two plays later, a blitzing Paul Ugenti knocked the ball loose from Walter and Tully Banta-Cain recovered for Cal at the Sun Devil 13. The defense held at the 2, but Jensen's 20-yard field goal put the Bears up for good 41-38 with 14:20 to play.
A personal-foul facemask penalty set up Boller's TD pass to Igber. Jonathan Makonnen caught his second touchdown pass of the night, from 28 yards, to seal the victory with 5:58 remaining.
By BOB BAUM
AP Sports Writer