Bears Come Back Big In Big Game
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  11/22/2003

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AP Sports Writer

STANFORD, Calif. - Geoff McArthur set a California record with 16 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns, and the Golden Bears rallied in the second half to beat Stanford 28-16 Saturday in the 106th Big Game.

Aaron Rodgers passed for a career-best 359 yards and three touchdowns as Cal (7-6, 5-3 Pac-10) kept the Axe and became bowl-eligible for the first time in seven years. Stanford (4-6, 2-6) was eliminated from postseason contention in its first home loss to Cal since 1993.

Adimchinobe Echemandu rushed for 87 yards, including a clinching 17-yard score with 1:39 to play. The huge Cal rooting section at Stanford Stadium didn't charge the field, but the fans roared for the Bears' second straight win over their biggest rivals following a seven-game losing streak.

Vincent Strang caught the go-ahead TD pass for Cal, which won despite fumbling seven times - losing three of them - and facing a 10-0 deficit in the third quarter before its powerful offense finally stopped thwarting itself with turnovers. The Bears had 533 total yards.

California, the only team to beat second-ranked USC this season, will receive its first postseason berth since making the Aloha Bowl in 1996. With a bowl victory under second-year coach Jeff Tedford, Cal would have its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1990-91.

McArthur, the nation's second-leading receiver behind Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, had the second-biggest receiving yardage total in school history. The remarkable junior exceeded his career highs for the second straight week while surpassing Dameane Douglas' record 15 receptions in 1998.

His 44-yard TD reception in the third quarter was Cal's first score. The Bears dominated the rest of the game, with Strang scampering for a 14-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter to give Cal its first lead.

Rodgers went 26-of-37 in his first Big Game, relying heavily on McArthur's uncanny ability to find seams in the Stanford defense for medium-sized gains.

In the first half, however, the Bears hardly resembled the offensive powerhouse that racked up a school-record 729 yards last week against Washington.

Cal fumbled four times in the first quarter, losing three, and threw an interception early in the second. Even when the Bears held on to the ball, Stanford's defense - which yielded 756 yards to Oregon State in a 43-3 loss last week - kept them off the scoreboard.

After James Bethea fumbled the opening kickoff, Michael Sgroi kicked a 22-yard field goal. Star Cal running back Adimchinobe Echemandu fumbled moments later, and Lewis hit Powell with a 24-yard scoring pass across the middle.

Freshman quarterback Trent Edwards relieved Stanford starter Chris Lewis in the fourth quarter, but Sid Slater got an interception on Edwards' first play. Moments later, McArthur slipped behind the Stanford secondary for a 21-yard score.

Cal's 30-7 win over Stanford last season snapped a seven-game losing streak in the nation's ninth-oldest rivalry game. The Bears paraded the Axe around Memorial Stadium, and fans tore down the goalposts.

The celebration was much more subdued this time. The blue-and-gold fans chanted "We've got the Axe!" and roared from their seats, but a long blue line of police wearing riot gear prevented anybody from charging the field after Mark Bradford caught a 30-yard TD pass from Lewis as time expired.

Cal senior lineman Chris Murphy ran along the Stanford track, waving the school flag, while his teammates danced on the "S" at midfield. The team then took a victory lap, acknowledging its fans with waves and cheers.