Nov. 15, 1997
Arizona Outlasts Cal, 41-38 in 2OT
TUCSON, Ariz. -- In yet another thrilling edition of what has proven itself to be one of the most exciting rivalries in college football, the California Golden Bears dropped a heart wrenching double overtime affair to the Arizona Wildcats, 41-38, at Arizona Stadium Saturday night.
After going four overtimes last year, the Bears and Wildcats threatened a repeat performance, but Arizona's Mark McDonald was good on a 43-yard field goal in the second OT to provide the winning margin. As it always seems to be in this series, being a favorite was no guarantee of victory as the 11 1/2 point favored Wildcats struggled to put away a Bears squad that was determined to pull out a victory of its own.
Cal's Dameane Douglas hauled in a career-high 12 catches for 143 yards and Justin Vedder connected on 22 of 39 passing attempts for 221 yards and a touchdown, but it wouldn't be enough as Arizona had just enough to hold off the Bears.
The game started on a positive note for the Bears as the Cal defense appeared to stop Arizona on the Wildcats opening possession when Marquis Smith intercepted Ortege Jenkins' first pass of the evening on 3rd-and-10 from the Arizona 18. However, Smith fumbled the football on the return and Arizona recovered, giving the Cats a first down at the 33. A 42 yard pass from Jenkins to Rodney Williams moved the ball to the Cal 29 and two plays later, Trung Canidate went 28-yards around right end for an early 7-0 lead.
Just 1:20 later, Cal answered Arizona's score as the Bears moved the ball 65 yards on four plays to even the game at 7-7. The drive was keyed by a Tarik Smith 41-yard gallop that moved the Bears from the Arizona 42 to the Cats' 1. Smith capped the drive on the very next play, diving over a pile-up at the goalline for the score.
The Cal defense was able to hold Arizona on the Cats' ensuing possession and a nifty 12-yard punt return gave the Bears excellent field position at the Cal 42. A 13-yard screen pass from Vedder to Joshua White moved the ball into Arizona territory at the UA 45 but Cal couldn't convert on a 4th-and-11 from the 31 and the game remained knotted at 7-7 with 4:25 remaining in the opening quarter.
After a short Nick Harris punt gave Arizona great field position at the Cal 42, the Cats drove the ball to Bears 18 and appeared on the verge of forging their second lead of the game just five minutes into the second quarter. But the Cal defense was able to halt the drive there, forcing a Mark McDonald 35-yard field goal attempt which sailed wide left.
However, the Bears couldn't get anything going after the defensive stand and when Arizona got the ball back it took the Cats only one play to go ahead 14-7 as Dennis Northcutt took a reverse 62 yards down the left sideline for the score with 7:19 remaining in the half.
After being held to just 28 yards in the second quarter, the Arizona defense proved just as stingy to open the second half as the Bears went three-and-out on their first possession. But the Cal defense proved to be even more deadly. On 3rd and six from midfield, Sekou Sanyika came free from the left side sacking Jenkins and forcing a fumble. Mawuko Tughenyoh, who was also supplying pressure on the play, picked up the loose ball and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown closing the gap to 14-13. But Tim Wolleck slipped on the point after attempt and his kick struck the right upright, keeping the Bears from evening the score.
Cal's possession of the game's momentum was short lived, however, as Arizona took the kickoff and drove 65 yards on seven plays to increase its lead to 21-13. A Keith Smith to Brad Brennan 18-yard touchdown pass got the Cats into the endzone as the drive took only 1:24 to execute.
The Bears, who had been unable to move the ball since the opening quarter, counter-punched with a touchdown drive of their own, taking the ensuing kickoff 52 yards on eight plays for the score. An 18-yard run by Marcus Fields on 2nd-and-7 from the Arizona 49 put the ball on the Cats 31. On the very next play, White bulled his way up the middle for 15 yards down to the UA 16. Cal got into the endzone five snaps later when Vedder hit Bruce Pierre on a four-yard slant giving the Bears an opportunity to tie the game with a two-point conversion. Cal did just that as Marc Vera hauled in Vedder's pass on the attempt to even the game at 21-21 at the 6:09 mark of the third quarter.
Cal's defense, however, was unable to contain Arizona and the Wildcats went back on top, 28-21, just 1:24 later when Smith hooked-up with Northcutt on a 28-yard touchdown pass. Arizona increased its lead to 31-21 on its next possession as McDonald connected on a 27-yard field goal with just 0:30 left in the third quarter.
Cal got itself right back in the ball game with 9:36 remaining in the fourth quarter when Vedder led the Bears on a spirited 64 yard march. The drive was keyed by Douglas' ninth reception of the game, a spectacular 32-yard sideline grab that moved the Bears to the Wildcat three. Smith got Cal into the endzone on the next play from scrimmage, bursting up the middle for his second score of the game and Cal had narrowed the Arizona to three at 31-28.
After a missed Arizona field goal attempt, Cal got the ball back at it own 20-yard-line with 4:27 left in the game and proceeded to put together its most impressive dive of the evening. With the ball game on the line, the Bears marched 75 yards on 20 plays to the Arizona five. A swing pass on to a wide-open Smith on 1st-and-goal that would have given the Bears the win right then and there bounced off the senior's hip and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground. Cal then had to go for the tying field goal with Wolleck connecting on his first-ever collegiate field goal from 22 yards out to tie the game at 31-31.
Cal won the toss and elected to go on defense in the first overtime session. Andre Carter sacked UA quarterback Keith Smith for a 5-yard loss on first down, but Smith connected with Brennan on second for 23 yards getting the Wildcats to the Cal seven. Two plays later, Smith found Northcutt in the right corner of the endzone to take a 38-31 lead.
The Bears were able to match Arizona's score and tie the game at 38-38 to close out the first overtime session. Vedder scrambled 22 yards to the Wildcat three on first down and Smith covered the remaining distance to the endzone on third for the score. After a time out and much deliberation among the Cal coaching staff, it appeared the Bears were going to go for two in the point after. But after an Arizona time out, Cal ended up kicking for the tie and sending the game into a second overtime.
Cal got possession of the football to start the second overtime session but the Bears were incapable of moving the ball and had to settle for a 40-yard Wolleck field goal attempt that missed wide left.
Arizona finally ended the four hour plus affair when McDonald connected on a 43-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to give the Wildcats a 41-38 2OT victory.
Cal (3-7, 1-6 Pac-10) will try to regroup as they head into next week's 100 Big Game at Stanford, while Arizona takes a week off to prepare for its traditional season finale versus the Arizona State Sun Devils on Nov. 29.