Nov. 8, 1997

Arizona State Holds Off Late Cal Rally, 28-21

BERKELEY, Calif. -- Despite a spirited second half rally by the California Golden Bears Arizona State's 17-0 halftime bulge proved to be too much to overcome as ASU held on for a 28-21 victory before 33,000 fans in Berkeley.

The win kept the Sun Devils in the hunt for a second consecutive Rose Bowl, while Cal lost the chance to post a winning record in falling to 3-6 on the season.

Derrick Gardner
Derrick Gardner returned a fumble 72 yards for a score to ignite Cal's second half comeback. (File Photo)

After turning in an outstanding performance a week ago against Oregon State, the Cal defense picked up right where it left against Arizona State. Despite losing the battle of field position --the average start of the Sun Devils four first quarter drives was the ASU 38 -- Cal was able to keep the high scoring Sun Devils off the board with a combination of quarterback pressure and solid tackling.

Starting at its own 49, Arizona State took its opening possession deep in to Cal territory. After a Ryan Kealey completion to Lenzie Jackson, Cal's Kato Serwanga stripped the ball from the ASU receiver and Gardner pounced on the loose ball at the Cal 26 for the first of three Cal fumble recoveries on the night.

Arizona State also moved the ball on its second possession, driving from its own 35 to the Cal 31. But a sack by Brandon Whiting pushed the Devils out of field goal range and ASU was forced to punt.

The Sun Devils finally got on the board midway through the 2nd quarter thanks to a major Cal mistake. On 1st-and-10 from the Cal 8, Vedder fumbled the snap from center and the Sun Devils were in business at Cal 9. Two plays later, J.R. Redmond busted through the Cal defensive front from 5-yards out for the game's opening score. Robert Nycz add the extra point the ASU had itself a 7-0 lead.

Only 1:24 later, after Cal was unable to generate a first down in its ensuing possession, the Sun Devils upped their lead to 14-0 when Kealy hit Creig Spann with a 67-yard touchdown pass. It was just a simple 7-yard hitch pattern, but he juked Cal cornerback Chidi Iwuoma and sprinted in for the score.

A 19-yard punt return by Ricky Boyer again set ASU up inside Cal territory at the Bears 42 and ASU appeared ready to add to its lead. But this time the Cal defense was equal to the task. On 2nd-and-10 at the Cal 27, Matt Beck broke through protection and sacked Kealy who fumbled the ball. James Gibson recovered for Cal.

Taking over at their own 33 with only 1:31 remaining in the half, Cal drove the ball to midfield. But on 2nd-and-4 at the ASU 48, the Bears committed their third turnover of the half. Under pressure and rolling left, Vedder was unable to find a receiver and his attempt to get rid of the ball was intercepted by Larry Johnson at the Sun Devils 49.

Four plays later Nycz connected from 42 yards out with no time remaining in the half to give Arizona State a 17-0 halftime lead.

Arizona State's string of excellent fields possession continued in the second half as Redmond returned the second half kickoff 47 yards to the Cal 45. But this time the Cal defense answered with a big play of its own. On the second play of the drive, Redmond's was stripped by Andre Rhodes at the Cal 31. Gardner scooped up his second fumble recovery of the game and returned it 72 yard for the Bears first score of the contest. Tim Wolleck knocked through his first extra point attempt of the year and Cal narrowed the ASU lead to 17-7 just 0:45 into the second half.

Arizona State answered the Cal score with its first long drive of the game. Taking over at its own 18, the Sun Devils drove the Cal 6. However, the Cal defense stiffened and forced the Sun Devils to settle for a 23-yard Nycz field goal which extended the Sun Devil's advantage to 20-7.

The Sun Devils tallied their third touchdown of the game and appeared to put Cal away with 4:40 remaining in the third quarter. Arizona State marched 73 yards on six plays with Redmond capping the drive on a 28-yard catch and run. Kealy connected with Tariq McDonald on the two-point conversion and ASU had a 28-7 lead

But the Bears refused to go away. Cal got its first offensive touchdown of the game with 9:00 left in the 4th quarter. Taking over at their own 10, Vedder led the Bears on a methodical 16-play, 90-yard march. Under pressure from a swarming ASU defensive front, Vedder effectively used his scrambling to gain 39 yards rushing on the drive. Tarik Smith scored his third touchdown of the season on a 18-yard blast off left tackle and Cal had trimmed the lead to 28-14.

ASU was able to move to the Cal 33 on its next possession but a 50-yard Nycz field goal attempt fell far short of its target and returned the ball to Cal. Just 2:06 later, the Bears cut deeper into the Sun Devils lead when they moved the ball 67 yards in 9 plays. Vedder hooked up with Bobby Shaw on a fourth and goal from the Sun Devil 8 for the touchdown and made the score 28-21.

It was Shaw's ninth touchdown catch of the season and capped a memorable day for the senior receiver. Earlier in the game, he broke both the Cal career and single-season receiving marks on different receptions. He finished his final game in Memorial Stadium with six catches for 76 yards, including a 29-yarder.

But it wouldn't be enough as Arizona State was able to string together four first downs to run out the remaining 4:39 of the ball game and secure the victory.

Arizona State improved to 7-2 (5-1, Pac -10) while Cal will try to get back on track when they visit the Arizona Wildcats next week in Tucson.