Victory Over Southern Miss Raises Rose Bowl Hopes
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  12/04/2004

Dec. 4, 2004

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AP Sports Writer

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - J.J. Arrington ran for 261 yards, Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and No. 4 California scored on a bizarre special-teams play in a 26-16 win over Southern Mississippi on Saturday night.

Arrington, the nation's fourth-leading rusher, surpassed the 100-yard mark for the school-record 11th straight game for the Golden Bears (10-1), who learn Sunday if the closer-than-expected victory will result in their first Rose Bowl bid since 1959.

The Bears were fourth in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings, barely ahead of Texas. They need to stay ahead of the Longhorns to earn a trip to Pasadena, Calif.

Rodgers was 15-for-28 for 223 yards for Cal, which had 546 total yards and finished with 10 regular-season wins for the first time since 1949.

Southern Miss, a 24-point underdog, pulled to 17-16 on Dustin Almond's 1-yard touchdown run with 5:56 to play.

But Darren McCaleb's potential game-tying extra-point attempt was blocked by Thomas DeCoud. Wendell Hunter returned it 85 yards for two points, giving Cal a 19-16 lead.

Arrington then ran 56 yards up the middle to set up Marshawn Lynch's game-sealing 12-yard touchdown run with 4:51 left.

Almond threw for a career-high 304 yards on 17 of 37 passing for Southern Miss (6-5), which plays North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 14.

Cal took the lead for good with touchdowns on consecutive second-quarter possessions.

Rodgers tied it at 7 on his 36-yard pass to Geoff McArthur, who ran through one tackle and sidestepped another on his way to the end zone.

The Golden Bears then forced a three-and-out, got the ball back and scored again. Rodgers' 8-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Cross with 6:25 left in the half gave Cal a 14-7 lead.

McArthur, Cal's top receiver, had six catches for 145 yards but suffered an apparent leg injury late in the fourth quarter. The extent of the injury was not immediately known.

McCaleb's 33-yard field goal in the third quarter pulled Southern Miss to 14-10. Tom Schneider's 24-yard field goal on Cal's ensuing possession returned the lead to seven.

Southern Miss took an early 7-0 lead on a flea-flicker. Almond took the pitch back from Sherron Moore and hit Anthony Perine over the middle for the 40-yard TD.

Perine had four receptions for 101 yards.

The game, originally scheduled for Sept. 16, was pushed back nearly three months when Hurricane Ivan threatened the Gulf Coast. Cal beat Southern Miss for the second straight year.